Tactical Training For Prepping and Survival

Tactical training is one of the most important aspects of your prepping for an SHTF situation. Use the information in this article to start your training regime, or modify any training you may already be doing.

soldier in the field

Training should be done to build a skill level and also to maintain that skill level. Tactical training could be useful in a situation where you need to evade or stay hidden from a threat. This training is also useful if you find yourself needing to neutralize a threat.

Training like this also helps to keep your mind in the game. Training for a wide variety of situations instills confidence in your ability, and keeps you actively thinking about your situation. Keeping your mind in the game and prepared is crucial, as your brain is the best tool you have in your arsenal.

Tactical Training & Tactical Shooting Drills // RealWorld Tactical

The Definition of Tactical Training

The first thing I would like to address is the word tactical. It seems to be thrown around out of context, often by marketers, and now has many meanings in common usage. Once we agree on the meaning, we can begin to work on the training.

Google says the definition of tactical is:

  • relating to or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end.
  • showing adroit planning; aiming at an end beyond the immediate action.

So how do you as a prepper use tactical skills for a survival situation?

We need to train our skills, techniques, and know-how for our survival in a tactical situation.

Often as a prepper, the tactical situation is survival, as survival is the end we aim to achieve.

You may find yourself trying to evade a threat or enemy at a time when all you have is yourself to rely on. In a time like this you may need to move tactically to a safer place, or continually move until the threat is gone, or you are in a position to neutralize the threat.

You may find that you are unsure if you are dealing with friend or foe. Your tactical training may buy you time to find out, and leave you in a position to act safely no matter if you are confronted with a threat or not.

So let’s break our training down into two areas

  1. Physical training, ie. fitness, and
  2. Tactical training


Often, a tactical situation is uncomfortable and awkward, dirty, and dangerous from many influences. Fitness fits into your tactical training at the beginning as a way to deal with these issues.

Before starting any type of fitness training you should consult your doctor and make sure your training is appropriate.

Physical Training

Basic fitness ie. ”running shorts and shirt” type training is the starting point for fitness training. You need to be realistic as to where you are with your own fitness and start there. Any improvement you can make to your fitness, be it strength or stamina will be to your advantage.

If you need to start with a walk, that’s where you will start, if you are running ultra marathons each week, you will likely only need to maintain your fitness.

What fitness state do you need to aim for? The answer to this is, you need to be fit enough to sit or lay, or whatever, in a cramped position for a long time without moving or making a sound. You hope you are never in this situation, but you need to be able to do it.

You will also need a degree of endurance. A tactical situation may see you need to run for a period, walk or move for a long period and stop and stay still for a long period.

Your fitness regime should have this end result in mind.


Here are some basics:

Steady-state cardio training:

  • Running
  • Walking
  • Rowing
  • Cycling
  • High intensity intervals;
  • Sprinting
  • Kettlebell workouts
  • Jumping jacks
  • Rope skipping
  • …and more


This is where you take your fitness training and combine it with a tactical aspect. You train in your clothes and with the tools you expect you may use in a tactical situation.

This may include but is not limited to:

  • Protective clothing- long pants, boots, hats gloves
  • Bags, webbing, and carriage equipment
  • Weapons and tools

If you expect to use it in a tactical situation – train with it.


It can be as simple as introducing your bag, or your weapon, to your walking or running routine. I suggest building up your training in this way. There is no need to train in full gear all the time. DON’T OVERDO IT.

You can also add specific training in at this point. If you want to train with a weapon, be safe.

You could do some fire and movement exercises, starting with no rounds or blanks.

Start by walking, then “reacting” – like going to ground, crawling to cover taking a shot, and moving.

You can add this to a fitness regime also if you are fit enough. Make an obstacle course like this;

  • 10 squats
  • move to designated marker
  • go to ground, leopard crawl “take a shot” move
  • get up walk to a marker
  • repeat the process with 10 lunges (moving forward) instead of squats, or add your own variation as you need to.

This is training for fitness remember, but with the added benefit of conditioning yourself with your equipment.

This is also a great time to work out any issues with your gear. If your chest rig has a buckle that rubs on your skin and annoys you – fix it now. Also, this is a great way to try new gear that you haven’t used before.



You may have started to practice movement in your battle pt, in this stage we take it further. We are aiming to move in different environments without being detected.

