Wilderness Survival Skills | How to Butcher and Prepare Fish and Game with Survival Skills

Basic Food Preparation:
How To Butcher And Prepare
Fish And Game Using Survival Skills

bear grylls knife gutting fish

If  you have been working on your wilderness survival skills, and you are at the point where you feel you can obtain food in the wild, the next thing to master is how to prepare the two most common foods, namely, fish and wild game by using more survival skills

However, what do you do with that food once you have managed to trap, snare or have caught some fish.
Game and fish caught in the wild must be processed almost immediately in warm weather to prevent spoilage.

You Only Have A Matter Of Hours Before Meat Becomes Inedible

survival skills gutting an animal

Gut & clean out as soon as possible

It is recommenced that you field dress game on the spot.

Remove the entrails by starting at the tail/anus and make a cut in the belly up to the chest cavity. 

Be careful as you slice into the belly that you do not puncture the entrails. Some skinning knives will have "gut hooks" expressly for these purposes they only penetrate far enough to cut open the layers of skin.

Bury the entrails immediately so you do not attract predators and insects.

  • Leave the skin on until you are ready to process the meat for cooking.
  • Cut the head and feet off and spread the cavity open and prop with a stick then wipe the cavity out.
  • You want the meat to cool as quickly as possible so never leave the entrails in any longer than necessary.

Wilderness Survival May Mean
Doings Things You Are Not Accustomed To Doing

The only way to become proficient at processing wild game is to have hands on experience.
Once back at camp start a fire and make a spit by pushing two forked sticks into the ground on either side of the fire.

cooking game over open fire

Use a slender sapling to skewer the animal and lay across the fire supported in the forks.

Then construct a small platform out of green saplings close to the heat but not over the flames to use as a curing/drying rack for any meat you cannot eat right away.

Easy Ways To Skin Small Game

Hang the animal up by the hind legs to make it easier to remove the skin:

SURVIVAL SKILLS rabbit skining

Make a slit along the skin, along the backside of the hind legs. Begin peeling the skin off starting at the hind legs and working forward, you will pull the skin inside out essentially.

You can save the skin for curing, if you know how, otherwise bury it as soon as possible.

Cut the limbs at the joints. On small game, the legs do not have much meat but they can be placed in water and boiled to produce a protein rich broth.

Cut down either side of the backbone through the ribs to free the breast meat if you plan to dry some of the meat otherwise skewer the animal and place over the heat.

Remove the meat if there is more than you can eat and lay across the drying rack. You must cure any extra meat to preserve it.

Having wilderness survival skills such as knowing how to process wild game is essential to prevent sickness and to make sure you eat well.

Advantages Of Curing Meat

Meat must be dried with heat to remove all of the moisture. Meat not cured properly will turn rancid because of the high moisture content.

Meat dried over the fire for eight to ten hours using the heat as it rises up past the meat, can prolong the shelp life of the meat considerably.
Meat that is dehydrated using this method will easily last for days out of refrigeration

Preparing Fish for the Fire

There are several ways of processing fish for the grill, some like to remove the head and others like leaving it on.
Before cooking however, you must remove the innards by slitting the belly and pushing a finger into the cavity and "pop" them out.
Rinse the inside well.
Do not cook and eat any fish until you have removed all entrails. Cooking fish with the entrails intact can ruin the meat and possibly make you ill.

fish gutting

For field expediency, you should cook the fish whole and then remove the skin after it is cooked. This means you do not have to scale the fish first. If you planned to fillet the fish into portions then you would have to scale the fish.

Remove the gills and fins before cooking after you have cleaned the fish.

Knowing how to prepare fish properly is an important wilderness survival skill and one that should be practiced often.

cooking fish on a rock

To keep the fish from falling apart as it cooks cook it on a flat rock near enough to the fire to maintain heat.

You can also lay several saplings over the fire and support with forked sticks and lay the fish on the saplings to cook.

You can also drape the fish over a single sapling over the fire but the flesh tends to fall off as it cooks. Having wilderness survival skills means you can eat well while in the wilderness and not become sick.

Things to make butchering and processing game and fish easier include a skinning knife with a gut hook and whetstone/sharpening stone. Small hack saw for cutting joints and latex/rubber gloves to reduce the spread of bacteria present in the animals.
Carry clean cloths and net bags to carry game in that allows airflow to cool the game.

Once you find yourself in a wilderness survival situation you will need to know how to do certain things to survive. There are things you can do now to prepare yourself, so practice what skills you can in a controlled environment before you need to depend on those skills to save your life.


Additional Basic Survival Articles 

 basic survival skills by ray mears

Essential reading for all outdoor survival

Ray Mears - Outdoor Survival Handbook



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1 comment

    • Gary on May 18, 2020 at 2:27 am
    • Reply

    With regard to preparing fish, experience in sea fishing has taught me to soak fish related to the Shark family over night in fresh water. Shark meat as well as Skate will have an ammonia taste if they are not prepared this way. Fresh water Bass will also have a sort of earthier taste campared to sea Bass. I prep in coastal areas as I have more knowledge of what seafood is around at different times of the year plus there are plenty of small and medium sized mammals around too, oh ! and I nearly forgot sea plants, seaweed etc.
    Just wondering about using large leaves to wrap the fish in, tying with plant fibers as a way to stop the meat falling off.

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