TEOTWAWKI: Thoughts on Wild Game Populations by Pete Thorsen

Anyone that ever visits a prepper website or has ever heard a prepper conversation has certainly heard that after any TEOTWAWKI societal collapse event that all wild game populations will drop to near zero immediately. While this might be true in a few locations, overall I just don’t think it will happen–at least not over any large area of our country.

While statements on either side of this debate are pure conjecture we can look at some facts that back up the guesses on one side or the other. The first obvious thing we should do is look at the animal/human populations in the United States.

The human population is three hundred twenty seven million. That is a lot of people. So let’s look at wild game populations. These population numbers are estimates from state fish and wildlife departments.

  • Deer – 30 million
  • Elk – 1 million
  • Moose – relatively small numbers outside of Alaska
  • Antelope – 1 million
  • Bison – about ½ million
  • Big Horn sheep & Mountain Goat – small numbers
  • Bear – approx. ½ million

So big game populations overall are only roughly one percent of the human population. If we stop here it would appear that post-TEOTWAWKI situation American big game animals would be quickly decimated. But we are not talking about trophy hunters here instead every hunter would be totally concerned only with meat to prevent starvation. In that light I would assume most hunters would go for any meat to stay alive and feed their family. This would include domestic animals especially because they would be much easier to access. So logically we would have to include livestock populations into our equation.

  • Cows – 94 million
  • Horses – 9 million (yes you can eat horses)
  • Goats – 2.5 million
  • Sheep – 5 million
  • Beefalo & domestic bison – approx. ½ million

Adding these livestock numbers we see adds a whole lot of meat-on-the-hoof that would be available to hunters. But if you are hunting for deer because you are starving I would have to assume you would not turn down smaller game like a fat tasty rabbit. Population numbers of wild rabbits (cottontail and jack rabbits) is unknown but the number is huge. A guesstimate of over one hundred million is very likely.

Still, there are more humans than four-legged animals. But we could also include birds. I eat ducks, geese, quail, and other game birds. And there are a whole lot of them. Then there are domestic birds like turkeys, tame ducks, and chickens. Let’s just look at chickens. I bet most everyone has eaten chicken eggs and had chicken for dinner. There are more than nine billion chickens in the United States. That is an unbelievable number that most people cannot even comprehend.

But maybe instead of the whole human population we should look at the number of hunters instead. This number is roughly fifteen million, a small fraction of the total population. And of those fifteen million hunters the success rate for big game hunting is roughly thirty percent. So two-thirds of the time that they hunt they get nothing.

Many will say that one hundred million people own guns and in an emergency situation every one of those would hunt to survive. I agree with that statement, everybody would hunt to survive. Except with no experience their success rate would be substantially lower than an experienced hunter.

Okay so after a TEOTWAWKI event everyone with a gun would try to use that gun to get food. They would kill every bird and animal they could to survive whether it was a wild animal or someone’s livestock. But they would have to travel to get to where those animals were living.

The U.S. is Mainly Urban

Most of our human population lives in urban areas. Either in big cities or in the suburbs surrounding those cities. Mostly that is not where wild game or livestock live so those people would have to travel. Today that is no problem. Just jump in your car, swing past the gas station to fill up, and travel a hundred miles in just a couple hours.

In any Worst-Case Collapse situation where everyone would have to hunt just to survive I think we could safely assume that there would also be no fuel available for their vehicles. If there are no food deliveries there certainly would be no gasoline deliveries either. And while everyone would have some fuel in their cars it is also likely that when deliveries stopped everyone would first use their fuel just looking for food at every grocery store for miles around. By the time everyone was desperate enough to leave their homes and drive to the country to search for food they would likely not have any or very little fuel left to do so.

Because of the fuel situation highways would be full of stalled vehicles that were out of fuel. The highways would quickly be blocked and travel would be very problematic. Violence at this point would likely be everywhere and shootouts on highways would probably be commonplace. Road rage is common now and would be many times worse in any bad situation. Travel would be difficult due to lack of fuel and dangerous at the same time due to increased violence.

So everyone wanting to hunt would be severely limited with multiple travel problems. Some would obviously travel by foot but they would not travel far, by today’s standards. Twenty miles on foot is long way and totally impossible for much of America’s overweight population.