It starts with getting used to moving in the environment. If it is a conventional environment start by not walking on the path.

You need to get used to not using tracks and you need to get used to moving in this situation. You will find it hard to move silently.

Practice, practice, practice. You may never get it perfect but you should try to.

Don’t get yourself lost.

You can take just a step or two off the path and “handrail” it.

Be respectful of the area you are training in, don’t destroy it, and don’t trample plants, etc.

TIP – To move silently you should not trample anything anyway. Making a mark on the environment is also a way to be tracked.

No animal makes a noise when walking through the scrub, be it prey or predator. Humans walk on everything and give themselves away time and time again. Don’t be that guy.

If someone is following/tracking you, your ability to move silently through the environment may be the thing that sees you live another day.

If you are stalking food, your ability to move silently will be a great advantage when trying to get close to your prey.


Scenario training may seem the best way to train for a tactical situation. To train successfully you should break the scenario into its elements. You can then structure your training something like this:

Practice element one, then practice element two, then create a scenario involving elements one and two.

Start basic and build to ever-increasing difficulty of elements and scenarios.

And then go back to the basics again.


Simple training could start with reaction. Reacting to stimuli. It could be a gunshot, a movement or a noise. If you can work in a pair or team, this is great.

Move through an environment and have your partner dart out from behind something and move to a new position. You need to react, you should move to cover or concealment. At this point, self evaluate and also have your partner evaluate.

Questions for you:

  • Is the spot you moved to cover or concealment?
  • Can you see what the “enemy” is doing , can they see you?
  • Do you have another move? Or are you now trapped?
  • The list goes on

While there is no right or wrong answers, training to make better decisions is what will give you the advantage.


At this point you can see how important it is to have someone else to train with.

Who can you use?

Your kids and your wife and other family members are great, and can be extremely helpful. Other preppers and people interested in learning these skills are even better.

Here are a few scenario set ups you can use with your family members.


You can have your kids sit and wait in an area and try to sneak up on them.  You can make it a game if they are a little younger.

Keep it short, so they don’t get bored.

  • Have your kids wait on the edge of a wooded area, close their eyes and count to 10. You move to a point in the scrub and start moving towards them.
  • They should be trying to see you coming, tell them to yell out if they are sure they can see you or know where you are.

You can do this in an urban environment too, like if you have a few buildings around your house on your farm.

  • Have someone sit inside, maybe on the second story, and set up the same type of scenario, this time, try to make it to the building and inside, maybe even all the way to the person looking for you.

You can do both these scenarios roles reversed. This way you get to have a breather and the kids get to test their skills at tricking mum and dad.

Watch closely what they do. They may have valuable lessons to teach, they will see the environment differently from you, this perspective may be invaluable.

While these are simple scenarios, on paper they can become quite complex on the ground.

Involving your family in a fun way has many benefits for you and your family. Even if you don’t have to use the skills practiced, the bonding will last a lifetime and is invaluable to both you and your children.

Seemingly simple yet incredibly complex, the way you move and how you practice is a vital part of survival.


In this section, we will focus on moving on your feet.


Monkey crawl from min. 3:50

Movement Techniques [HD]

As you can see it is a difficult thing to explain with words. Normally you would have your non master hand in a fist and use it to support your weight. Your master hand will hold your weapon. This method is a way of moving quickly while staying low.

Leopard crawl:

Martin Day - Secrets of Fighting Fit exposed - DVD 1 Extract

You can imagine how taxing this move can be, and rough on the body in some terrain. It is even harder with a rifle. You must practice to get it right. Putting the barrel in the dirt can render a weapon in-effective.

Each of these methods is useful in its own way, and training on the technique is as much physical as it is skills training.

Walking running and crawling I don’t think I need to explain. You may find the monkey crawl difficult, often shorter people are better suited to this technique. This method was widely used in Afghanistan.

The ability to get low enough to move along the little fences/walls that are everywhere over there was great. You reach the end of the wall and you are almost in a fire position and ready to attack or defend. You can also get to your feet quickly if you need to.

Leopard crawling is one of my favorite methods of movement. Being so low to the ground makes you a very hard target if you are taking fire and it also makes you very hard to see.

Tactical Training for the Fight

If you have a handgun for self-defense, you’ve undoubtedly spent a significant amount of time at the range shooting groups and burning through ammunition.

