Jan 03

Why you shouldn’t count on hunting after T-SHTF

I know many hunters who think they will be able to rely on their skills when T-SHTF, that they will be able to take game in order to sustain their family over a sustained period of time.  In the short run this might be true, in the long run nothing could be further from the truth.  If you sit down and take a look at the basic math of the position I’m about to take on this subject, the conclusion is irrefutable.  Using the Whitetail Deer for my case study, let’s walk the dog on this one.

– In the late 1800’s the population of the US was around 63 million.

– In the late 1800’s the  Whitetail was almost hunted to extinction.

As man moved into the whitetail’s environment, he hunted them for food and more. Venison meat became popular and whitetails were almost hunted into extinction by the late 1800′s for their hides and meat. Venison was a delicacy and served in the finest restaurants from Chicago to New York. Refrigerated trains ran daily from the Midwest to these cites packed full of deer carcasses that had been harvested by professional hunters. People thought that the mid-western deer were an inexhaustible resource. They were wrong.

– Today the Whitetail Deer population is estimated to be at 20-25 million.

– There are around 12-14 million hunters over the age of 16 in the US.

– Currently hunters must follow strict sets of rules, usually set by their state, including (but not limited to): Hunting Season Dates, Baiting Laws,  Bag Limits, Quotas, Weapon Restrictions, Controlled Area Hunts, not to mention the requirement to obtain the actual hunting license.

– In addition to those rules, hunters are bound by a set of ethics, awareness and sportsmanship.

– If T-SHTF, all of those rules, regulations and ethics go out the window.

– Remember in the late 1800’s the US population was around 63 million, it is now over 315 million.

– There are an estimated 88.8 guns per 100 people in the US, with 62% of Americans owning more than 1 gun.

– The obvious conclusion: A massive population (many of whom are armed) combined with a food shortage after T-SHTF will decimate the deer population (and other game) in short time.  The typical rules which exist to help regulate hunting will be out the window which will enable novice hunters to bag game.

Right about now you might be thinking about that time you sat in a tree stand for hours, not catching a glimpse of your elusive prey.  Remember if T-SHTF all of that goes out the window and it won’t take long for suburbanites to figure out they they can easily construct deer feeders or salt licks in order to bring their prey to them.

While these suburbanites might not own any Mossy Oak clothing or have the first clue on how to actually dress an animal after a kill, rest assured desperation will lead them to take down as many deer (and other game) as possible.  It doesn’t take much skill to toss a salt lick out and then set up 300 yards away with a Remington 700 and Leupold scope.

William R. Forstchen actually wrote about this phenomenon in his book One Second After, which followed a North Carolina town after an EMP strike hit the continental US.  I don’t recall the actual text from the book but do remember that even in their mountain town, once plentiful with game, it only took a few months for the game population to almost completely disappear.  Not a deer, squirrel or rabbit were to be found, they had all been hunted to the brink of extinction in order to feed the town.

So here is the bottom line.  While hunting should be considered a viable option for providing food for your family after T-SHTF do not overestimate how much game you will be able to take, especially in the long term.  Increased competition from (literally) thousands of other folks who will be desperate for food combined with traditional rules and regulations typically associated with hunting not being followed will quickly decimate the amount of available game for the taking, much like what occurred in the late 1800’s.  The numbers simply do not lie when it comes to analyzing the probability of this occurring.  Make sure to incorporate these factors into your prepping strategy and have a plan for additional ways to grow/gather food.


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    • JM on January 3, 2013 at 10:47 AM
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    I have thought a lot about the game population and how it would be affected if T-SHTF and I would have to side with your assessment PJ. In my area the White Tail population is pretty plentiful, but, like you said, if the masses are desperate and the rules of hunting are disregarded, I would say the games numbers would quickly drop. I also think that when T-SHTF, you may see a lot of experienced hunters harvesting as many deer, and other animals, as they can and attempting to stock their freezers early in the event. Not a good solution, but just something I have considered. Basically, over harvesting and decimating the available game. So, like you said, you will see novice hunters competing for game, and you will see experienced hunters, and novice hunters, over hunting trying to play catch up. It won’t take long to thin the heard.

      • PJ on January 3, 2013 at 7:06 PM
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      You make a great point which I failed to mention. Experienced hunters harvesting many more animals than they usually would, trying to stock up. Additionally I think we could see impromptu gun fights break out over game, too many people trying to hunt in certain areas. If everyone is going hungry there is no telling what people will do in order to secure that last whitetail.