Some people would leave early and escape the cities in their cars. Great for them but they would still face many challenges. Where would they go? To some public land someplace where they would camp and hunt? Maybe or they might go a relative’s place in the country but obviously most just would not have that option. So most would be camping and then hunting within walking distance of their camp. Certainly a workable situation but that would limit how many animals they would have access too.

Population Masses are Not Near Wild Game

I am of the opinion that the bulk of the urban population just would not be able to travel much distance to rural areas and if they did, then they would have little success with their hunting forays. Also the current rural population living there would certainly resent ‘city people’ hunting on their land and would obviously try hard to protect their livestock. Violence would erupt.

In the eastern states, overall distances are less and that is where the bulk of the US population lives. In those eastern states both wildlife populations and livestock numbers would certainly drop rather quickly in any major long term event. In the western states the distances are vast between towns and there are very few urban areas of any size (other than on the west coast).

The western land has good wildlife populations and also large numbers of sheep and beef cattle. People that have never traveled by car in the western states often fail to realize just how big the area is and how far it is between even small towns.

In a serious SHTF event where fuel was not available there just would not be much of any travel in these western areas. Distances are just too far for foot travel and because the western states are all in a semi-arid zone, surface water is often sparse making foot travel problematic especially for the modern citizen.
Because of these simple facts after TEOTWAWKI this huge area’s wild game populations would not be reduced near as much nor as fast at populations in the eastern states.

Even now with fairly large wild game populations that wild game is often found in the more rugged areas of each state. Where these game populations are highest are where human populations are the lowest for the most part. After any large event this remoteness will help protect those wildlife populations. As any hunter in any area knows, as hunting pressure increases the game population goes deeper into the more rugged areas making hunting problematic.

Better in the West

Those people now living in rural areas within these western states are going to have an easier time than people in the eastern states. Wild game and domestic livestock will surround them and at the same time human populations will be low and problematic travel conditions will help keep them safe.

Those that say wildlife populations will drop quickly in any longer term event often point to the Great Depression as a prime example. Wild game populations of all kinds were at record low levels during the Great Depression they rightly point out. This is very true. But like many things there is more to the story.

Wildlife Numbers Crashed Before the Depression

Before the Great Depression, America’s human population was expanding and enjoying a booming economy. Unfortunately the same could not be said of wildlife populations. Wildlife numbers were at dangerously low levels, some even close to extinction levels. Market hunting was the major cause of this though indiscriminate hunting also added to the severely reduced game numbers.

This was the time period where most states had no game laws and no game wardens. Urban populations were expanding and market hunting was used to help feed all those people in the cities. Wildlife populations suffered. Obviously people noticed and Before the Great Depression there was a huge push to preserve remaining wildlife populations that were left.

Then the Great Depression happened but even during this time period people wanted to try and save wildlife. Many laws were passed. The “Duck Stamp” was one thing, beginning in 1935. The Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937 was another that put an excise tax on guns and hunting equipment. Most states implemented wildlife laws and hired game wardens in this time period.

So while game populations were very low during the Great Depression, it was not the cause of those low population numbers. The two events just happened to take place during the same time span for the most part. Certainly during the Depression many people turned to hunting for their survival but unfortunately with the already very low numbers of game that hunting was often a fruitless endeavor.

So I hypothesize that in a major SHTF event wildlife, fish, and livestock numbers will decrease but none will be decimated except possibly in relatively small areas that are near urban centers.


  1. Human population will decrease rapidly after TEOTWAWKI event. Within 1 year the population will be down by 90% due to the dependency on medication to stay alive, and the lack of any medication to cure a simple cold. The majority of people today are poor hunters (Vegetarians), or they have not been taught any skills to hunt. They will die also.

  2. Subsistance farming fishing and hunting is how I grew up. It is a hard time consuming life. Most modern humans have neither the skills nor motivation to survive such a life.

  3. The idea of some urban wannabe in bdu’s with a weapon messing round the working livestock farms in my area central Florida would be met with determined local deadly force. Herds and flocks are about near family and would be protected as such. No questions,no police no warnings, no lawyers,no mercy. It takes years to build a herd. It would be protected as any long term investment would against man or beast….or combination thereof.
    There is a tremendous advantage in defense when not performing same in a Walmart parking lot but standing on your own property between what is your family and some varmint wanting to do harm. There is a time for peace and love but there is a time to take care of business without batting a eye…..Yeah verily I say unto thee-“squeeze the trigger dont jerk”.