You may have even gone to a few seminars if your budget allows. Marksmanship is unquestionably an important component of tactical training that must be mastered in order to save one’s life during a desperate confrontation.

When the SHTF, you’ll be in a fight for you life, and you must be able to fight, not just shoot. Knowing how to operate a firearm is not the same as knowing how to kick ass with it.

The secret to fighting with a gun is learning how to actually fight with it.

This requires training. If you learn how to employ the proper methods and attitude while also practicing your new talents, you’ll be far better prepared for a real confrontation than if you just shoot paper all day and all night.

What You’ll be Facing in a Tactical Environment

You must be ready for a real fight, and probably a gunfight, when the SHTF. A real fight will be full of motion, both you and your attacker or attackers will be moving.

The fight will not take place in a clean, well-lit range, but instead in any of the many environs and arenas out in the world. It’ll be messy, chaotic, and dark, and maybe there will be innocent people and no good backstop.

Unlike the paper bad guy you shot at the range, your attacker gets a voice in the decision of whether or not you live. He may not care about your firearm at all.

He may have been wounded previously and be unscathed now. He might have already used his weapon on someone else. It’s possible that he’s skilled with it.

The first thing to remember is that you won’t have much, if any, time to react. The fact that you were targeted at all suggests that the malevolent individual chose you as his target because he noticed your lack of focus in general or a gap in your attention, which allowed him to approach you.

So, why should you worry about speed? Because it is for this reason that quickness will be most important. The ability to grab your garment, establish a shooting grip, draw the weapon and fire an accurate initial shot is critical.

Alternatively, the ability to do the same thing with a slung long gun. Even so, the assailant’s chance of coming to grips with you is quite good.

It isn’t enough to know how to shoot from a conventional stance; you must also know how to fight at close contact distance while protecting the weapon from being stuffed or snatched.

If your opponent is armed, you must take action in order to become a more difficult target.

It’s entertaining in movies and video games to stand up like a man’s man in the middle of the street trading fire with your adversary, but it also often leads to you being sent to meet your Maker.

If you are shot at and your assailant is still attempting to shoot you, move if possible, but don’t run unless absolutely necessary.

When seeking cover instead of merely anything else that will stop bullets from striking you, move as far as you can while keeping your back to any major obstacles.

It is not enough to be able to shoot rapidly and well while standing still on the target range. You must train until you can shoot rapidly and accurately while under tremendous real world stress.

And all the while accomplish this while still making correct decisions moment by moment on your quest to survive. It’s not simple, so you’ll need to seek out training accordingly and then practice until you cannot get it wrong.

Getting the Right Training

Many ranges offer tactical training, but it’s important to find a good school. Many so-called tactical courses are just glorified basic handgun courses with the students paying more money to shoot more rounds.

Look for a school that has a curriculum that covers weapon retention, close contact fighting, ground fighting, shooting from awkward positions, and 360-degree movement.

This is the kind of training that law enforcement officers, marshals, FBI agents, SWAT team tactical officers, military personnel and other armed professionals use on a day to day basis, often more than they would like. You might think that you, a civilian, has no need to draw upon such training.

But I have a newsflash for you: civilians defending themselves or their families in a home defense situation is just as much combat as any no-knock raid or fugitive takedown.

But the trainers that an teach this stuff, the curriculum that is beyond basic firearm training, are rare, and facilities that will allow you to train effectively even rarer.

The best way to find a quality school is to ask around and see what others have experienced.

You can also look on the Internet for reviews of schools. Be sure to check out the instructor’s qualifications; many instructors purport to be “tactical” when they really have no real-world experience.

At a minimum, your training should include the following:

  • How to shoot quickly and accurately while under stress
  • How to fight at close contact distance
  • How to protect your weapon from being taken away
  • How to move in all directions quickly and safely
  • How to shoot from awkward positions

The best way for you to survive a deadly encounter is by training with someone who has been there before. Seek out a professional instructor who can give you the skills you need to defend yourself and your loved ones.

The Only Tactical Standard that Matters

You must be able to shoot accurately enough to preserve your life. How accurate is “that” exactly? When the attacker and you are probably jogging, striking the vital anatomy of a human attacker at close range with enough accuracy to hit the vital organs.

The heart, lungs, and brain, collectively known as the classic chest and head aiming points, are among the most frequently effective targets.

