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Facing meat shortages, some Americans turn to hunting during pandemic

Published May 03, 2020 09:22AM ET Updated May 03, 2020 05:05PM ET
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© Reuters. Facing meat shortages Americans turn to hunting during COVID-19 near Taos

By Andrew Hay

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) - 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.

Elliot plans to borrow a rifle and maybe even a horse to carry the elk back to his vehicle after the hunt in November. "I want to make sure it's a clean, humane shot, as much as possible, and get a bunch of food."

Game and fish agencies from Minnesota to New Mexico have reported an increase in either hunting license sales, permit applications, or both this spring.

Indiana saw a 28% jump in turkey license sales during the first week of the season as hunters likely had more time to get out into the woods, said Marty Benson, a spokesman for the state's Department of Natural Resources.

Firearm manufacturers have reported sales increases, and the FBI carried out 3.74 million background checks in March, a record for any month.

That followed a decline of 255,000 in the number of hunters between 2016 and 2020, based on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service license data, a 2% fall, as fewer young people took up the activity, hunting advocates say.

Hank Forester of Quality Deer Management Association expects a resurgence after many Americans saw empty meat shelves at the grocery store for the first time during March and April.

"People are starting to consider self-reliance and where their food comes from," said Forester of the hunter research and training group. "We're all born hunters."

'MENTAL CLEANSE'

Teachers Brian Van Nevel and Nathaniel Evans get up at 4 a.m. to try to be first into the forests around Taos to hunt wild turkey.

Evans, a middle-school teacher, has seen a lot more people stalking birds this year.

A town councilor as well, he is hunting not just for food but to reconnect with himself at a time when he is guiding Taos' response to the pandemic as well as teaching online classes.

"Its been so important for me, being able to go out and kind of cleanse my mental card and just go and be present, you really have to be present, and quiet and listening," said Evans, 38, who in April shot a 17-pound (7.7-kg) bird.

Some states such as Washington and Illinois closed state lands as the virus spread, prompting the National Rifle Association to lobby governors to keep them open to allow people to hunt for food.

Officials in Washington issued 10 poaching charges between March 25 and April 26 compared with three in the year-earlier period, the state's Fish and Wildlife Department reported.

'A GOOD IDEA'

Nina Stafford, 42, a building contractor from Fayetteville, Georgia, killed her first deer in January. She described the experience as "thrilling, exciting and remorseful for the deer."

"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," said Stafford, who also grows vegetables and fruit.

To be sure, stocks of species like wild turkey can only sustain so many hunters. Wildlife ecologists Michael Chamberlain and Brett Collier fear the turkey's existing population decline will steepen this spring.

Turkey hunter numbers in wildlife management areas in Georgia increased 47% this year from 2019, while turkeys killed during the first 23 days of the season rose 26%, despite no recent increase in bird numbers, the ecologists, respectively with the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, wrote in a report, citing state department of natural resources preliminary data.

Not all states have reported an increase in hunting license applications, with both California and Florida seeing declines.

Still, big game such as deer could see similar pressure in the autumn as hunters have more time to max out "bag limits," which in the case of Georgia is 12 animals, the ecologists said.

Elk hunts in most states are limited to a single animal per hunter who draws a permit in an annual lottery. Elliot sees no downside to paying $60 for a tag that could allow him to get close to 200 pounds (91 kg) of meat, if he can get a cow elk.

"It's not just because what's going on in the world right now. Frankly I don't make that much money, so like this is just a good idea anyway," said Elliot.

Facing meat shortages, some Americans turn to hunting during pandemic
 

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Comments (14)
Evans Mwila
Evans Mwila May 04, 2020 4:31PM ET
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you always laugh when you see African hunting now its your turn to hunt keep it better to hunt than die of hunger when there is even meat in bush .
hhg nguyen
hhg nguyen May 04, 2020 5:24AM ET
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Democrats may ban hunting soon if we don't stop them.
Big Guy
Big Guy May 04, 2020 1:08AM ET
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My entire family lives in Taos, NM. this is entertainment news. There is plenty of meat in the stores. ..and people hunt elk because they live in the mountains and it's awesome.
Lake Lot
Lake Lot May 04, 2020 1:08AM ET
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Not elk meat
Mark Swiatek
Mark Swiatek May 03, 2020 11:21PM ET
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fake news. nobody has turned to hunting due to a meat shortage. absolutely nobody. this article is 100 percent B.S.
John Bowman
John Bowman May 03, 2020 11:21PM ET
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And you know this because . . . .?
Tommy Arencibia
Tommy Arencibia May 03, 2020 7:55PM ET
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Ppl are sheep
dick schwinn
justanoldguy May 03, 2020 7:00PM ET
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China wasn't the first place a virus came from, or the common cold for that matter
dick schwinn
justanoldguy May 03, 2020 6:59PM ET
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WOW that was so informative, maybe UBER has a service for dressing out the animal as well. Just watch how to do it on youtube, and then you're ready to go. Go to the slaughter house and see what a "humane" ********is. After that it's your call. I eat meat, and I like to watch deer, moose and bear, not shoot them. My First Nation friends give me great sausage.
Michael King
Michael King May 03, 2020 6:36PM ET
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Go Trump, reopen US and allow people live freely rather than like locked animals. No evidence showed the overall death rate in the nation has increased in last month compare to the flu season started last Oct. COVID is pretty much a variation of flu virus. Very very few people dead of COVID only. Most senior people being claimed dead of COVID are actually dead of other long term illness such as cancer, heart failure etc plus COVID or flu. Human being has been surviving all kind of virus and developing antibodies to adapt to the tough nature for thousands of  years. COVID is an excuse for wall street and rich people to get free money from FED which has to be paid back by working Americans generation by generations. The national debt has passed GDP (23 trillion). This is the level far higher that when Greece was close to declare national bankruptcy.
Jeremy Johns
Jeremy Johns May 03, 2020 6:36PM ET
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Go away
ravi ravilla
ravi ravilla May 03, 2020 6:04PM ET
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This act of Cannibalism is costing the human existence..Soon will turn out hunt down of fellow human beings..we will never change..
Silver News Now
Silver News Now May 03, 2020 6:04PM ET
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act of cannibalism? Selfish Jerk. Just cause all you eat is rice and beans, don't judge what humans have been doing since the existence of time. soooo ignorant.
ravi ravilla
ravi ravilla May 03, 2020 6:04PM ET
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Silver News Now  so we have greater immunity. by eating those may be..may be am ignorant but we know facts.. :)
Rob Omes
Rob Omes May 03, 2020 6:01PM ET
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Did https://investing.com ran out of topics? What an amazingly ********reporter is writing this.
 
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