As the coronavirus pandemic causes increased risks of the U.S. food supply to breaking down and fears of meat shortages rising, more Americans are turning to hunting to provide their own source of food.
Game and fish agencies across the nation have seen increased interest in hunting licenses. In Vermont, resident fishing license sales are up by more than 50% over this time last year, according to VTDigger.
The turkey hunting season starts this Friday, and turkey hunting licenses are already up 26%. Hunting and fishing license sales have increased by almost a quarter, which is a reversal of recent years that saw a decline in hunting licenses in every county in Vermont. The U.S. saw a 255,000 drop in the number of hunters between 2016 and 2020, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service license data.
As of April 20, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department sold around 17,000 fishing licenses for the year, compared to 11,700 the same time last year.
Chris Saunders, project coordinator for Vermont's Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, "It's never been quite like this."
"For some people, if they're out of work, putting some fish in the freezer or some turkey in the freezer can be valuable," Matt Breton, president of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Conservation Group, said.
In the first week of its turkey hunting season, Indiana experienced a 28% jump in turkey license sales.
Georgia saw a 47% increase in turkey hunters in wildlife management areas this year compared to 2019. In the first 23 days of Georgia's turkey hunting season, there was a 26% increase in turkeys killed despite no rise in the turkey population, according to Reuters.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife received 14,738 more applications for its annual big game draw versus 2019.
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish said they received 220,000 applications for the big-game draw this year, compared to approximately 11,000 in 2019.
"People are starting to consider self-reliance and where their food comes from," said Hank Forester of Quality Deer Management Association.
In Florida, applications for commercial fishing licenses have skyrocketed. However, authorities believe that people are using the fishing licenses as a loophole. In the counties of Palm Beach, Martin, and Broward, there were 532 applications compared to a total of seven commercial fishing license applications in 2019.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Florida closed boat ramps at state-owned facilities except for commercial fishermen. People were trying to use the license as a loophole.
"It is such a substantial increase that it would lead me to believe that people are using it as a loophole," Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said. "They're gaming the system. They're buying these licenses and pretending to be commercial fishermen."