Wilderness Survival photo
If The Hunger Games, the most awaited film of the year, stays true to the book, it will shine a light on one undeniable truth: hunting teaches skills that make people self-reliant, tough-as-nails survivors. The book was originally released in 2008 and was written for the same young audience that devours Harry Potter and Twilight novels. Since that time, it has sold more than 11 million copies and now is set to find a much broader audience on the big screen when it premiers March 23. The story follows the life of Katniss Everdeen, a girl living in a futuristic post-apocalyptic country that was once America. Many people die of starvation where Katniss lives, so to provide for her family, she sneaks through a fence to hunt, trap and harvest wild plants in the wilderness that surrounds her home. Katniss must compete in the Hunger Games, an annual event where kids from age 12 – 18 must battle to the death for the entertainment of the people who live in the country’s capitol city. The games are held in a giant arena made to simulate the actual outdoors and besides fearing their murder at every step and being forced to kill to survive, the kids, must also contend with the elements and other violent creatures. It’s through her outdoor skills that the story’s main character wins. So what would it take to win your own Hunger Games? Consider these scenarios with the movie/book, add up your score and see if you’d survive the post apocalyptic world of The Hunger Games. Also, we’ve included some sneak-peek screen shots from the movie._
Weapon of Opportunity
As you would imagine in any dictatorial, post-apocalyptic society, citizens aren’t exactly trusted with firearms and in fact, weapons of any kind are outlawed. But before her dad died in a mining accident, he taught Katniss how to live off the land and most importantly, how to shoot a bow and arrow. She’s more deadly than Fred Bear, the Dukes of Hazard or even Rambo, and while she lacks explosives to attach to her arrow and blow things up, she wreaks havoc on the local deer and turkey population. If you’re a skilled bowhunter, give yourself 5 points. Add another bonus point if you’re lights out with a recurve since that’s pretty much the best your going to be able to craft on your own without modern manufacturing.
Cast a Line
Life began in the sea and it will likely persist there, even when modern society crumbles and fish stocking programs disappear due to no-longer-existing game departments. Fish are a great source of protein, they taste great and if you know where to look, you can haul in a veritable feast that will provide for you and your band of survivors long after others have perished. If you know how to read the water, identify where fish will likely be, select the right lure and actually haul them in, give yourself 5 points. If you’re an occasional angler who enjoys fishing mostly because it is “relaxing,” give yourself 3 points but no more–you don’t deserve it. If you went fishing with your grandpa when you were a kid, you get NOTHING! That’s not going to count for squat when grandpa’s not there to hold your hand.
Avoid Falls
Sometimes to successfully hunt game, you need to avoid a creature’s keen ability to see or smell by scurrying up a tree and perching in a stand. Katniss relates a story about how once while hunting, she fell asleep in such a “blind” and fell 10 feet, landing on her back and getting the wind knocked out of her. With many of today’s hunters typically going much higher, such a blunder could prove fatal. Even if you should find yourself hunting in a world devoid of modern manufacturing–when hunting above ground, always tie yourself in with some sort of safety belt or harness. If you’ve ever fallen from a tree stand, subtract 5 points. (You’re lucky you’re still reading this.) If you religiously wear a safety vest or harness every time you leave the ground, give yourself 5.
Make a Snare
Trapping is a dying art, even among today’s outdoorsmen. But for the skilled trapper, chances of survival are greatly improved because they allow you to work multiple areas at the same time, improving your chances of getting more game. Katniss’ hunting partner, Gale, was skilled with traps, particularly snares. It’s a skill that could serve you well in the Hunger Games. If you are a trapper, give yourself 5 points. If you know how to set snares and use homemade traps, give yourself 3 bonus points. You are truly to be admired.
Fuel for the Fire
Whether you hope to kill bacteria that affects uncooked meats and other plants or are hoping to simply avoid freezing to death, fire is a friend and you’d better be able to gather wood and know how to make one from a heat source other than a Bic. If you are a skilled firemaker, give yourself 5 points. If you can make a fire with a flint, magnifying glass or rubbing sticks together, add 3 more bonus points.
Avoid Predators
We’re not just talking the kind Chris Hansen exposes on NBC, but nature is full of walking predatory examples looking to challenge us for top of the food chain on any given day. Wolves in Yellowstone, grizzlies in the West, mountain lions in Cali, black bears in Jersey. The Hunger Games competitors must contend with a legion of mutated attacking beasts throughout the story. Hopefully, you’ll never have such an encounter. If you’ve ever survived an animal attack, give yourself 5 points. If you’ve only read about it in Outdoor Life, go ahead and give yourself 2 points. (We appreciate you supporting the cause!)
