Survival Skills: Stave Off Spring Starvation

When you think of spring, you probably think of the explosion of plant growth and animals tending their young. Life and abundance, right? Not really. If you rely on wild foods to feed yourself, it's easier than you may think to starve in spring.

It is one of the leanest seasons of the year. Many native cultures in temperate climates planned for both winter and spring when stockpiling food in the fall. Sure, there is plenty of plant material to eat in spring, but it is almost all low-calorie items. It's like being stuck in an iceberg lettuce patch; the leaves are all water and hold no caloric value. And if you get lucky enough to harvest an animal, it probably doesn't have much fat on it.

So if you had to live off the land, for survival or any other reason, here are a few tips to consider for maximizing your spring calorie intake.

- Seek out plant or animal fats, like nuts that have a high oil content, fat little animals, or fat big animals if you can find them. Good sources of sugars and starches are also very important, but remember that fat has twice the calories of protein or carbohydrates per unit (gram, ounce, wooden spoonful, etc.).

- Don't spend more than you make! If you burn 2,000 calories to get 200 calories, you won't last too long in your pursuit of wild foods.

- Try to locate leftover tree nuts from last fall. The hickories and walnuts have probably been eaten up by animals or gone rotten, but the bitter tannic acid of acorns preserves them for a few extra months. I have harvested acorns as far into spring as the month of May. If they are sprouted, they are probably still good. One pound of acorns will provide almost 2,000 calories.

- Eat the whole critter. If you catch something, don't be squeamish about organ meats and skins. Eat the hearts, lungs, livers, and as much of the other stuff as you can. Scald off fur and feathers to eat the skin. If you'll eat pork rinds, why wouldn't you eat squirrel rinds?

- Try to mix up and balance your outdoors diet as much as you can, and use caution and reason in your harvest of wild foods. Remember: If you can't identify it, DON'T EAT IT!