Kenneth Kieser: Learning to survive outdoors is important these days

Staff Writer
The Examiner
Take your children fishing and shooting. These skills may save their lives someday.

There is a great deal of fear these days. Some are thinking this is the end of time, while others are expecting some kind of conflict. Either way, there is a lot of uncertainty for our future.

I hope and pray it never comes to that and it probably won’t. But just to be safe, this might be the time to look to our past and how those amazing people survived.

My grandfather was not an elegant man, but a squire of his land. He was about 5-foot-8, thick as an old oak tree and just as tough. Many of his friends called him Willie, but it was always Grandpa to us, in our customary show of well-deserved respect. My father and uncle worked with him in producing row crops and sweet milk from pampered dairy cows on their Missouri farm, not far from St. Joseph, where the Pony Express started and Jesse James ended.

I had little appreciation for my stern, deeply spiritual German grandfather until I became a young adult. He had a great sense of humor that made our visits enjoyable. He could tell a good joke and loved to make us laugh. That sense of humor helped him get through many hard times.

I come from a family of soldiers and shooters, but not necessarily ardent hunters. Yet, occasionally grandfather would speak of chasing cows in the timber while carrying his old .22 rifle. My family ate well in America’s dark days of the Depression from produce and meat raised on the farm.

My grandfather used these cool days to walk slowly down our oak ridges mixed with a few black walnut trees while checking on his cows. Those wooded lots were filled with chattering fox squirrels. He carried an old pump .22 rifle that was manufactured in 1918 to shoot fresh meat for table fare. He loved these times that occasionally resulted in fresh squirrel or rabbit fried golden brown in hog lard from the past winter’s butchering. No one had heard of cholesterol levels in those days and it probably wouldn’t have mattered if they did.

The point is, they survived in the toughest times and they taught us how to survive.

My father made sure my brother and I could shoot, first with BB guns and later pellet rifles that could actually tumble a sitting rabbit. I never forgot those stories grandfather told and soon was slowly walking down the same ridges while scanning tree tops for those red bushy-tailed critters.

I believe this is time for every child to learn how to fish and shoot. This must start with hunters’ education classes in which your child will first learn how to safely handle a firearm.

I am proud to serve on the Missouri Hunting Heritage Federation Board of Directors. We will soon be holding our free fall classes that include hunters’ education by a certified instructor, personal demonstrations on firearms handling, live shooting at targets or blue rock and a real hunt with each child teaming with their instructor. We have certified more than 500 students in our classes to date. You may check our website at: or our clinics at: These classes fill up fast and we can only take a limited number of kids.

Fishing, too, is an important survival skill. I recommend you start with bluegill on a worm and hook before moving to bigger fish. There are many different ways to prepare fish outdoors, including totally wrapping in mud and cooking on an open fire. The mud and skin peels away to well-cooked, succulent flesh.

Recently an old friend brought over his latest purchase of survival equipment. He had an impressive supply of items that would fit in a backpack and yet help survival in almost any woodlot. I choose not to believe his equipment will ever be useful for meals, but it could happen.

Finally, take your children on walks in the woods. Find guides on outdoor survival to see what plants or even roots are edible. Just learning to quietly walk through a woodlot while observing everything around you is a survival tactic. This may be unnecessary for future survival, but a walk in the woods is a relaxing escape for everyone.

Do you want to start your own survival packet? Here are some suggested items:

• Knife and sharpener.

• Fire starter and lighter.

• Cordage: paracord is preferred.

• Poncho: Even in the summertime a cold rain can cause illness or hypothermia.

• Wool blanket/space blanket.

• Water purifier.

• Food source – freeze-dried choices are good.

• Firearm and extra ammunition – .22 ammo is lightweight and inexpensive if you can find it.

• First-aid kit.

• Flashlight and batteries.

Check the internet for more ideas to create a kit that will help you survive.

I pray these precautions are never needed, but be prepared for the worst and enjoy the best while we still have it.

– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at