The skills that are needed in many situations are perishable, meaning that they will degrade over time if not freshened up on a regular basis. Some are fun to do, some suck, and others we don’t even want to try. It’s fun to go to the range and work on our shooting skills. Reloads, transitions, and positional are all fun to work on. When is the last time you tried building a fire without matches or a lighter? When have you tried cooking something on that fire? When is the last time you tried to make a way of obtaining that food you’re cooking on that fire?
I have a book that I bought back when I was in Boy Scouts, Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival, which has a ton of information in it. There are plenty of people on the internet that say he’s a fraud or a hack. Once again I’m not saying his book is the end all be all. I’ve never met the man, but I know that most of the information I’ve learned from that book has been legitimate. And when I say learned, I don’t mean I read the book. I mean I made the traps, and the tools, and the fires and actually learned how to make them. Just reading a book on survival techniques or watching a YouTube video does not give you the ability to do it, you just know how they did it. There are plenty of people out there on the internet making videos and writing blogs about how to survive. I caution you on clicking random links and taking everything at face value. Do some research for yourself and attempt the methods you’re learning how to do. There will be links listed for some sites that can at the very least get you started in the right direction.
How to practice these skills is the question. If you live in a neighborhood you don’t want to set snares and deadfalls that might take out the neighbor’s cat. Use a cardboard box as your deadfall and see if you can get them to trip it. Make a greased string snare without the noose and see if you can get something to chew through it. The hardest part is setting the trigger mechanism and getting a critter to activate it. Concentrate on one type of deadfall or snare at a time until you understand the mechanics of it and can create and set one easily. Once you’re comfortable with that move on to another until you have several different methods at your disposal.
Trying to make a fire without a lighter is one of the most frustrating. They always show the guy on TV making fire with a bow drill in a few minutes. They don’t show the hour or two he spent working that bow to make the coal. It took me almost an hour to get a fire going with one the last time I tried it. How many people have a magnesium bar or ferrocerium rod in a bag that still looks brand new? Go in your backyard and try to make a fire using that mag bar or ferro rod. Try it with and without charred cloth. Make a bow drill and try and get a coal with it. To make it easier get a piece of cedar from the hardware store and cut out your spindle and fireboard with a saw, and get a piece of oak for the socket. This lets you spend more time practicing the technique, which is the hardest part of a bow drill, trying to get just the right amount of pressure to form a good solid coal. Try to be proficient with at least three different types of fire making. I don’t recommend relying on the bow drill to get a fire, but if that’s all you have then it would be a useful skill to know.
Once you have a fire going, whether it was started with a lighter or a bow drill, try building a spit and roasting a chicken from the store over it. Maybe you have some squirrel or rabbit in the freezer. Try cooking something on that fire and see how it turns out. When you feel comfortable making the fire, cooking on the fire, and setting traps to get the food to cook go out camping and try to catch and cook your food for just one day (Please follow all laws, rules, and regulations in your area about trapping or capturing animals. Especially if you are camping on federal land…you don’t want to have to survive an episode of Oz). Whatever skills you want to have get out and learn how to do them. Read the books, watch the videos, and then go out and put it into practice.