The difficulty of hitting targets accurately has been exacerbated by the requirement that you must do so multiple times as quickly as possible in order for you to achieve the desired impact on the organism they serve.

Do not be fooled by the lie that sufficient accuracy or speed will suffice in the absence of other qualities. In any fight, both characteristics are necessary.

Accurate force must be delivered promptly and fast enough to save you from the other guys who are trying to do the same thing to you. Nothing else will assure a positive result unless you are counting on luck alone to save you.

The Only Easy Day was Yesterday

You must not be satisfied with shooting clusters at the range unless you have mastered basic competence in safely operating and firing the weapon. The use of a shooting timer to establish time standards is an essential step toward promoting development.

Achieving rapid and accurate hits under pressure of a time limit isn’t something that can be accomplished on a square range: you won’t have as much time as you want during a fight to save your life.

As skill and confidence increase, the time limit should be decreased. The complexity of the challenge should be enhanced as skill and experience grow.

Do the same drill while concealed or with a long gun slung or with only one hand.

Decision-making regarding whether to shoot or not to shoot is introduced, as well as drills in which more complex sequences of fire are required, combining numerous shots on various targets of varying shapes, sizes, colors, and labels.

Anything that requires your brain to divert processing to addressing an issue other than solving the puzzle of “package delivery” will shed light on your natural level of competence with the weapon. You should be able to achieve an “automatic” level of competence unless trying your hand on very difficult shots.

If you find yourself having to devote too much effort toward solving the marksmanship aspect of the problem on a particular drill, you are probably not at the proficiency level you should be.

Stress Inoculation for Tactical Excellence

Once you are a reasonably competent and totally safe shooter, you should attempt to participate in some sort of action-oriented competition or force-on-force training.

Don’t pay one lick of attention to naysayers who imply that harmful habits learned during competition would get you killed.

Hardly: while stress levels during an actual armed encounter are the highest there is, putting your skills and reputation on the line in front of others will be the most stressful test most of you will face.

Many of the early 19th century’s most important pistol experts themselves engaged in and encouraged competition for its rewards.

A few of them, to be specific, invented and formalized what we now know as action pistol or multi-gun shooting.

There is no doubt where these significant figures stood on the issue; it was not an unfavorable viewpoint considered against life-or-death fighting.

But there are a few gotchas that tactical students should be aware of before placing all of their faith upon the altar of competition shooting.

While competitions often neglect proper usage of cover, the most basic concern of someone who is worried about being shot, and will always have an artificial gaming aspect to them some gear setups or weapons will typically reign supreme in a given “sport”.

Self-defense weapons and setups vary considerably from those utilized by law enforcement to protect individuals. These weapons are frequently sub-optimal or ineffective to use for self-defense.

The refinement of skills acquired through competitive training is priceless if you make a point of competing with your “real world” carry gun and equipment while not being caught up in a “play the game to win the game” mindset.

Try Yourself Against a Thinking Adversary, Not Paper

The finest kinds of this training will enable a student to make judgments on their own in an open-ended or “emergent” scenario and achieve a positive or negative result of their choices.

These scenarios are made safe, or at least safer by utilizing specialized, converted weapons that discharge non-lethal marking pellets or airsoft guns firing small plastic BB’s. No live rounds, folks!

Other sorts of training may need protective equipment to let students engage in hand-to-hand combat while attempting to bring weapons into play or defend against a firearm being utilized against them. These are grueling evaluations of your physical and mental fitness, as well as your abilities.

Many an overconfident gun owner has been humbled after suffering an ambush on the ground, their weapon in the hands of a assailant who took it from them during such an exercise.

It is not a sign of readiness for deadly confrontations in a gunfight to destroy paper or pester steel all day.

At the very least, not on its own. If you want to survive the realities of a life-or-death fight, you must master complex and advanced abilities if you are to live through it.

Other Considerations

Terrain is a big factor for how you move. Being able to operate effectively in muddy areas, dry areas, hilly and steep slopes and flat and open ground is crucial to success.

Another aspect to consider is the vegetation. It can be almost impossible to move in very close vegetation. It certainly makes it difficult to move swiftly and quietly.

The best advice I can give you is to get out there and try it out. It really is something you have to work out for yourself.

In the jungles of South East Asia, we practiced moving with a small bush saw, machete, and a pair of secateurs. It is extremely slow and very hard to stay quiet.

