Monday, April 13, 2020

The Bug-out Boogaloo

I am spending the night with Mom. I am blogging over a mobile hot-spot. Pretty cool technology.

I must be getting bored. I started watching You-Tube videos. The last few I have been watching are Greg Ovens bushcraft videos. I am currently about half way through The Thirty Day Survival Challenge.

I want to share a few observations.

The first observation is that I enjoy the videos. Greg Ovens is an easy-going guy and he doesn't let his ego get in the way.

The second observation is not related to anything Mr Ovens says or does, but rather things the viewers might assume.

They might look at the Canadian Rockies and see paradise with food to be had by reaching out and raking in. They might think "When things get tough, that is where I will be bugging-out to." In my humble estimation, that would be a mistake.

Let me present two different perspectives of the "carrying capacity" of the Canadian Rockies for folks who plan to do the bug-out boogaloo.


Grizzly Bears are apex predators like humans. Like humans they are omnivores. One way to estimate the carrying capacity of the Canadian Rockies would be to figure the pounds of Grizzlies per square mile and simple assume humans could step in and replace them.

Most of the Canadian Rockies support 11-20 Grizzly Bears per 1000 km^2. If we assume 15 animals with an average weight of 500 pounds, then we are looking at 7500 pounds of animal for every 400 square miles or the equivalent of one, 180 pound human every ten square miles.

There are extenuating factors. Grizzlies eat grass and roots that humans would turn up their noses at. Grizzlies eat carrion. Grizzlies hibernate half the year when humans would continue to burn calories wholesale.

On the other hand, humans can engage in agriculture and have nifty technologies like fishnets. If we considered it a wash, then a family of Ma, Pa, Jr and Sissy plus a dog would take about fifty square miles.

Let me discuss something as simple as fish.

Fish provide the majority of the calories of Greg and his partner during the thirty day challenge. At least, they do up until day 13 which is as far as I have gotten.

It must be noted that Greg lost at least five pounds and maybe closer to ten in the first 13 days. You can see it in the veins sticking out.

In a typical, half-hour video, the two men drive fifty or a hundred miles to a new location. Then they hike in. Find a few worms. Catch some fish. Slap mosquitoes. Try to sleep. They stay for two days and then move on to the next half-hour video.

Each day, the men catch between three and seven pounds of trout between the two of them.

A short aside on the productive capacity of high, mountain lakes
Fish biologist frequently talk about "carrying capacity".

Unfortunately, that is not a very useful measurement.

The carrying capacity, or maximum number of pounds of fish that a lake can support is a static number. Every calorie of food consumed by the population of fish is exactly consumed by the maintenance energy demands of living. The fish expend energy with beating hearts, gill covers moving water over gills, reproduction, foraging for food, evading predators.

In a sterile, phosphorous poor, mountain lake it might take a trout eight years to reach 12" in length. Remember, for half of the year the lake is iced over so no insects can fly in for food. Furthermore, the ice gets covered with snow so algae cannot photosynthesize and algae is the base of the food pyramid.

The lake might appear to be incredibly productive as the fish ferociously attack lures. They are naive and very, very hungry. Harvesting those fish is more like strip-mining than picking eggs out from beneath laying hens.

For one thing, many of those lakes are planted with fish. The fish do not naturally reproduce. For example, one of the lakes produced three pound cut-throat trout. That is not indicative of the normal pyramid of fish sizes one would expect to encounter in a lake stocked by natural reproduction.

So what might be a realistic, sustainable harvest for a high, mountain lake? Maybe five pounds of trout per acre of lake per year. If there are other species like suckers and minnow, you might be able to bump that up to twenty pounds per acre, per year.
---End of aside---

Mr Ovens never implies that bushcraft living is viable for significant numbers of people for extended periods of time. I believe he is as good and as honorable of a man as he can be.

However, the imagination of the viewer might make that leap. He might think that he could move to Alberta or British Columbia with his family and that fish would leap to impale themselves upon his hook.