Grow Your Own
Gardening may sound lame to the younger set, but there is something to be said for not only catching and killing your own food, but growing it as well. Fruits and vegetables are a requirement for good nutrition and help round out that protein-laden chunk of venison on the plate. If you have planted a garden that actually produced something you could eat, give yourself 5 points. If the extent of your gardening skills is watering the patio tomato plant that is lucky to find two hours of light on your Brooklyn apartment balcony, give yourself 2 points. You’re trying at least.
Yep, it might as well be a four-letter word to some sportsmen, whose love of the outdoors is rivaled only by their love of food. But as any fit human knows, a fit hunter will ultimately be a more successful hunter. Whether it’s going farther off the beaten path to avoid the competition of other hunters, scrambling through the forest to cut off an elk heading for a pass, getting on a gobbler while it is still vocal, or fighting a 1,000-pound marlin to the boat, the fit sportsman will leave the chronic couch potato in the dust. If you keep fit and exercise, give yourself 10 points. If the most exercise you get is walking to the car so you can drive to the grocery store, subtract 5 points. You’re a heart attack waiting to happen.
Tie One On
One skill Katniss learns to perfect that serves her later in the games is the ability to tie knots. From fashioning the aforementioned snares to constructing shelters and securing loads that need to be hauled, knot tying is a skill everyone should master. If you can tie anything more than a square knot and actually know what it is called, give yourself 5 points. If the only knot you know is a Windsor for your tie or a bow for your shoelaces, give yourself 1 point. Those knots may still work for a prison escape.
Blend In
The art of camouflage is a vital skill as Katniss’ friend Peeta, another tribute (what competitors are called in the story) from District 12, would count on to survive when he was wounded and needed to hide from the others. It’s also critical to help you evade the visual senses of game. Putting on the latest Mossy Oak or Realtree is a great benefit we share today, but understanding how light and shadows work and using them to your advantage, as well as constructing makeshift blinds or concealing your face with paint or mud, all play a role. If you’ve ever camouflaged yourself so well that the game you were hunting walked within 10 yards of your setup without seeing you, give yourself 5 points. If you’ve ever been mugged because you clearly stood out as a weakling in a bad neighborhood, subtract nothing. You’ve suffered enough and now get the point.
Build a Shelter
Because we lack furry hides or bodies that regulate our temperature based on external heat and cold, humans require shelter. Whether you are lost in the wilderness or fleeing there to escape some sort of mayhem, you need to know how to make shelter with whatever is available–a cave, thick brush, limbs for a lean-to, an old dumpster, etc. Katniss survives by taking shelter in everything from a cave to the high limbs of a tree. If you’ve ever built your own lean-to or other structure and spent the night in it, give yourself 5 points. If staying in a Motel 6 without a flat screen TV is your idea of roughing it, you get nada.
Wield an Ax
The ax remains one of the most valuable tools available in the hands of a skilled woodsman. From felling trees like Paul Bunyan, hewing logs for a cabin like Jeremiah Johnson and even cutting down your enemies like Mel Gibson in the Patriot, this sharp, heavy-headed instrument serves a wealth of purposes. Nobody looking to spend more than a night in the woods should think of going there without one. At its most basic purpose, it’s a must for fashioning campfire sized logs for burning. If you own an ax or hatchet, give yourself 3 points. If you have ever actually used it, give yourself 5.
Identify Plants
Nature is full of plants that provide a host of benefits from serving as food to having medicinal purposes. They can also pose a danger as in the form of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Other plants are extremely toxic if eaten. Do you know which ones to avoid and which ones provide sustenance? Katniss uses her knowledge of wild plants and berries to survive where lack of experience costs another tribute. Remember, not all berries are good to eat, even if birds are eating them. Get yourself a copy of The Forager’s Harvest and learn it. If you’ve ever eaten a plant you’ve found in the wilderness and are still alive to read this, give yourself 5 points. If you have ever gotten poison ivy or needed your stomach pumped because you thought what you ate was a blueberry, subtract 2 points.
Find Water
Early in the Hunger Games competition, Katniss finds herself unable to find water to drink and the mistake almost costs her life. Water is critical. Humans have gone weeks without food, but go just one day without water, and the body’s vital organs become compromised. Some people have died in as few as three days without anything to drink. Drinking water is crucial, so look for low areas where water will drain when it rains, melt ice or snow, use a desalter kit if near a beach or treat or boil water collected from lakes and even running streams. If you’ve ever treated or boiled your own water collected from a natural source and didn’t get giardia, give yourself 5 points.