When the shit hits the fan in these situations, you just have to move and that is a night mare. You should practice both moving slowly and cutting a path, and moving quickly to withdraw or attack.

Being able to move effectively and quietly and remain aware is something you learn by doing.

Later in this article we will talk about knowing your own environment. An advantage you may have that often soldiers don’t get.

Don’t become complacent, go out and find new areas with new challenges to train in. You never know where and when you will need to use these skills.

You may have to leave the comfort of your own area to seek help or resources. This may push you into terrain you have never seen before. Try to be ready for the challenge.

Rain – rain can be a friend and a foe.

Movement in the rain can be difficult as you become wet and heavy. Water also sucks morale right out of a person.

Wet clothes rub skin red raw, and this discomfort can be extremely difficult to deal with. Consider the effect it may have on other members of your party. If you have to move through the rain with your children these factors could be devastating to them and your mission.

The advantage of rain is noise. Rain masks your noise. Even for hours or days after rain, the ground, and leaf litter may stay moist and make your footsteps very hard to hear.

This is a great advantage that the average person doesn’t realize.

In heavy rain, your vision will be impaired. Visibility may drop to only a few feet and if you don’t have something to protect your eyes you may have to stop and stay still.

Tip: Hats, goggles, hoodies, scarfs, and raincoats may help keep water out of your eyes. Be sure to pack them in your bug-out bag as they are essential.

If you can see and your enemy can’t, you have a huge advantage. Make sure you can stack the odds in your favor if the situation pops up.

Practice training in the rain, and practice just being in the rain. Modern man is so sheltered, rain really puts some people off. Make rain your friend.

Know Your Area

As you can see, the training we have covered so far can be done in isolation or combined to train multiple aspects in one session. Even when practicing a skill in isolation, you may get insights into how to work other skills into your training.

I was once transported to a different base. The next morning we were woken and made to go for a run for forty minutes. As we warmed down, the senior digger asked us a few questions about the environment.

It was a test to see if we were just running for running sake, or using the opportunity to build a picture of our surrounds. It was a valuable lesson for a young soldier.

You are always on the clock.

While moving about your own area, if you are training or not, you should be soaking up the environment.


  • Landmarks
  • Features
  • People/activity
  • Tracks, paths and routes
  • What the terrain is like in certain weather conditions.

As mentioned before, soldiers train in many different environments. It is this training that gives them a reference point to operate from.

As a prepper, you can be fairly sure of the environment you will have to operate in./p>

Other people who live around you will also know this environment. You can gain an advantage if you are thinking know, and building your intel on the environment around you.

Knowing little things like:

  • The creek at the bottom of our road would likely flood with four hours of good rain.
  • One hour of rain and that area at “x” will become a slippery mess.
  • After a few weeks without rain the wooded area around my farm will be almost impossible to move in without making some kind of noise.
  • Someone moving through the area to the East will go past “Mrs Smiths” dogs and they will bark and carry on.

And so on and so on…

All these little tid-bits make up your intel picture. This can be a huge advantage in a SHTF situation. You can collect this information almost passively, but you must be aware that it is out there.

A visit to your neighbors to help mend a fence or cut up a fallen tree can be a source of valuable intel.

Pro Tip – write the information down. Keep a file or a spread sheet. Hand-writing information is best.

You are unlikely to pull the file out in a SHTF situation, but writing it and working on it will help the information sink in. This may help you recall the information at a time of need.

Gear: What You May Want and Why

The topic of gear could go on forever. It is a personal thing and you also may have a few different load outs for different situations.

I will share some considerations for the basics. This is certainly not exhaustive, and I am sure that you can find many interesting videos and articles on the topic

While it is good – and fun – to look at all the new gear and what different people use, there are a couple of things you should think about.

You need to get used to your gear. You should be able to locate the items you have quickly, without looking and you should be able to do it in the pitch black of night or inside a darkened building or tunnel.

You should keep your gear simple.

There is nothing worse than carrying gear all over the countryside that you never use.

Do a quick audit every now and then. As you begin to see your pockets and pouches fill up ask yourself “do I need to carry this?”

It may be that you can pack the item somewhere else if you rarely use it. You may find that you can do away with it all together. Do consider the availability of these things in a SHTF situation.

Work with a basic kit for your webbing, you can always add something later if you need to. Basic ingredients to a webbing load out:

  • AMMO
  • FOOD

I generally have one liter of water in my webbing. I would adjust as I need to. Hot and dry or extremely humid conditions demand more water.

