Man vs Statistics! Survivor’s Guide to Hunting/Gathering

shipwreck ship

Note: this is not a guide to surviving. This is probability. Statistics is king. You find a gray mushroom and eat it. If it turns out 99% of gray mushrooms in that area are poisonous, your chances at living are pretty low.

Welcome to the Man vs Stats!

New here? Read the Intro. Survive a Plane Crash or Shipwreck! Eat some Mushrooms while you’re at it.

Survival Situation Eating

People are living things. Eating is one of those things you can’t live without. You hate eating mushrooms. Right. Let’s find chow old school, aka hunting and gathering.


Picking Fruit

Everyone loves fruit. Survivors love fruit even more. Finding fruit means you don’t need to kill bears or eat fleshy fungi.

Turns out, apples are some of the most abundant fruit in the world. Domesticated for ages and quite robust, apple plants sprout readily and keep growing even after the camp/farm/civilization is abandoned. I think the folks from Man, Women, Wild ran into some apple trees at one point.

Berries are also great. According to survivalist Gregory J. Davenport, 99% of aggregate berries are edible. These are the bunches of little berries such as blackberries or raspberries.

aggregate berry

aggregate berry

With generic berries, edibility is a colors game. Half of red berries are edible. Purple, blue, and black berries are predominantly edible (estimated 90%). Only 10% of green, yellow, and white berries are edible.

Turns out, there’s actually a pretty nifty test survivalists due to gauge edibility. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Hold berry juice against wrist. Monitor 15 minutes.
  2. Hold berries against lips. Monitor 5 minutes.
  3. Place berries in mouth, and monitor 15 minutes.
  4. Chew for 15 minutes.
  5. Swallow a small amount.
  6. 8 hours later if you’re alive/not-puking/not-hallucinating, go ahead and eat the berries.

At any point the if you experiencing pain, burning, or other irritation whilst performing the test, it’s probably a good idea to ditch the fruit and go test another species.

peruvian sardine

peruvian sardine


Fish is great–low in calories and high in protein–but its also commonly available survival food. The quoted estimate is there are 20,000 species of fish. Some cite the Cyclothone as the most abundant, but since its bite-sized and typically caught 500 meters below the surface of water, survivalists probably aren’t shooting to catch these guys.

Instead, look for Engraulis ringens, the Peruvian anchoveta, ie the most abundant fish caught for food. They can grow to around 20 cm long and taste like sardines, earning the nickname “Peruvian sardine.”


Another great bet for survivalists. An estimated 12.5 million people in the US spend $22.9 billion over 220 million days annually hunting for game. Around 10.7 million go for big game, but survivalists will probably play the numbers.

black rat

The most common animal that lasts more than a few bites is (unfortunately) the rat. Members of genus Rattus are numerous and great for eating.

Rats are nocturnal and have poor eyesight but a great sense of smell. They can run, climb, and swim competently. You’re best bet is to build some kind of trap. Take a look at this for inspiration.

Finding food to survive looks pretty good. Statistics on just how many people have some inkling of how to start a fire is more difficult to find (stay tuned for fire-starting tutorial), but worse case scenario beats death, right?


Next up: Verdict!


Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9


Pastry Chef (, software engineer (, and fitness enthusiast.

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1 Response

  1. January 11, 2013

    […] Hunting and Gathering – Not very glorious, but a safe bet […]

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