Dear Over the Hill,

I am having trouble relating to my grandson. He is sixteen and does nothing but play zombie video games (Resident Evil and World of Warcraft) and watch television (The Walking Dead) in his spare time. I looked at his browser history and saw he has been looking up “Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse!” When he was little, we used to go deer hunting every fall. Now, I feel like the family is losing him to a fantasy world of zombies. He is becoming a zombie! What can I do to get my grandson back?

Too many ZZZZs,
Up A Tree

Dear Up A Tree,

Your grandson may be lost in the woods, but he is waiting for you to find him. He is really close, but you are going to need to climb down out of your tree and go into his neck of the woods to get him. That is, you need to learn a little about his passion: zombies.

The first rule of survival in a world of zombies is learning how to avoid detection. Zombies, while no longer a life-form, can be thought of like anything that you might hunt (or that might hunt you). You must teach yourself to see the world as a zombie would. What are their dominant senses? What are their patterns of movement? How would you find them if you needed to? More ominously, how would they try to find you?

These questions all have clear answers. Here are a few facts to help you get started:

Zombie fact 1: Zombies do not process their world primarily through vision. They will use vision, if they have it, at close range, but there are zombies with non-functional eyes hanging out of their skulls and others with no eyes at all. Yet, they are perfectly sound, functioning zombies. Of the zombies with functioning eyes, we don’t know if they can see color, but movement does attract their attention.

Zombie fact 2: Zombies have excellent hearing; it is the primary way they find their prey. We don’t know how they hear well, as they are often missing ears too, but the inner ear is protected by the skull, and they do continue to rely on this sense. So, whenever you are moving, whether you believe zombies are around or not, you need be as close to silent as possible. Practice. Walk quietly; sit quietly.

Zombie fact 3: Zombies have a good sense of smell; they are attracted to the smell of a live, healthy human. Using cover scent by rubbing intestines of the dead on you (as they did in an early episode of The Walking Dead) is not likely to be effective. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, there will be rumors of scent covers that work. Don’t believe them. Scent does not radiate in a uniform circle; it is blown by the wind. Stay downwind from zombies, or they will be downwind from you.

Zombie fact 4: The best weapon for dispatching a zombie without attracting other zombies is a bow and arrow. Unlike a sword or a bat, it allows you to keep your distance. Unlike a gun, it is quiet and will not attract other zombies (see Zombie fact 2).

So, I’m sure you see this by now. Surviving the zombie apocalypse will require the same skills you use to hunt deer. Zombies are much like deer, if deer were predatory carnivores, er… brainivores.

There are important differences between deer and zombies, however.

Zombie fact 5: You have to shoot zombies in the head. When we hunt deer, we aim for the heart and lungs. Causing the deer to bleed out will bring it down in a few seconds. But zombie biology, er… necrology, er… un-necrology, is unique. They don’t have a functioning circulatory system; their hearts don’t beat (if they even have them) and they don’t need air. (Pay no attention to Warm Bodies. Whatever that movie is about, it is not about zombies.) The only way to stop a zombie is to destroy its brain. Aim for the brain of a zombie.

With these basic facts, and perhaps a little more research on your own, you can be ready to re-connect with your grandson. Ask him to take you out in the woods and show you how he plans to avoid zombies. What are his strategies and his preparations? Can he walk quietly though the woods? Ask him to offer pointers on your attempts to walk without sound. Does he notice how you can smell the swamp upwind, but not the burn-barrel downwind? Set up a game with the local deer — if you can get close to deer, you aren’t close to zombies; but if you don’t see deer, then you might be doing something wrong. Apprentice yourselves to the deer; they will be reliable teachers for surviving the coming apocalypse.

I suspect that fairly soon your grandson will realize that those best prepared to survive the zombie apocalypse are traditional bow hunters who have filled their tags for the last several seasons. Youth and the internet will flee like morning shadows next to the decades of preparation his grandpa has logged. Perhaps he will get more interested in the preparation than in the coming apocalypse. And if the apocalypse is delayed or never comes, you will have venison for supper and a grandson to share it with.

Over the Hill

“Over the Hill” is the advice column pen name of Dr. Gregory A. Clark. He taught a college course on the Zombie Apocalypse during the summer of 2013. He lives in Chicago, but if the zombie apocalypse comes he will try to avoid being found in the north woods.