I ask that the gullible viewer consider what Mr Ovens is not telling us. How many miles is he driving between camps? How depleted are the lakes and how many years does it take for them to recover?

Finally, could he replicate his success (losing 10 pounds in 13 days) in the middle of the winter?

Miscellaneous notes
Mr Ovens scrupulously stays within provincial game and fish laws.

In a survival situation, multi-hook set lines trump spinning tackle.

Nets trump set-lines.

Toxins and electro-stunning trump nets.

Before you swoon, consider that in forestry some species thrive under clear-cutting and peter-away under selective cutting. There is nothing morally polluted about catching a dozen bluegills or sunfish or bullheads or catfish from a pond. Putting them in a tank. Harvesting all of the other fish in the pond by draining, poisoning or electro-stunning. Refill the pond and release the seed-stock for next year.

How is that different than growing potatoes?


  1. Eating only high protein diet like fish, with few or no carbohydrates will make anyone lose pounds.

    If you only ate lean beef or pork or chicken (no bread or potatoes or such) you'd lose weight as well.

  2. It's no different. And there is no guarantee that you would continue to get that amount of fish day after day... Matter of fact, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't. Agree with B, you need carbs too!

  3. I bet they ate a lot of store bought food for the years it took to hone their survival skills.
    Yes, a skilled, intelligent and resourceful human can survive and prosper in that environment; once they get well up into the learning curve.
    My wife and I had a HUGE blowout when I was young and dumb. We were going camping and my position was "we're going to live on nature's largesse"... If she hadn't brought food we would have starved for three days...
    So yeah, wilderness survival can be done. But expect a much lower standard of living without modern civilization. Currently she's running the garden and chicken flock. I handle the heavy lifting, fence running and building the coop. If it weren't for a good wife I'd be a sad, starving, stinking mess.

  4. I think the attrition of intertribal warfare and austere circumstances is what allowed the indigenous American Indians to live within the carrying capacity of the wilderness.
    Once the supply lines cease functioning a lot of people are going tio learn first hand about these things. It's gonna be a brutal learning curve.

  5. A few observations from some one who lives in South central Alaska for the last thirty years. Availible fish depend partly on weather they are connected to a salmon run. If salmon run in the system their decaying carcuses fertilize the streams and lakes and benefit the trout, grayling and other species. A similar water shed with a falls near the bottom will be almost sterile. The local Athna people tended to move from camp to camp. They went to fish camp when the salmon were running and dried all they could catch. In the fall the hunters would move to hunting camps in the mountains for sheep, moose or caribou. One old grandpa told me that with a moose down the whole family would move camp to the cactus and eat and dry meat rather than pack it out! I expect if food gets scarce in Anchorage we will have lots of hungry people going by us to set up fish camps along the Copper River in June July and August!

    1. Assuming 10% of Anchorage decided to do that, there would be 30,000 city people camped beside the river. That would quickly turn into an epic goat-festival.

      Have you given any consideration in what you need to do to secure your property, should that happen? I imagine you would have to lock up your gasoline and any machinery.

      I am not prying regarding your location, but are you very far off the main-drag between Palmer and Glennallen?

    2. We are between Glennallen and the river. Anchorage people also have lots of other places to spread to. The Keneai peninsula and the Susitna drainage. I am reliably informed that back in Y2K there was an old guy who was prepared to drop a key brings West of Glennallen. He is gone now but who knows. Hopefully civil disorder won't get bad enough to cause massive migration. Meanwhile before white trade many nonacultural native groups supplemented their protien with fat. Salmon are fat fish. Also porcupines beaver, bears,moose and sheep. Buffalo on the plains and racoons and possums where they live. In a survival situation a nice fat porcupine might help you keep the pounds on. Also there were trade routes in the north bring marine mammal fat and things like candle fish to the interior. The route from Skagway to the Yukon that the gold rush used was known as the "Grease road" long before the gold rush.


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