      • Gino Schafer on January 9, 2013 at 11:36 AM
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      If the grid is down, you won’t be able to “fill your freezer.” So that leaves canning, drying or salting as the only options for preservation. A mature deer can weigh well north of 125 pounds, 80+ of which is meat. My guess is amateurs might kill more than they need and the meat gets wasted because they lack the skills to preserve meat. Experienced hunters know all of this and will kill only what they need only. Most experienced hunters also respect resources and have learned to protect them throughout their lives. Amateurs will be the ones decimating wildlife.

  1. Great article!

    Learn to trap. Grew up hunting, fishing, and thanks to my grandfather…trapping. A little extra work that others aren’t willing to take in places that others aren’t willing to go will keep you safe and fed.

      • PJ on January 3, 2013 at 8:47 PM
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      Great point, thanks for sharing. Trapping is a valuable skill to have.

    • Roney on January 3, 2013 at 9:39 PM
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    It takes 10 square mile to support one person in a hunter gather mode. How many people do we have?

    • Michael on January 4, 2013 at 1:16 AM
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    I think you are correct in most of what you say but using the population numbers really doesn’t show the real difference. A large majority of the population lives in urban areas and the reality is most won’t make it out of those areas alive in a true SHTF situation. I think that a viable option to consider in your preparations is to have not only a shotgun or large caliber hunting rifle but also a trusty 10-22. I think that if you search out and are equipped to handle any game you will be far more successful. Most non-hunting folks will be looking for the obvious large prey but (and in know way do I mean to offend) there are millions of Dogs and cats out there that most will not think to shoot, at least not until the deer and squirrels run out and by then well back to the beginning of this response your competition will have been thinned as well. P.S. I am a dog lover and not trying to be morbid, Thank god my bulldog can’t read!

      • Montana Rancher on January 7, 2013 at 10:06 AM
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      When Lewis and Clark made their journey they often traded with the Indians for dogs to eat, they considered them better than wild game.

        • PJ on January 7, 2013 at 8:40 PM
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        I’m quite sure dog tastes great, I guess we Americans really don’t consider them as food but rather more of a family member. If things got really, really bad…well I don’t even want to think about it.

  2. Get a boat. Be able to GTFUOD completely. The continent will not be safe. There will be no game, no freshwater fish unless the area is extremely remote. With a seagoing vessel you can make quick shore stops after your ham transmissions tell you it might be safe and worthwhile. Land, get what you need, get back on the boat and hightail it to some island.

      • Gino Schafer on January 9, 2013 at 11:31 AM
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      There will be plenty of fish for the taking. It takes some skill to fish, even with a gill net. I know guys that fish all the time and never catch anything remotely close to being adequate to feed themselves let a lone a family.

        • PJ on January 9, 2013 at 3:51 PM
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        Great point about fishing Gino, but like you said it should only be considered a supplemental food source.

  3. Any kind of small aircraft is also an excellent bugout tool, but obviously very specialized and expensive. I’m sticking with boats, but sometimes I envy the air guys, they can REALLY GTFOOD.

    Here’s the ultimate prepper package: a cessna seaplane with a 12′ inflatable with 10hp motor stowed on board + the standard BOB stuff. Seeeeeeeeee yaaaaaaaaa!

    • michigan doug on January 4, 2013 at 6:53 PM
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    and then theres long pig. heh heh

    • Billy Bob on January 4, 2013 at 9:36 PM
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    As we all know Obama wants our guns,, So that will elliminate some… most of the folks in the city and burbs will lose there guns when they come take them,, except the very few that fight,, but lose them anyway. Now in the contry,, we Will Not give them up. So the folks in the city and burbs dont have a clue how to clean/dress a deer if they have a way to killm it,,, so alot of meat will be wasted, Hopefully some one that does know will help them for a piece of the meat ( Barter System ) will help. I hope this helps for the deer and the ones who have feeding them (via food plots, managment, and harvest restrictions) . With that said , the deer will take a hit but not as bad as I think they would,,, But lets just hope.

      • PJ on January 4, 2013 at 9:43 PM
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      Billy Bob,

      Thanks for the comment, and you are correct killing it is one thing but cleaning it and dressing it is another thing completely. I hope you are correct, that the deer won’t take as bad of a hit as many would predict (me included). For some reason, after reading your post, I couldn’t help but think about one of my favorite music videos on YouTube.

      Click here to check it out. 🙂


    • janey on January 5, 2013 at 10:43 AM
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    I’m sure all of you, as well as myself and husband think we are prepared by our lifestyle. We can hunt and eat our prey, but you think if the city folk, that you think will kill a deer and not know what to do with it. Can you imagine the left wing wackoos that think we should not even have a gun. Those suckers will starve in short order. It is almost funny..

