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Alice and Bob are lost in the wilderness with no supplies!

Luckily, they're trained for this kind of thing; they decide to forage and hunt for food. About how many hours per day will they be spending on simply acquiring calories? (I assume that the type of ecosystem around them is a strong variable in this answer.)

Assume a modern era, and access to the guns and ammunition.

Bonus: Does the time spent change based on whether they stay in one place or are on the move?

Also Bonus: If the people don't have access to hunting equipment, such as guns or ammunition, how does that affect the answer?

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    $\begingroup$ A great deal depends on where they are stranded. The Ancestors, as neolithic hunter/gatherers spread across the entire world during and after the last ice age, but the ones living in Siberia had a much different lifestyle than the ones living in a temperate forest or desert environment. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Sep 11 '16 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ Yes that's why I mentioned the surrounding ecosystem being a strong variable in the question. Clearly Antarctica would be worse than, say, the tropical rainforest. $\endgroup$ – Thane Brimhall Sep 11 '16 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ Thane can you elaborate on the timeframe/era we are talking about as well as a location/environment and what tools they have at their disposal? Foraging in a desert is much harder than other locations (as an example) and hunting is lets say significantly more difficult when you don't have a bow/shotgun. $\endgroup$ – James Sep 12 '16 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ @James added some additional text to the question to clarify. $\endgroup$ – Thane Brimhall Sep 12 '16 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Might be worth noting that "train[ing] for this kind of thing" is really, fairly dependent on the type of ecosystem the training is for - that is, the plants they can identify, the techniques for finding water or making shelter, will all change depending on what kind of ecosystem they were trained for - which may or may not be the same ecosystem they are lost in. Time spent goes up, and chances of survival go down, if there's a mismatch between their training and location $\endgroup$ – Megha Sep 14 '16 at 1:11
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The classic "original affluent society" argument made by at least some anthropologists is that people in hunter-gatherer societies spend an average of about three hours a day hunting and/or gathering food (and probably another three hours in food preparation, tool-making, maintenance, etc.).

See this Wikipedia page and references therein.

Edited to add: the anthropological studies are based on people with advanced stone-age technology (e.g., the San of the Kalahari), which means bows but not guns. So you might be able to make the time a little shorter with guns (and they would probably help make up for not having a group of hunters, who can do more searching and coordinate with each other).

On the other hand, guns won't help you gather plants faster, and some studies suggest that most of the calories that hunter-gatherers consume come from the gathering (and trapping small animals); big game is prestigious, but not as important to actual survival.

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Alice and Bob are lost in the wilderness with no supplies!

Oh no!

Luckily, they're trained for this kind of thing; they decide to forage and hunt for food.

Phew, what a relief!

About how many hours per day will they be spending on simply acquiring calories? (I assume that the type of ecosystem around them is a strong variable in this answer.)

So we know the following:

  • Assume a modern era, and access to the guns and ammunition.
  • They have training. I will assume their training is general outdoorsmanship, maybe they were boy/girl scouts.
    • They remember their plant identification (food/not food, poison/not poison)
    • Fire building skills
    • Animal cleaning/gutting
    • Knots

With all this in mind the final variable is location. Location will have a gigantic impact on survivability so here goes.

  • Desert. The guns help a lot less here because there is a lot less game and no fuel for fires. In reality the only way they survive being stranded in a desert is to escape the desert. They type of desert matters too...a sea of sand dunes is very different than say the Sonoran desert in the US southwest. Very high probability that they die in this scenario
  • Arctic. They die. Like the desert, the only winning move is to escape.
  • Forests and Plains. In this case they should do pretty well. Game should generally be abundant, there are plenty of plants to eat, and fuel can be found in most cases. Winters will be rough if they are out for an extended period of time...so they could still die.
  • Mountains. Mountains vary a lot as far as what resources are available...the mountains outside Las Vegas are barren rock... (meaning they die) the Appalachians are covered in trees and have plenty of game... (meaning they have a good shot.

I think you can see that the location will likely end up defining the outcome.

Keep in mind the following:

  • Weather (including the seasonal changes)
  • Game availability
  • Fuel availability
  • Shelter availability
  • Foraging availability

These will be the primary factors, you can set them as necessary for the scenario you want.

Bonus: Does the time spent change based on whether they stay in one place or are on the move?

Probably not. Two people are not going to make a major dent in the availability of food in a wild region. They will want to vary where they forage day over day (no reason to forage an area you already picked clean) but they aren't going to be hunting herds to extinction, predators will kill and eat more than they will.

Also Bonus: If the people don't have access to hunting equipment, such as guns or ammunition, how does that affect the answer?

Again a lot depends on the scenario, but at the very least it will be harder to get started. A gun gives you a quick easy kill. Without it you have to rely on traps or something similar to get meat which is going to take more time than shooting a deer and eating it.

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    $\begingroup$ Gotta hand it to you for the humor. Anyway if they were trained for this, one wonders how they got lost in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Skye Sep 12 '16 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Sky I blame Phil Keoghan $\endgroup$ – James Sep 12 '16 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ I gave a +1, but you're not quite bang on with staying in place vs. moving. As the spoor builds up from the human presence, most prey species will tend to stay away from the immediate area, requiring Alice and Bob to range further for big game. Most hunter/gatherer tribes solved this issue by being at least semi-nomadic. Fishing tribes were usually more stationary. $\endgroup$ – Lord Dust Sep 12 '16 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ @LordDust I had never seen the word spoor before. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – James Sep 12 '16 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ Contemporary hunter-gatherers can survive in semi-desert conditions; the San of the Kalahari Desert are a classic example, as are some Australian Aborigine groups. (But the deep Sahara or the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, yeah, not good.) $\endgroup$ – Peter Erwin Sep 13 '16 at 22:03

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