With several food processing plants shut down around the country due to the coronavirus, fresh meat and poultry is becoming a little harder to find on store shelves. There’s evidence that more Americans are taking to the fields and streams to put food on the table, and Gabriella Hoffman, host of the District of Conservation podcast, joins me on today’s Bearing Arms Cam & Co with tips on the best way to get started if you’ve never hunted or fished before.
According to the New York Post, several states have seen a sharp increase in the number of Americans expressing an interest in hunting in recent weeks.
“People are starting to consider self-reliance and where their food comes from,” Hank Forester of Quality Deer Management Association said, adding that he believes there will be a hunting resurgence over empty grocery store shelves.
Outbreaks have recently caused at least three major meat producers — Tyson Foods, JBS USA and Smithfield Foods — to shutter more than a dozen plants across the nation.
Meanwhile, some states have seen a jump in hunting licenses — including Indiana, where there was a 28% increase in turkey hunting license sales during the first week of the season.
Game and fish agencies from Minnesota to New Mexico have seen an increase in either hunting license sales or permit applications.
Reuters also recently profiled several Americans who are either new to hunting or have taken the opportunity to head back into the field for the first time in years over concerns that they won’t be able to easily get their hands on beef, pork, and chicken in the months to come.
David Elliot first thought of shooting an elk to help feed family and friends back in January when the United States reported its first novel coronavirus case.
Elliot, emergency manager at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos, New Mexico, had always wanted to go big-game hunting and, with the pandemic spreading, there seemed no better time to try to fill his freezer with free-range, super-lean meat.
So for the first time in his life, despite not owning a rifle or ever having hunted large animals, he put his name in for New Mexico’s annual elk permit draw.
With some U.S. meat processors halting operations as workers fall ill, companies warning of shortages, and people having more time on their hands and possibly less money due to shutdowns and layoffs, he is among a growing number of Americans turning to hunting for food, according to state data and hunting groups.
“I understand some people might be driven by like antlers or some sort of glory. I don’t want to do that,” said Elliot, 37, who received a prized permit to shoot a female elk in an area of Taos County where herds of the animal graze in vast plains studded with extinct volcanoes.
On today’s show, Hoffman says if you’re new to hunting, starting out with big game like elk might be a little intimidating for some folks, but smaller game like upland birds, rabbits, and squirrels can be a fun way to start. Hoffman also discusses how new hunters can find mentors, land, and hunter safety courses before the take the plunge.
Hopefully come fall we won’t be seeing headlines any longer about processing plants shutting down and store shelves that are largely empty of staple proteins like ground beef, bacon, and chicken breasts, but if supply problems linger, we could see millions more Americans to take to the tree stands and duck blinds in search of fresh meat for the table.