7 Hunter-Gatherer Skills You Should Practice

When it comes to prepping, one of the most commonly asked questions revolves around what kind of event is coming and how to make sure you are prepared for it when it comes. There are in fact such a wide range of events that could occur that it’s nearly impossible to prepare specifically for all of them.

So, what’s a prepper to do? We can’t depend on technology and grocery stores because of the threat from events like an EMP or a complete economic collapse.

So how do we prepare to survive without the things we’ve come to rely on for our food and other needs? In some cases, it really will seem like we’ve gone back in history, to the time of our ancestors. But many of our ancestors survived widespread catastrophe because of the skills they had. Children were raised from birth with the hunter-gatherer skills they needed to survive in the world. Those of us in modern society have become spoiled.

There are many skills we never needed to learn because of the technology and other services that were so prevalent. But when those services and technology disappear, many people will be lost, unprepared to survive in a world without conveniences. To help ensure you’re ready to handle just about any event that could hit our world, there are certain hunter-gatherer skills you should practice.

What is a Hunter-Gatherer?

Before we get into our list of hunter-gatherer skills, it helps to know exactly what a hunter-gatherer is and is not. A person or group of people who get all or most of their food through foraging is considered a hunter-gatherer or a hunter-gatherer society or group.

In today’s society, agriculture has made those who survive solely through foraging a minority in most parts of the world. Even in those areas where people are still categorized as hunter-gatherers, most use farming and or horticulture to supplement their foraging efforts.

Traditional Hunter-Gatherer Food Sources

Without permanent homes and because traditional hunter-gatherers had to stay somewhat mobile, so they could find new food resources, their sources of food were somewhat limited. In general, the food sources for hunter-gatherers were the following:

  • Wild animals
  • Fish
  • Birds
  • Fruit
  • Roots
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Stalks
  • Eggs
  • Wild Grains

For those who wish to prepare for a SHTF event or a complete economic collapse, a return to reliance on the food sources of hunter-gatherers makes sense. By relying on these food sources, you won’t have to rely on modern technology and you can move when needed to find new food sources or to avoid looters and others who wish you harm.

Hunter-Gatherer Skills

The hunter-gatherer of the past was responsible for meeting their every need by using what was available around them. There were no grocery stores, no refrigerators or freezers, no craftsman tool box to carry with them. For the hunter-gatherer, the more they knew about the area they were in, the better they were able to meet their needs. But they also needed to be able to travel as needed to forage and hunt for their needs.

This meant they would sometimes travel hundreds of miles at a time following an animal herd and would then need to be able to make their way back to their group or tribe’s more permanent camp. And if they didn’t pay attention or learn something the first time, it could mean death for someone in their family or group.

More than a few preppers have a bug out strategy that includes leaving their home and surviving by hiding and living in the woods. For most people, surviving alone in this way, simply isn’t a realistic plan. But there are many hunter-gatherer skills that can help ensure that no matter what you and your family face during a crisis, you will be more prepared to handle it and survive, maybe even thrive without the modern-day comforts and technology.

Basic hunter-gatherer survival skills you should practice:

1.  Observation Skills

You can hone your observation skills without spending any money at all. Simply begin to pay attention to what you see and hear around you on a daily basis. Over time, you will begin to notice patterns for your local area. Practicing your observation skills will help you to be aware of changes in the weather, areas that become swampy or dangerous during a storm due to flooding, animal patterns and behaviors, etc. Having knowledge over time of all of these things will be of great help if you find yourself in a situation where you need to survive by relying on your hunter-gatherer skills.

2. Fire Starting

Most preppers include fire starting as part of their basic prepping skills. Most of us understand the critical need for fire to stay warm, cook food, purify water, keep animal predators at bay, etc. But hunter-gatherers are skilled in fire starting using materials they can find around them in their environment. If you live in an urban area, you’ll want to learn how to start a fire using a plastic bottle, eyeglass lens, or piece of glass. For rural areas, knowing how to start a fire using natural materials will be critical.

3. Primitive Weaponry

The ability to make and use primitive weapons such as slings, throwing sticks, and atlatl will come in handy to help you conserve your firearm ammunition for times when it is most needed. If you can use primitive weapons for hunting and defending yourself against animal predators, you can conserve precious firearm ammo for those times when it will give you the most advantage over your attackers. Most preppers are relying on firearms and stockpiling ammunition for self-defense. The ammunition for primitive weapons is generally materials found in nature or your environment which means you won’t run out of ammo and you can always forage the materials to make a new sling or throwing stick if needed.