First-Aid for Stings
In the Hunger Games, the characters have to deal with a deadly stinging insect called a Tracker Jacket. While most stinging insects don’t prove as deadly to humans as they did in the book, stumbling into a hive or even receiving one sting can prove deadly for someone who suffers an allergic reaction. Tweezers can be used to remove a stinger. Then promptly wash the area with soap and water and rub moist cigarette tobacco into the wound to deaden the sting. Cold compresses, dandelion sap, a mix of mud and ashes, crushed garlic and onion are all reported to help. If you’ve ever been stung by a swarm of wasps or ground bees after unwittingly disturbing their nests, and it didn’t lay you up for a day, give yourself 3 points. If you’ve ever avoided being stung at all despite spending time outdoors, give yourself 5 points. You’ve earned it.
Keep Your Edge
If the outdoorsman could choose only one tool, most would go with a knife. From slicing and cleaning game and cutting lengths of rope to dicing vegetables for cooking and fighting off a cheating gambler in a saloon, every man, regardless of his predilection for the outdoors, should own and carry a quality blade. A knife takes out the first challenger Katniss faces in the games and when one is thrown at her and sticks in her pack, she suddenly has a great tool to help her live–and fight–another day. If a pocket or folding knife is in your pocket or attached to your belt right now, give yourself 5 points. If you have a knife but the blade is so dull it couldn’t cut wind, you only get 1 point.
Stop Bleeding
When things turn really bad, it usually means someone is bleeding. Bleed too much and you die. If you are bleeding, whether from impalement, bullet wound, ax chop or even paper cut, you need to stop it. Direct pressure is the best way, applied with a clean cloth so as to prevent contamination. In extreme cases a tourniquet or self-suturing might be necessary (unless a doctor is with you when you get wounded. Then let him do it.) If you’ve ever saved someone’s life, including your own, by stopping the bleeding from a severe wound, give yourself 5 points. If you’ve ever stopped bleeding by applying duct tape or Krazy Glue, give yourself 2 points. You’re at least resourceful if not a little redneck.
Avoid Forest Fires
To keep events moving at an exciting clip, the Gamemakers who manipulate the Hunger Games, launched giant fireballs into the arena, setting the forest on fire. Katniss and other challengers had to flee the blaze in order to survive. Wildfires can have a Forward Rate of Spread (FROS) of nearly 7 mph in a forest and 14 mph in open grassland depending on winds and the material available to fuel the flames. To survive a wildfire, head downhill instead of up (updrafts make flames move faster up inclines); seek areas devoid of fuels such as rocky or barren areas; remember leafy trees burn slower than evergreens; if necessary, curl up in a depression, ditch or hole if the fire is about to catch you and let it pass over you; submerge yourself in a lake or stream as much as possible, if that is an option. If you have ever survived a forest fire, give yourself 5 points. If you are a smokejumper or have willfully entered a forest fire to fight it, give yourself 3 bonus points. If you have ever accidentally started a forest fire, deduct 10 points you doof!
Gear Up
As the Hunger Games begin, a cornucopia of weapons, packs and gear are scattered before the circle of competitors. They have seconds to grab what they need and escape or else fight and risk being taken out in the opening minutes of the contest. For real-life emergencies such as tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and such, everyone should have a bug-out bag packed with essentials to survive a situation that requires them to blow out of an area quicker than Jason Bourne. So what should that pack contain? Many of the items needed to perform the skills listed in this gallery would be a great place to start. If you already have a bug-out bag prepared, give yourself 5 points. If you are the kind of person to wait until something happens before getting prepared, subtract one point.
Your Hunger Games Score
100 or better–You are a certifiable Hunger Games victor. 99-85 – You’re a Hunger Game’s champion contender, ready and able to do what it takes to survive, you stand a solid chance of being victorious. 84-70 – You’ll be there at the end, but because there can only be one winner in the games, your time is still limited. 69-0 – You’re as good as gone in short order when the games begin. Better rethink your strategy and get with the program. Rolling on your back and kicking your feet as you scream is not a survival option.

The Hunger Games, the biggest movie of the year, highlights the importance of hunting and woodsmanship. Take our survival challenge and see if you have what it takes to survive a post-apocalyptic world.