Hunting in the forest or field for meat is a common theme in survival/prepping. Many preppers are already active sport hunters. Either as a supplement to limited commercial meat supplies or as the main or sole source of meat, the expectation to be able to hunt animals is a corner stone of many survival plans.
But I think too many people, preppers or not, have an unrealistic view of being able to hunt for meat in a post-SHTF world. This is especially so if in that world society has is at least somewhat broken down into anarchy/WROL.
There are several reasons for my view.
According to Cornell University’s Wild Life information website there are 20 million whitetail deer in America today. That doesn’t include other species of deer and deer-like animals such as elk. So let’s presume another 10 million of those animals for a grand total of approximately 30 million deer/deer-likes wild in the U.S. today. (I’m not including anything farm raised.)
According the last U.S. census we are a nation of 310 million people. So 310 million people divided by 30 million deer comes to 10 people per deer. To put it another way, if all the deer in America were taken in a single day for food each deer would have to feed 10 people. Or, presuming the “average” family size of 3.19 people (2009 U.S. Census figures), that means each deer has to feed 3 families. (all figures rounded)
To continue, let’s presume there is 200 pounds of deer meat after butchering. At 1 deer per 10 people that comes out to 20 pounds of meat per person or 64 pounds per family
How long do you think that can last??
And that of course would be that as it is a one-time source when harvested in such a way. Which leads to my next point: Unsustainable hunting.
If food, especially meat, is scarce in a post-SHTF event any concept of conservation, sustainable hunting, wildlife management, in/out seasons, even male/female and juvenile culling goes out the window right away! Even in good times there are never enough game wardens and park police to catch all the poachers and wanna-be hunters. So imagine tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people spreading out across the forests and hills of wild America desperate to find meat for the table.
In a fictional SHTF scenario video I recently watched on Youtube the presenter gave a scenario of post-SHTF where large (and well secured) farmer’s markets were now the norm for food shopping. He noted that meat in the form of deer was becoming harder to find and more expensive as hunters were returning more often empty handed as hungry populations demand more meat and the local deer population can’t support that level of taking.
Which leads to another point: The forest will be a search-and-destroy zone!
It won’t just be the “professional” hunters out there. Any Joe Shmoe with a gun will be marching through the trees looking for deer, rabbit, squirrel and anything else that moves. He (and she) will be armed with everything from a 30–30 down to a 10/22! And don’t leave the handgun owners out of things too. Anyone with a Glock or S&W etc of all calibers will be out there as well.
This itself leads to two important considerations:
- Safety – Hunting accidents happen already with supposedly experienced and licensed hunters. Just imagine thousands of people roaming the woods hungry. They’ll shoot anything that moves!
- Waste – A licensed, hopefully experienced, hunter will better know how to take down a deer and other animals. Where to aim, how to shoot, etc. But an inexperienced hunter doesn’t. And a desperate one won’t care at all! Add in the wide range of guns and calibers that will be fielded — a very skilled hunter may be able to take down a 400 pound deer with a .22 but most people can only wound it, perhaps mortally – and the problem intensifies. Many animals will be shot and wounded but not immediately die. They won’t know how to track the wounded animal. Instead it will go off and circum to its wounds by itself. While the scavengers will enjoy the meal it will be wasted from a human perspective. I suspect a great many deer and other animals will fall fate to this end thereby reducing an already limited food supply.
And even when a good kill is made most people don’t have any idea how field dress the animal. Much valuable meat will be wasted, or perhaps worse, contaminated due to improper butchering.
Finally, there is the reality that most people don’t live near areas that hold large game within a reasonable distance. Travel may be difficult or impossible (and unsafe). While there may be the will to go hunting, the tools and knowledge to do it, you simply may not be able to due to circumstances.
Hunting for food is a romantic idea. But if circumstances are that bad you won’t be the only one thinking it. Natural resources like game are very easily depleted and slow to recover if at all.
Good point with good statistics to back it up.
I’ve long felt that many unprepared but “self-reliant” types are assuming that they can always go out and hunt and gather their way through a TEOTWAWKI scenario. But wildlife will be very scarce if that does happen. And I wouldn’t want to gamble my family’s eating on the chance that I may be able to shoot a deer or find some wild edibles.
Thanks for the article.
Agree completely! Its interesting how in my very densely-populated area of NJ, there seem to be deer all over the place and they seem to like running into traffic! Still, the undeveloped areas where the deer live, in a SHTF situation would be like a war zone for exactly the reasons you mentioned. There would be hundreds of thousands of people descending on these areas looking for food, and perhaps even shelter. I’d try not to be one of them!
It is my belief that in a post SHTF world, large game will be killed off quickly and a LOT of it will go to waste… It is the smaller game you want to already have access to and be able to hunt/trap effectively. Large game, assuming resources are limited, will need to be processed and preserved, which means you will have to do this quickly, securely (so that it is not looted), and have a place to store the processed meat. You are almost better off processing (dehydrating, canning, etc.) the occasional large game in my opinion and going after smaller game for a daily fresh meal in the post SHTF situation…
You also have to question what sort of situation you will be dealing with. Even during the World Wars, people were fed. I realize that our situation today is drastically different than 50 to 100 years ago considering urban populations, but I have a hard time imagining something so drastic that 300 million people in the US would have to resort to hunting and gathering for their food. If the people of the US or the world have to go back to hunting deer as a primary food source, there almost certainly won’t be 300 million people. By that I mean that most will have died in whatever tragic event that caused the world to have to revert back so far. We have ~82% urban population. If we have to go hunt for deer or even small game like rabbits and stuff, we have bigger problems than just food. We’re talking about serious nuclear war, asteroid impact or close encounter, massive EMP strikes, yellowstone erupting, something totally insane for 300 million people having to resort to hunting, fishing, and gathering wild edibles. I see what point you’re trying to make, but I think you are slightly misusing these stats. But I do agree that most romanticized ideas of hunting deer and small game for a few weeks before things settle down or even having to do that forever are naive.
As someone who is 95% likely to be in a very large urban area if the SHTF I am very concerned about this topic. In a previous article, gardening was destroyed as a survival possibility. Now going into the country has been destroyed. I can only store 3–6 months of food so what then?
I guess the only hope is that some sort of civilization will return with a food supply to those of us who survived. The key is to survive those first months, have a small supply in the ground so you don’t starve to death. Other than that, I don’t have a plan.
Hi, can you recommend a print resource on food survival for someone in a semi-suburban area? My husband and sons have hunting license but have never killed or dressed anything, yet. I want to have a resource on hand (not online but hard copy) on hunting/field dressing/storing the meat, for if or when the electrical grid goes down.
Thank you so much,
Aimee in Bethel, Connecticut
Aimee — here is a quick and dirty little guide (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/158355534X/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1) — I would also check the related items on that page from Amazon. There are a ton of resources ou there for this… Sorry for the lag in reply as well. Been preoccupied as you can probably imagine.
Here is also another quick reference for you: https://www.basspro.com/shop/en/pocket-guide-to-field-dressing-game-book-by-ron-cordes-and-steve-gilbert