TAOS, New Mexico:
David Elliot was thinking of shooting an elk to 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, has always wanted to go big game hunting, and with the spread of the pandemic, there didn't seem to be a better time to try to fill his freezer with free-range meat.
For the first time in his life, even though he had no rifle or had ever hunted large animals, he entered his name for the annual elk permit in New Mexico.
As some US meat processors shut down because workers get sick, fear bottlenecks, and people have more time and possibly less money due to stoppages and layoffs, it is among an increasing number of Americans who turn to foraging data and hunting groups.
"I understand that some people are driven by antlers or fame. I don't want to," said Elliot, 37, who was given valuable permission to shoot an elk woman in an area of Taos County where the animal herds graze vast plains dotted with extinct volcanoes.
Elliot plans to borrow a rifle and maybe even a horse to carry the moose back to his vehicle after hunting in November. "I want to make sure it's as clean as possible and get some groceries."
Game and fish agencies from Minnesota to New Mexico have reported increases in hunting license sales, permit applications, or both, this spring.
In Indiana, sales of turkey licenses increased 28% in the first week of the season as hunters were likely to have more time to go into the forest, said Marty Benson, a spokesman for the State Department of Natural Resources.
Firearm manufacturers have reported sales increases, and the FBI ran 3.74 million background checks in March, a record every month.
This followed a 255,000 decrease in the number of hunters between 2016 and 2020, based on license data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a decrease of 2% as fewer young people started the activity, hunting advocates say.
The Quality Deer Management Association's Hank Forester is expecting a revival after many Americans first saw empty meat shelves in the grocery store in March and April.
"People are starting to think about independence and where their food comes from," said Forester of the research and training group for hunters. "I think we're all born hunters."
Teachers Brian Van Nevel and Nathaniel Evans get up at 4 a.m. to try to be the first to go into the woods around Taos, New Mexico to hunt wild turkeys.
Evans, a middle school teacher, has seen many more people this year who have followed the male birds known as "eaters".
As a city councilor, he is not only looking for food, but also to reconnect with himself when he leads Taos' response to the pandemic and teaches online courses.
"It was so important for me to be able to clear my mental map and just be present. You have to be really present and calm and listening," said Evans, 38, who shot 7.7 in April kg heavy bird.
Some states, such as Washington and Illinois, closed the states as the virus spread and prompted the National Rifle Association to stand up for governors to keep them open so people could look for food.
Officials in Washington filed ten poaching charges between March 25 and April 26, more than three times as many as in the same period a year ago, the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife reported.
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Nina Stafford, 42, a contractor from Fayetteville, Georgia, killed her first deer in January. She described the experience as "exciting, exciting and remorse for the deer".
"The coronavirus just made me do more so I don't feel anxious about where my next meal is coming from," said Stafford, who also grows vegetables and fruit.
Of course, stocks of species like wild turkey can only feed so many hunters. Wildlife ecologists Michael Chamberlain and Brett Collier fear that Turkey's existing population decline will become steeper this spring.
The number of hunters in Turkey's wildlife sanctuaries in Georgia has increased by 47% this year from 2019, while the number of turkeys killed in the first 23 days of the season has increased by 26%, although the number of birds has not increased recently The ecologists wrote preliminary data on natural resources in a report citing the Georgia State Department.
Not all states have reported an increase in hunting license applications, and decreases have occurred in both California and Florida.
However, big game such as deer and antelope could experience similar pressure in autumn, as hunters have more time to reach the kill lines. In the case of Louisiana there are 6 deer per season and in Georgia 12, the ecologists said.
Moose hunts are controlled by permit restrictions in most states, and Elliot sees no disadvantage in paying $ 60 for a label that could allow him to get almost 91 kg of meat if he can get a moose.
"It's not just what's going on in the world. To be honest, I don't make that much money, so that's just a good idea anyway," said Elliott, who plans to share the meat with an experienced hunter friend who will accompany him.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)