      • PJ on January 5, 2013 at 12:04 PM
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      Good point, which is why complete gov’t dependence will surely bring about an insurrection if the lights go off/SHTF happens. Many of those people live day to day, hand to mouth, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. Heck even well-to-do people live that way, with barely 2 days worth of food in their McMansion or posh apartment. All will be lined up at the local supermarket attempting to hoard what they can…by then it will be far too late.

    • bigpaul on January 6, 2013 at 11:32 AM
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    if you think millions of people from the city who have never hunted before are going to pick up a rifle and start hunting think again, most of them will have never been in the countryside before and they will be inappropriately dressed, many in shorts and trainers, and they will die in their thousands of gun accidents, hypothermia, disease and starvation. some may make it but many more will not and they will not survive, BigPaul (Devon, England, UK)

      • PJ on January 6, 2013 at 11:53 AM
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      I completely agree with your assessment regarding gun accidents, hypothermia and the like. However in the initial stages after a collapse (or EMP strike) people will not have to go far at all to find game, there will be no stalking or waiting up in a tree for hours because in a world where the rules no longer apply that will be unnecessary. On my way to work I probably see 2 to 3 herds of deer just lounging around, it’s the same when I am out on the trail running. Other times just a few blocks down from my home deer will cross the street in large numbers into an adjacent field. I suspect my experiences are not that different from many others (with the exception of those who live in Manhattan). The point is they are everywhere, I could easily go for a drive and bag 5 deer in the space of an afternoon having never even left the road to take a shot.

      Herd of Deer

      Of course this will all change very quickly once the deer get wise to the game and are greatly reduced in numbers, after which point your assessment will become very valid indeed. Thanks for the comment.


    • Chris on January 9, 2013 at 2:52 PM
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    Dog, cat, opossum, raccoon and other small game, it’s all in the sauce! It’s all good if you’re hungry enough.

    • Johnny on January 26, 2013 at 9:55 AM
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    I somewhat agree with this but keep in mind it will not be that way for all states some states have a very tough terrain to get through like steep hills or maby swamps and many of the city folk lack the skills to track game in these situations if you think wild game does not know when people start hitting the woods your wrong any good hunter knows the best hunting is the first week of the season after that the game goes into hiding or thicker brush here in Florida we have many. Ways to get food there are many miles of coast line that will feed you every day with some of the best seafood you can have snook,redfish,snapper, blue crabs and shark really the buffet line is endless and don’t forget we have an estimated 10 hogs per square mile I think for the first 3-5 months the city folk will be killing of eachother for there food and valuables before the venture into the woods even then unless they are shown it will take them some time to learn the skills and movement of game to get a kill I can just see a lawyer or a bank worker going through the woods to hunt reminds me of the saying a bull in a china shop remember back in the 1800s most people knew these skills so killing wild game was easy most people today just want to kill the meat manager at you local Walmart becouse they ran out of New York strips so please don’t under estimate the intelligence of our wild game becouse they will be ready

      • PJ on January 27, 2013 at 9:49 PM
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      Great input from someone who clearly knows what they are talking about. Thanks for the comment!


    • The Maj on March 14, 2013 at 3:17 PM
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    I have been lurking and reading for a couple of months without commenting but I could not pass this one without commenting even though it is a couple of months old. Johnny brings out a good point in every place is different, with a different set of dynamics, and “different” people. Applying “where I live” in a blanket assumption that all areas will be affected in the same manner is a dangerous assumption to make. However, I have always lived by the “where I live” rule in my preparations, which ultimately means I remain situationally aware, catalog naturally occurring resources in the immediate area, and incorporate those resources into my personal plans and preparation.

    In the scenario originally presented, I absolutely agree that wildlife in areas immediately adjacent to population centers could very well be decimated after a Fit Hits the Shan event but mobility from those population centers will play a key role in how far reaching the affects of over harvesting of wild life will be. Realistically, how many people will reasonably make it out of NYC alive after such an event? Then of those that do manage to get mobile, how many will have the resources necessary to even attempt to sustain themselves hunting wild game? How many will sit tight and wait on Uncle Sam to answer all their prayers? If you drew concentric circles in ten mile increments, you will probably find that migration from these population centers will decrease dramatically and even more so if most are on foot (which most in NYC are).