You should also consider how much water you normally drink. If you are a heavy sweater and normally drink 2-3 liters of water an hour you will adjust accordingly.

Ammo is self-explanatory. A simple cleaning kit with a cloth and a bore snake and some CLP is usually all you will need

Pro tip – in wet and humid conditions a small piece of cloth soaked in CLP kept in a zip lock bag is convenient.

Likewise a shaving brush, with a tiny bit of CLP is great for dry and dusty environments.

A small torch that fits in the palm of your hand is great. I also like to have a small red light torch on one of my zippers as a back-up.

I generally carry a folding knife with a blade about two inches long. I have both my knife and my torch tied to a length of cord, and a carabiner clipping it into my pouch or pocket.

This is how I set up my knife and torches. Personally I like to carry an Australian MRE main meal, maybe some gum and maybe some M&M’s. Only enough to get me through a day. NOTHING that requires heating.

If you are moving with nothing but your webbing, you are not stopping to heat or cook a meal. Feel free to add to this list if you think it is necessary.

Gear Setup

Again I will keep this short and generic, as I don’t know your exact situation.

Right handed firers should have their main ammo stored on the left side of the body for easy access. If you are using a bolt action weapon, you may want to flip this idea around.

I suggest having a bandage of some sort in your top left-shoulder pocket. Water on your left side, food on your right.

You may need to stop for a quick sip of water in an intense situation. If your water is to your left, you can keep your master hand on your weapon, ready to lay down fire if needed. You won’t even think about eating if you are in any kind of danger.

If you are working as a team you should have your gear all set up the same.


I know where my bandage is, I know where my buddy’s bandage is, he knows where my bandage is. I don’t have to think about it, if he is hurt and the pressure is on it will come naturally to me because: His bandage is in his left pocket just like mine is.

Standardizing your gear carriage like this is a must.

Cover Versus Concealment

Do you know the difference? You should. If you don’t – here it is in a nutshell:

COVER = something you can get your body behind, that will stop a round, at least the first few rounds.

If someone is shooting a .22 at you, your cover will be different from what you’ll need if someone is shooting at you with a .308.

CONCEALMENT = is something you can hide behind so as not to be seen. If you are seen and shot at, the round can or may travel through concealment.

I doubt I need to go into further detail about this. Make sure you understand the difference.

Research what cover truly is, because it is not what they portray it to be in the movies.

A car door, for example, won’t stop jack.

In fact, most of a car will not stop a round.

A car is more concealment than cover. If in a situation where you are behind a car and someone is sending brass your way you will need to do something, like move to cover.


There are two broad types of camo that you should be familiar with. Trying to hide and trying to blend in.

In a situation with a lot of people around, you may be best to blend in.

Having gear and clothing that is all of one color as opposed to disruptive pattern is what I would suggest for this type of situation.


You may not want to draw attention to yourself. Being able to blend in and move freely could be of huge benefit.

If people identify you as a soldier or someone who can help them they may be a hindrance to your mission or a drain on your resources. If someone identifies you as being someone who can help, or as a prepper they may also see you as a target.

People may be desperate, and if it looks like they may be able to exploit you they will.

Having plain clothes and backpacks will make you look like everyone else. This may allow you to be left alone to do whatever you need to. It is worth thinking about, if not trying to implement.

If you can only afford one good jacket, pants pack or whatever, you may want to think about this angle.

Trying to be hidden is certainly more difficult in an urban environment. In nature, disruptive pattern gear works extremely well.

One advantage of not owning disruptive pattern items is that you can use them in both situations. Simply adding mud, dirt and leaves to a plain item can and will give it a disruptive pattern. You can also use paint but this will give a more permanent effect.

Adding some of the surrounding environment to your gear is well worth the effort if you’re trying to hide.

Disruptive pattern or not:

  • Rubbing dirt into your gear is great.
  • Adding some leaves and branches with a rubber band or slipping it into your molle is also effective.

Be careful what sign you leave when you do this. Stripping one bush of all its leaves is an obvious sign someone is around.

Taking veg from the top of a small tree is also obvious. Adding the only yellow flower that is around is a bad idea. Take from several different shrubs and take dirt from underneath low foliage.

Try to make sure it is not obvious that someone has been in the area.

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