If you are in a true wilderness situation, odds are, you’ll either be killing animals, or you have a good chance of finding an animal carcass lying around. Even if the animal is of no use to you as food, the bones are most likely still strong and useful, and how.
There are many ways you can use bones for survival purposes, and most ancient cultures show us this. Bones have been used for centuries for a wide range of tools, weapons, and even jewelry.
If you are stranded in the wilderness, you’ll definitely want to be on the lookout for bones you can use, or make sure to keep the best ones from any kill you get. Large game is going to be more likely to have the kind of bones you can use, but don’t discount smaller game either.
When looking for bones to use, pick out the largest, most intact bones you can find. If you are taking them out of an already decaying carcass, first make sure whatever has killed the animal is gone. If there are vultures circling or other animals scavenging, you should be safe to inspect the carcass.
First, pick the best bones out, wash them as best you can with the resources you can, and then sanitize over an open flame to kill any bacteria. Leave out in the sun for a day or so too if possible, sunlight naturally kills bacteria and germs.
If you are dressing an animal you’ve just killed, there’s less concern about bacteria, but you’ll probably still want to wash and dry them well so you can prepare these in sunlight as well.
If you happen to find some bones simply laying around, treat them in this same way, just in case.
One great option for using salvaged bones is as a knife. To make a knife, find a good-sized bone to work with, like a leg bone, and break it in half with a rock. Then, pick out the sharpest shard, that most resembles a knife, and sharpen it with a stone, as you would a regular knife. This means, using a stone that has a bit of grit to it, like “glitter”, rub the shard of bone around in a circle, first on one side, then the other, to smooth and sharpen it into a knife.
Make a handle by wedging this bone into a smoothed piece of wood, or by wrapping a strong cloth around the base of it.
Here is a picture of a completed moose bone knife from LivingPrimitively.com:
As you can imagine, this knife won’t last as long as a metal knife, so once it is worn out, simply fashion another one.
In the same way you can make a knife, you can make the blade for a spear as well. If you find a well-preserved antler, this will work great, or you can sharpen a bone in the same method you would for a knife. Simply affix the sharpened bone to the end of a long, straight stick, to use for hunting, fishing, or self-defense.
Clubs or Hammers
I mentioned clubs in the improvised weapons for survival post, and the femur bones many animals make excellent clubs for hunting or as weapons, or as hammers for building.
Cups or Bowls
This might sound morbid now, but there could easily come a time in your life when you’ll be glad you read this: skulls of larger game can make excellent cups or bowls for eating.
If you need to repair some clothing or gear, quickly fashioning some round or toggle-style buttons out of bone might really help you out. Pick a small piece of bone, and round and smooth it out with a rock. You can bore a hole in your button with a hot piece of steel, like a heated up safety pin, for example.
A very classic ancient use for bones is as needles. If you go to your local natural history museum, you might be likely to see some bone needles on display, found among Native Americans perhaps. You can smooth out a small bone (this is something small game is great for) and sharpen the tip. If you can, bore a small hole on the non-sharp end to make an eye, or, if that isn’t possible, make two small cuts, small enough to fit whatever you are using for thread in, so it is held in place. Then, fit your thread in the groves and tie with a knot so it won’t slip while you are sewing.
Another classic relic of more primitive life, fish hooks made from bone are as old as time. This is another great use for the bones of smaller game, particularly fish or bird bones, because they’re small and lightweight, and often naturally sharp.
Like a knife or spear, bones can also be used to make arrowheads if you have the confidence to fashion your own arrows. Simply sharpen as you would a knife, but smaller. This is a great option for the rest of the shards of the bone you break to make a knife.
If nothing else, you can always use bones to make broth. If you are weak and ailing and have the resources to keep water at a boil for an hour or so, you can do this. Take your properly sanitized bones and boil them until the water has a rich color, then drink. This won’t keep long so you don’t need to make much, but the nutrients extracted from the bones while boiling will sustain you.
When you are in a survival situation, you need to use everything you have access too, and bones are a great resource.