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By Mark Oliva

The lockdowns to prevent spread of coronavirus seem to be having some beneficial, if not unintended, side effects. More people are getting into the woods and finding out nature provides.

There’s evidence that more people are turning to hunting to put meat in the freezer, largely driven by concerns over protein shortages at the local grocery store. Hunting license sales are up. States are taking innovative approaches to helping get new hunters into the woods and people are committing themselves to provide for their own needs to weather future events. There’s a role for experienced hunters to play, too. Novice, and sometimes reinvigorated hunters, are going to need some help.


Hunting rifle hunter orange
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

The resurgence of hunting as a food supply method might seem intuitive to those who grew up or took up hunting even in recent years. Seasonally, there’s at least one species to chase in just about every state.  Spring hunting is marked by turkey hunting. Late summer welcomes doves, waterfowl and early starts on deer and pronghorn. Some states have year-round open seasons on feral animals from hogs to axis deer, which is among the finest venison on four hooves.

For others, though, it took jarring news to turn them on to the fact that America’s food supply is vulnerable. Food suppliers are warning the chain from grower and supplier to the dinner table is, in some cases, nearing the breaking point. The alternative is literally roaming free on public lands.

Side Effects

Pheasant Hunting In Wheelchairs
Duane Townsend, left, shoots a pheasant at Special Friday Pheasant Hunts, sponsored by Southern Tulare County Sportsman’s Association, at Lake Success Recreation Area in Porterville, Calif. A Utah man who has been in a wheelchair for more than three decades has created a pheasant hunt for people like him who need help getting into the outdoors. (Chieko Hara/The Porterville Recorder via AP, File)

Clean, fresh protein is there for the taking and Americans are taking notice. Combination hunting and fishing licenses in Vermont increased this spring by 25 percent. They topped last year’s figures at this time by 3,187. Taken together with turkey, archery and muzzleloader permits, that’s 7,241 additional hunters in the Green Mountain state so far this year.

Next door, New York State Department of Environmental Conversation reported a 60 percent increase in turkey permit sales. Officials there said sales of licenses and permits are up significantly.” It’s not just a northeast thing. Colorado Parks and Wildlife said annual big game draw applications were up by over 14,700. Those are for chance to hunt in the fall. Tennessee’s license sales are already $1 million over last year and they just started. Minnesota is up by 15 percent and Indiana license sales increased 36.5 percent over last year.

That makes the odds of getting drawn just a little tighter, but it’s an encouraging trend for growing hunters. Reuters reported the pandemic spurred David Elliot of Toas, N.M., to quit dreaming of big game hunting and take steps to get out. He applied and was drawn for a New Mexico cow elk permit. He doesn’t yet own a rifle and never hunted big game. He’s planning on borrowing a rifle.

Innovation Prescription

Jeremy S. hunting turkey Remington 870 DM
Jeremy S. for TTAG

States are far from taking a wait-and-see approach. They’re applying pioneering thinking to the way they bring this new group of hunters into the fold. Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources normally requires attendance at a “field day” to complete hunter education studies and earn the certificate required to purchase a license.

This spring, the department is issuing temporary permits to get hunters into the woods, get them back to complete the training and keep them interested in hunting. Maine opened turkey season early and suspended registration requirements. New Hampshire did the same, asking hunters not to bring birds to check stations, but use online resources.  New York moved all hunter education online and suspended in-person training requirements.


bear hunter woods rifle hunting
Gun ownership in the United States used to be mostly related to hunting and sports shooting. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Hunting for food, of course, puts a buffer in the concerns of having enough food.  The idea that cleanly-wrapped cuts of meat will always arrive at the butcher’s counter is giving way to the notion that filling the freezer with harvested wild game doesn’t equate to being a conspiracy-theorist doomsday prepper.

“People are starting to consider self-reliance and where their food comes from,” said Hank Forester of Quality Deer Management Association to Reuters. “We’re all born hunters.”

Nina Stafford told the same reporter she killed her first deer in January. Harvesting wild game now has taken on greater meaning.

“The coronavirus has only made me want to go and do it more so that I don’t have that scared feeling of where’s my next meal going to come from,” she explained.

Follow-Up Call

duck hunt dog shotgun remington
Dan Z for TTAG

There’s a lesson for even the most seasoned hunters. An entire group of people are now serious about harvesting their meat. It might be small game, birds or big game. They’re all looking to how they can get started and what to do once they get there. It’s a great time for hunters to invest in the next generation. They need to know everything from safe firearm handling skills to how to make a turkey slate call purr.  They’re also going to need to know how to safely clean the harvested animals and tips on cooking their new meal.

That’s why NSSF created the +One Movement. It’s a pledge by hunters to take someone hunting this year. The numbers show there are new hunters clamoring to get into the woods, marshes and fields. At the +One site, there are all the resources to help someone get started. The site also has resources to learn about state-specific hunting apprenticeship programs and find a way to get plugged to getting outdoors, hunting regulations, firearm safety tips and places to hunt not far from home.

The coronavirus pandemic is changing things in America, but not all those changes are bad. This is awakening many to the importance of being self-sufficient, of taking responsibility for the food on the dinner table and knowing hunting is being cherished for all it provides to the mind, body and soul.


Mark Oliva is the Director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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  1. At some point the left will have a problem with subsidence hunting and try to shut it down. They have everything we do.

    • They already do in some states. Water collection, crops, soil regulations… the mind boggles at just how many restrictions there are. Farm work now days requires a full on legal brigade and a team to navigate state laws and regulations just to sell your crop at the local farmers market. This is a result of the squeeze that big business outsourcing and all the greed that comes with its investments.

