Every survivalist wants to believe that they could head into the wilderness with just a knife and survive. People envision smearing mud on their faces and melting into the environment to hunt big game. However, for the average survivalist, this is not very realistic. It takes a great amount of skill and training to accomplish this feat.
I will never forget a conversation I had on a survival forum when I first started writing. There was an extremely arrogant individual stating that he was the ultimate survivalist and would have no problem surviving with just a knife. I found this statement very dangerous as there were dozens of people new to survival that were reading this statement. Every year there are more and more people that get lost or die trying to attempt survival challenges. This is largely due to the popularity of survival shows and websites that have sprung up over the last decade.
After further discussion, he stated that he had survived for several weeks with a knife. However, he also admitted that he had a tent, sleeping bag, and several other survival items with him. Very few people have actually survived with only a knife. Even the “experts” on television usually take at least two or three items with them. However, as my skills improved through several challenges, I started to realize that I might be able to pull it off.
Then in the spring of 2017 I decided to attempt my knife-only survival challenge. This was the peak of the rainy season for us, and I had no idea how things would turn out. I selected a very large camp knife with a 10-inch blade so I could use it for multiple functions. I was able to build a shelter, procure food and purify water with only my knife. It rained on me constantly for several days, but I was able to get by despite being quite uncomfortable.
In this article, we will discuss how to use only a knife for hunting in the wild. Please understand that even having all of the proper knowledge, your odds of success with this type of hunting are very limited. It takes years of practice to hunt with only a knife.
Devices to Build using your Knife
For weapons to build using your knife, there are three that can be incredibly effective. A four-point spear is great for spearing fish, frogs or small game. The shaft of this spear should be straight and at least shoulder-high. To fashion the spear, you will need to split one end with your knife down about four to six inches and then split it again perpendicular to the first split. You will then shove small, short sticks into the splits to spread out the barbs of the spear. Then, use your knife to sharpen all four points. If you have a fire, you can harden the tips in the fire.
You can also build a fish trap using your knife. This works best in running water. The idea is to weave two baskets using vines or flexible sticks. You should start by weaving one large basket that tapers down to a point at the bottom. Then, weave another smaller basket similar in shape, but leave the bottom end open. Place the smaller basket inside the larger basket. Use your knife to make all of your cuts. Fish will swim inside the opening and become stuck inside. Bait always helps to draw fish inside. This trap can catch crawfish as well.
A large knife can be used to build a pit trap as well. Be aware that this can dull your blade, so be ready to sharpen it when finished. Find a game trail and dig a pit that is wider at the base and at least three times the height of the animal you plan to target. Use the blade to loosen the soil and then use your hands to scoop it out. Next, sharpen sticks on both ends that are 1/3 the depth of the pit. Shove the sharpened sticks into the soil at the base of the pit. Finally, you need to cover the pit to disguise it. This is best done with thin, dry sticks that will snap under any weight. Cover the sticks with leaves or grass, and the animal should fall through and become impaled.
Weapons to Build Including your Knife
Building a weapon that includes your knife can be challenging. A single-bladed spear is one of the most common options. The best way to do this is to find a straight stick at least shoulder high. Next, you want to use your knife to remove about half of the thickness of the end on one side. This cut should extend about three to four inches down the stick and makes an ideal spot for the handle of your knife. The final cut should be L-shaped so can place the butt of the knife handle against a flat surface. You will want to use cordage or vines to lash the knife handle onto the stick. Be thorough with your lashing as this is often the weakest point of your design. Some knives even have holes in the handle specifically designed for this purpose.
If you are desperate, you can build a bow and arrows with your knife. Start by fashioning the bow with a hard but strong wood such as locust or Osage orange. Find cordage or vines to attach as a bow string. Then find several thin, strong sticks for arrow shafts. Bamboo can sometimes work well for this. Use leaves or feathers for fletching and attach them using pine resin or cordage. Unfortunately, for the arrow head you will need to break off the end of your blade. If you do it right and your knife is long enough, you should still have a functional blade left over. I should note that simply sharpening the tip of the arrow or fashioning an arrowhead from rock or glass is often a better option. This would keep your blade fully intact.
The Hunting Process
The most difficult part about actively hunting with any primitive weapon is the process of stalking your prey. In most cases you need to get within a few feet of your prey to have a good shot of a kill. This requires stealth and ingenuity. You must confuse the senses of the animal you hunt as well as understand its movements.
First, we should address the visual element. Camouflage is vital for this type of hunting. You should be completely covered in earth tone colors, so mudding up is often the best option. Also, if you can break up your form with leafy branches tucked into your clothing that will help. You should move slowly, stopping every few steps to look around. Use brush and trees to hide your outline and stay off of the tops of ridges to avoid being seen.
Smell should also be considered as most game animals have a great sense of smell. This often involves simply rubbing yourself with ash from a fire or with pine needles to mask your smell. It is also vital that you have a designated latrine, so you do not accidently step in your own urine. If you do, the animals will definitely pick up on your scent.
Sound can carry for hundreds of yards with certain game animals. The most important priority is not to sound like a human. The worst sounds to make are metallic sounds, running sounds, or anything digital like a cell phone. You may need to shed clothing that sounds unnatural. Your walking should be quiet and deliberately avoid sticks and leaves. This often sounds no different than a deer walking through the woods.
Animal movement can be predictable as they normally walk to water right after dawn and just before sundown. They often follow the same game trails, so you can see them worn into the ground vegetation. You can also see other animal signs such as scat, tracks or dens. All of these give you a good indication of where you should hunt. Your best bet is to set up a stand near these signs. You can climb a tree as most animals look for predators and food near eye level. You can also build a ground blind using sticks and vegetation. Head to your stand before the sun rises or just before the sun starts to set.
If you are going to rely upon just a knife for survival, it is time to get serious about it. This means lots of practice. Start building weapons and traps with only your knife and natural materials you can find in the wild. Test them out and become proficient with them. As you become more comfortable with this process, head out into the woods with another survivalist. There you can truly experience the difficulty and frustration of primitive hunting. Once you have made your first few kills, then and only then could you perhaps consider a solo knife-only challenge.