In the 1800’s Whitetail deer in the United States were almost hunted to extinction. Venison was fresh meat for the table and virtually everyone living outside of a town or city had to hunt to provide food for the family.
People could hunt, as they needed too, no such thing as a hunting season or license. There were no restrictions on the number or type of animal that could be taken or restrictions on the sex of the animal.
As more and more people expanded westward, hunting became a business, and many restaurants and general stores employed hunters to provide them with fresh meat daily. This all was before refrigeration of course, so fresh meat was literally fresh meat (Grubinger, 2006).
Hunting slowed somewhat however, as a man named Fredric Tudor came up with the idea of selling and transporting ice in the 1800’s, ice harvested from frozen lakes. The business got off to a rocky start because obviously the ice melted before it could be shipped long distances. However, he soon discovered that large pieces of ice could be transported thousands of miles without completely melting away by covering the ice in sawdust (Lewis, 2013).
Once businesses realized they could have freshly butchered beef shipped from the stockyards in Chicago and Kansas City to points out west because of iced rail cars hunting slowed dramatically as a commercial endeavor. Beef and other meats along with poultry could now be shipped on ice and transported virtually anywhere in the United States and still be fresh upon arrival.
Soon ice was sold everywhere and placed in home “iceboxes” so homeowners could store meat for longer periods without drying or smoking and this of course reduced the need to hunt on a regular basis. People simply went to the store and purchased fresh meats for several days at a time. They could keep it fresh at home in their zinc-lined iceboxes because ice could now be delivered to the home.
The population in the 1800’s according to the Census Bureau was approximately 63 million people. Today the population is over 300 million in the United States. Much of the food today is raised commercially. Cattle, swine, various types of poultry such as chicken and turkey and even bison are raised commercially for human consumption (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.).
Commercial food production would stop during a major crisis however, leaving hunting for many as the only means of supplying fresh meat to their families and communities.
In the short-term hunting would likely be a productive way of obtaining food for the table for experienced hunters. Stockpiles of non-perishable foods would be depleted quickly however. People would be searching for ways of obtaining meat, and many would turn to hunting regardless of their experience.
Cattle and other animal farms would supply a certain amount for a short time, but it is possible that the federal or local governments or other organizations/groups could seize upon commercial operations quickly. Rationing and wholesale theft of foods would likely begin almost immediately. Without any energy sources, or the means to feed the animals many would be left to roam wild if there were any left at all.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are over 300 millions firearms in the United States, with less than 50 percent of households claiming to have a firearm in the home. Assume what you will about these figures (Pew Research Center, 2013).
The point is that anyone with a firearm regardless of experience may very well be out hunting for food and because of the number of firearms available anyone that wanted one could likely lay their hands on one at some point. Animals of course would be on the move so deer and other big game may even be hunted in suburbia.
Inexperienced hunters will be roaming the streets and back roads shooting at anything that moves out of desperation. The animals would be on the move because of the numbers of humans thrashing about in the woods and lanes. This means you would see animals and those trying to kill them virtually anywhere.
Once the dust settles so to speak, individuals, families and groups of people along with small communities would likely begin to organize hunts just like in days past. Once again, hunting may become a commercial endeavor, and this is when extinction of certain animal species may become a real possibility given the tremendous increase in human population compared to the 1800’s.
Hunting would need to be an ongoing process due to the lack of refrigeration, and because of the increase in human population, hunting would be ongoing virtually everywhere.
This would make for a very dangerous situation for any hunter or any person anywhere for that matter. Limit laws and hunting seasons would be ignored and not likely to ever be enforced by anyone. It could turn into a free for all even in suburbia.
People would be shooting at any game they see with high-powered weapons, and of course missing their target most of the time. It is highly likely that accidental shooting deaths would skyrocket.
Your safe haven miles from any city may be overrun by desperate people in search of fresh meat for the table, and many would be inexperienced people with firearms. This is all speculation of course, because no one yet knows what may happen but you can make reasonable assumptions.
Much would depend on how many people perish from the initial crisis. The competition for resources may be reduced because of a reduction in the human population. However, a crisis that dramatically reduces the human population may very well decrease the animal populations as well.
Carefully consider just how viable hunting will be in an extended crisis. It is important that you do not rely too heavily on any one source for food during a crisis, especially a food source that may not be sustainable or renewable.
Grubinger, V. (2006). Retrieved 2014, from http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/factsheets/deer.html
Lewis, D. (2013). Retrieved 2014, from http://nowiknow.com/the-ice-king-cometh/
Pew Research Center. (2013, June 4th). Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/04/a-minority-of-americans-own-guns-but-just-how-many-is-unclear/
U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.). Retrieved 2014, from http://www.census.gov/population/www/censusdata/hiscendata.html