    As for me, I am blessed to live in an area where there probably are not 1,000 people that live within 10 miles of me and the closest population center is a sprawling metropolis of no more than 30,000 people and happens to be 20 miles away. While I do expect to see diminishing numbers of game available after SHTF, I do still incorporate hunting, fishing, and trapping into my plans for staying prepared, provided I do not have to bugout of my current location and even then it has got to be considered a viable option for true long term survival.

    That said, I have enjoyed everything I have read so far and all of the comments. There is a lot of outstanding information here and I appreciate everyone that has taken the time to put their thoughts down so that others can become and stay more informed.

      • PJ on March 15, 2013 at 6:52 AM
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      The Maj

      Thanks for the great comment and taking the time to write it. Sounds like you are pretty well off as far as your current living conditions are concerned. If all of us could be so lucky….

    • Samuel on October 1, 2013 at 1:16 AM
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    I just wanted to point out a few flaws in your theory.

    1. The near extinction of white tail in the late 19th century had more to do with expansion into habitat compounded with hunting than hunting alone. Keep in kind that today only 5% of the population actually hunts. In the 19th a early 20th century hunting was a huge part of life. Your numbers about licensed hunters and gun owners assumes that all those people actually hunt, and will hunt well.

    2. You used a work of fiction to support your claim about hunting habits after shtf, not a great big of supporting evidence.

    3. Deer aren’t the only animal that’s out there. While you do mention other game, you concentrate on deer behavior and the history of deer. Squirrel, rabbit, duck, turkey, goose, all would make fine meals and more so for those who know how to get them.

    Overall not a great theory.

      • PJ on October 1, 2013 at 8:55 AM
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      Sorry to disappoint professor, I’ll try harder next time 🙂

      In the meantime I’ll read your theory on why hunting will be a viable option after a major SHTF event, where is it posted at?

    • Frederick Serna on August 27, 2016 at 10:41 AM
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    SHTF. Stock up on deer or meat? Look at the SHTF. What does that mean? 12 million real hunters. When the SHTF it means you will not have electricity to run your refrigerator. You will not have gas stations open because what ever fuel is in to those tanks will dry up in a few days. Fuel trucks will not be coming to replinish the fuel in your home or gas stations. Natural gas will also not be replished. You may have fossil fuel stored but you will be limited on the distant you can travel depending how much fuel your vehicle comsumes. So that will limit 12 million real hunters to half or more. Unless you live in these rural areas where game is in abundance most hunters will not be able travel to kill all the game. Look at how most “hunters” travel and set up camp. Most have fifth wheels and ATV’s.

    • Roger on September 7, 2016 at 9:49 PM
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    One thing not mentioned yet is the fact that while you’re out in the sticks competing with a growing number of increasing desperate hunters, your family is probably sitting at home watching their world go to hell without the security that you should be providing them! How long before your absence is noticed by some of your less-than-law-abiding neighbors or in the cities by the gangs that are sure to go on a rampage as soon as their brains manage to figure out the possibilities! I’ll bet that since most people in the cities will have less than a week’s food supply that cannibalism will rear its ugly head in less than a month, maybe on a large scale! People are a lot more abundant in the big city and far easier to catch! Another consideration is the cost of hunting since it can easier cost $500-$1000+ to go on a hunting trip assuming an EMP hasn’t rendered that option out! You can buy a large amount of canned and dry foods for that amount BEFORE a SHTF situation, afterward, all bets are off! As far as going to sea after SHTF, good luck, because you assume that there will be safe harbors where you can resupply, but what if there are not? And what about pirates? No one is coming to your rescue and all the pirates have to do is disable your boat by say shooting your motor. How much drinkable water do you have on board? Will you desalinator work without power? If a few bullets make holes below the water line, and you have no power for your bilge pump, can you keep the lower decks bailed out by bucket, maybe under the threat of being shot at! And don’t count on an endless supply of fish because species have been commercially caught to extinction or near-extinction. There are many places in the seas where fish are fairly rare, and any place known for good fishing is going to have a lot of boats already there! Good Luck and Happy Prepping! (GLAHP!)

    • Landon on December 12, 2016 at 11:11 AM
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    I think the whole idea is wrong like second shit hits fan how do people get to mountain? Like gas runs out and even if you stock up gas goes bad and if all the animals get deeper and deeper into woods people would have hard time going into woods then let’s talk about medical any broken bones or any injuries is death sentence without doctor.. then people with medicine or glasses will die off the bat,, then most of America is fat and in bad shape so they will simply die… those of you who have gone elk hunting second everybody runs to woods to kill em they disappear.. if most people can’t kill one with all these high Tec equipment how does and idiot kill one that has no vehicle or any thing… people would die animals would migrate away from people

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