  2. While it doesn’t involve a firearm don’t forget fishing. Went surf fishing this morning. Pompano, Spanish mackerel and speckled trout. Plus a few trash fish that will be chum on the next off shore trip. Nature provides.

    • Gadsden Flag,

      While it doesn’t involve a firearm don’t forget fishing.

      Um, some people actually do use firearms for “fishing”. While most likely illegal it can be quite effective.

      Also effective: tape a rock to an M80 firecracker and toss that into the water. Any fish within something like a 10 foot radius of that M80 will float to the surface and be exceedingly easy to scoop up with a net.

      • 1 mason jar wrapped in duct tape. 1 large rock inside along with 2 tablespoons of carbide. Punch several holes in lid flat and secure tightly with ring. Toss into water and wait for the BOOM. Any fish within several feet will float to the top. For easy netting.

        • “What’s the best pole to fish with?”

          “Two poles.”

          “Two poles?”

          “Yeah, one positive and one negative.”

          -Actual conversation I had with an Afghan translator on Lake Bande Sarta, Ghazni Province.

    • I always carry when fishing. Yes, bear country and all, but mostly because I have seen some weird people show up at random locations and lurk around. One of the biggest states with the least amount of people and somehow these idiots want to fish 50 feet away from each other. Every black bear I have seen, ever, runs away. They are usually pretty skittish. I have never encountered a Grizzly, thankfully. But moose and many other animals are also equally aggressive and I have seen them show up at some watering holes too. All that, and the thing that worries me most that far out from everything, is people. This is also why I never go to shooting spots where anyone can see you in the open. Paul Harrell had a run in with some randoms in some low hill type places. I always go where I can have the advantage in case some jackass decides to pop off a couple shots in my direction.

      • Montana Actual,

        I have a friend who has cautioned me about going alone to remote locations to fish and hunt. He claims that there are a small number of psychopaths and/or serial killers who venture into the hinterlands and murder a small number of people every year in such remote locations. I have no idea if that is reliable information. It certainly seems plausible.

        In my mind it would not do me any good to carry a sidearm for self-defense against a psychopath or serial killer in the hinterlands simply because they would have the element of surprise on top of the ability to use a long gun and “snipe” from 100+ yards. I suppose some of them would be stupid enough to only bring a bludgeon or knife and my self-defense sidearm would serve me well for such scenarios. Who knows. Does anyone have any actual evidence with respect to psychopaths or serial killers murdering lone people in remote forested locations?

  3. I hope that several people discover an additional and often overlooked benefit of hunting: as my friend stated, “It is good for the soul.”

    I cannot explain how or why hunting is “good for the soul”. All I can tell you is that it is. Maybe it is being outdoors in nature. Maybe it is slowing down and leaving everything behind. Maybe it is both. Whatever it is, it is indeed good for the soul.

  4. “ conspiracy-theorist doomsday prepper.”
    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

      • Some of my best days were spent sitting in a ground blind. Waiting for the game that never came. Just being out in the world with no distractions. Enjoying the peace and solitude of nature. It’s good for the Soul. I can try to explain it. You have to experience it for yourself. To understand it. Be Safe Out There…

        • I have experienced it. There is a place I hunt that I call the cathedral. I’m not a religious man but I feel at peace there. I’ve never taken a shot there. Seems wrong to disturb the place.

        • @jwm: For me it was called Lost valley. Few knew of it because it took nearly an hour to walk there.

        • Darkman. The cathedral is surrounded by good hunting areas. It’s basically a crossroads in the trail that does take a while to get to. I’ve seen game there. But I always pass any shots there.

  5. Thank you, TTAG! Now I know a dream of mine actually exists. For a couple of years now I’ve imagined how cool it would be to have tank tracks on my power wheelchair, and BOOM– I find one right here on TTAG. An Action Trackchair could open up a whole wad of opportunities for me- including outdoor range shooting. Outstanding!

    • Thats great! Keep in mind some states will also allow hunting from a vehicle with special permits/licenses that might be a solution in the event the track chair is not an immediate purchase.

  6. I doubt I’ll ever hunt. Knee needs replacing. But I could go for a huge dose of outdoors. Right now we’re in the middle of a monsoon(seriously). Taking my honey shooting tomorrow in nearby Indiana Point Blank. Unless it’s flooded😩😖😕

  7. I’ve noticed a depletion ib the trash dumpsters, price of food the humans ain’t throwing as much away. I’m having to extend my hunting range.

  8. Getting out into the wild places is good for you. Doesn’t matter if you are out hunting or hiking or just target practice or paddling about in a canoe. It’s all good if it’s out in nature.

    But if you are headed out into nature, carry a gun.

    Remember, nature has teeth.

    Claws too.

  9. Some advise: Most public hunting land is surrounded by private land. Don’t wander onto that private land to pursue, or collect, whatever it is you are hunting. That’s called poaching and trespassing. Owners like me have zero patience with that & tend to get very irritated. If you’re lucky you’ll just be told to get off. But if you make an issue of it, well…….you won’t like what happens next. At the very least you’ll end up in the local jail, loose all hunting privileges , and pay hefty fines.

    • Careful.
      Entering posted or private land for the purpose of game recovery is lawful in plenty of states where Ive bothered to look it up. My own included.

      Just because you feel the law should be a certain way doesn’t mean it is actually that way.

  10. “to axis deer, which is among the finest venison on four hooves.“

    So what’s the finest venison on two or six hooves?
    I’ve been dropping hints to guys I know that hunt for a few years that I’d be interested in going hunting but no one ever seems interested in taking me up on it. I did some small game hunting with my dad back when I was young, it was really just an excuse to walk around in the woods with the .22 thrown over the shoulder. I think we only took one long shot at a rabbit and missed. Never had much interest in it after that until a couple years back.

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