Martin Patterson, Stone Age Hunter Gatherer historical expert:

Stone Age Hunter Gatherers

Patrick McGlinchey, Suffolk woodland course:

4. Navigation

Knowledge of your local area and the areas that you may need to travel to and through during a bug out or following a SHTF event will be critical to your survival. You can’t get where you are going very efficiently if you don’t know the way. GPS and other technological navigation methods may be inoperable or jammed. For this reason, some good navigational skills to practice in advance include:

  • Reading a topographic map
  • Using a compass
  • Triangulating your position using landmarks or the sun
  • Telling time using the sun
  • What signs in nature may indicate a water source is nearby
  • Multiple ways to estimate and measure distance

5. Identification, foraging, and preparation of wild edible and wild medicinal plants

One thing that was very important for our ancestral hunter-gatherers and is still critical for hunter-gatherers today is how to forage, positively identify, and prepare wild edible plants. This is one skill that hunter-gatherers must master because if you get it wrong, it can easily kill you or your family members. It’s important to learn the following about wild edible plants:

  • Where they grow (soil, sun/shade, near other plants or trees, etc.)
  • When they can best be harvested
  • Which parts of each plant are edible
  • What each part of the plant can be used for besides food
  • Edible plants are commonly found in your local area
  • How to use the universal test to tell if a plant is safe to eat
  • Ways to properly harvest each wild edible
  • Safe preparation of wild edibles for eating
  • Which wild edibles have dangerous look-alike plants and how to tell the difference
  • The dangers or symptoms each wild edible can cause if improperly prepared
  • How to properly prepare medicinal tinctures, infusions, teas, extracts, and salves for medicinal use

6. Shelter building using available materials

The earliest hunter-gatherers had to be able to find or build shelter quickly as weather changed. Many hunter-gatherers likely died from lengthy exposure to the elements because the shelter they chose or built was not in a protected place.

One of the most critical hunter-gatherer skills you should practice is how to properly place and build a shelter using natural materials you can find in your environment. These can be things found in more rural outdoor areas such as leaves, sticks, fallen branches, trees, rocks, caves, etc. or they can be found materials in an urban area that include things such as Styrofoam, used mattresses, discard plastic or tarps, cardboard, etc.

You’ll find countless articles and videos on the Internet that describe how to build primitive shelters. Pay attention to the experts who also talk about choosing your shelter location. The perfectly constructed primitive shelter can be disastrous when built in the wrong location.

7. Animal Tracking, Trapping, and Preparation

  • How to identify animal scat and animal tracks
  • Which wild animals are most common in your area
  • Proper use of multiple different weapons for hunting small and large game
  • Correct construction and best placement of primitive traps
  • Fishing methods, proper cleaning and cooking methods for fish
  • How to properly prepare and cook small game
  • Ways to safely prepare and cook large game

Additional Hunter-Gatherer Skills You Should Practice

  • Making tools and flint knapping (stone on stone or pressure flaking methods)
  • Foraging, Processing, and Use of Natural Cordage
  • Skinning, Tanning, and Use of Animal Hides
  • Finding, Processing, and Using clay
  • Food Preservation without refrigeration or heat
  • Basket Weaving and Container Making
  • Bird Language, Behavior, and Traps

The list of hunter-gatherer skills you should practice is long and depends on your interest, your willingness to learn, your location and climate, and the amount of time you can invest. But when SHTF and things don’t right themselves quickly, you’ll be glad that you took the time to at least learn the basic hunter-gatherer skills that can help supplement your quickly depleting stockpiled resources. If you’ve learned and practiced some of these hunter-gatherer skills, let us know in the comments.

4 thoughts on “7 Hunter-Gatherer Skills You Should Practice”

  1. Some good advice here. EVERYONE should study what naturally grows and how to prepare what is in their particular location. Because no matter how deep your food storage is, it eventually runs out. Or is stolen – raided from your garden and/or orchard. If nothing else, that knowledge can help you extend your larder as long as possible.

    Thank you Ms. Stewart for the post.

  2. this is silly. there’s cattle within a few miles of you. They’ll let you walk right up to them at night, a bola will silently bring one down. Then a spear to the heart or a big rock tied to a stick to the head and it’s done. Convert the 800-2000 lb animal into jerky over the next few days, or at least, use the bicycle to move 1-2 hindquarters a mile, and then cut the meat in half and move it another mile by backpack, before stopping to dip big chunks into salt brine, That will help preserve the meat as you cut it into bacon slices, again dip it in brine, and get it laid out on and under your bugnets, in the next day’s sun. The following night, make the wooden smoking racks and green brush smoke teepees and finish converting the raw meat into jerky.. Having some pre-buried drums or buckets into which to put the jerky (and stolen grain) will be a huge help.

    You can prep an area for snaring deer and dogs, and have lots of netting for converting fish into dried food, too. leghold traps, bird lime, fish poison, etc, can get you the sort of massive amounts of jerky that you’re going to need.


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