    1. Exactly. Apparently the writer of this article has failed to consider that the rancher is well armed and very experienced in the use of his firearms. It does take years to build a herd, and if you think any rancher anywhere is going to tolerate poaching, aka THEFT, on his land, you’re in for quite a surprise greeting. You won’t have to spend any time worrying about transportation back home, because you won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. And out here in open range country, nobody’s going to be giving any help to a poacher. Good luck with that. We are more prepared out here than anybody realizes.

  4. Thank you for this very well thought out article. I believe that there are a few other factors that should be included. Early die off of the population from starvation, disease, and civil unrest are examples . These factors will surely lessen the pressure on hunting of wild animals. Sadly there is likely to be increased hunting pressure on the “long pig population” due to their easy availability as well as their vulnerability.

  5. Speaking of game tags, the TN elk tag lottery is running for the next few weeks. I don’t know the exact history, it’s on the twra web site, but elk were reintroduced to same area in small groups, 4 or 5 taken from Western wild stock. They are doing great and herds are growing.
    Also smaller game is fairly abundant in suburban and moderately populated areas. It depends on what you’re willing to eat, racoon, oposum, etc. I doubt most people have the stomach for it or even know how to process these abundant scavengers.

    1. I agree with most of the points made by the author. I believe that Fred’s point are also important. While we seem to focus quite a bit on game animals and urban areas in this discussion. Consider suburban residential space where hunting has not existed for decades. I see more deer driving to/through New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, than I see driving in New Hampshire, and Maine. They appear to be tame in many communities is suburbia. During a TEOTWAWKI stage garbage will pile up across the nation and squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and other scavengers (birds) will start to rule the land. Small game and edible for the most part.

  6. Oklahoma 2018 deer gun season harvest numbers: 61511
    Number of licensed deer gun hunters: 187,657
    Estimated Oklahoma deer population, 2017: 650,000
    2019 Oklahoma human population: 3950000
    What math says: Approximately 4.8% of the Oklahoma population was eligible to hunt in the 2018 deer gun seasons. Of those that did go hunting, they killed 9.4% of the Oklahoma deer population over 25 days.
    These are only the numbers from deer gun seasons. The total deer harvest was 107,914 for all seasons, with only 29,094, or 27%, taken during the 16 week archery season. The rest were taken during the 33 total days of allowed firearms hunting, for an average of around 2400 deer harvested per allowed hunting day. While the estimated number of eligible hunters are listed for each season, it can be safely assumed there is significant overlap between hunters who purchased tags for archery, primitive gun, modern gun, and gun special antlerless seasons. The total pool of participating hunters is unlikely to exceed 250,000 individuals, or around 6.5% of the state population. The 30% success ratio is arrived at by comparing the number of eligible hunters for each season with the number of harvested animals. This method does not account for the number of hunting days spent in the field by each eligible hunter (for some it will be zero, while others make their wives “deer widows”) nor the significant overlap between participants in each type of season. I would argue that the success rate of even the pool of eligible hunters, not even just those who actually hunted, approaches closer to 50%.

    These people were not hungry and were constrained by regulations and bag limits and yet they managed to kill around 16-17% of the deer population in the state over 16 weeks. Driven by hunger and constrained only by transportation and location issues, I think it’s safe to assume the state deer population can fall much faster than 1% a week, although that won’t be a linear progression as game gets harder to find.

    In survival dietary planning, wild game and foraging is an unknown. Unknowns can’t be planned. Failing to plan is planning to fail. I hope in a survival situation to supplement the pot with hunting and foraging, but I’m not counting on it.

  7. Interesting article. Reading the journals of Lewis and Clark, there were several time those hardened survivors were close to starvation from lack of game in regions where now many large cities are populated.

    I fully agree that the popular fiction writers have it right when people sneak in and kill both game and livestock, and waste most of the meat.

    Rabbits are the preferred grayman/women stealth protein.

    I’ve successfully bagged deer, elk, and antelope as well as small game, even shooting a fish for food once with my Camp Gun. But growing your own is critical now.

    The one exception to the article is from my father in law (RIP) who was born in 1917 and raised in MT. During the homestead era the tens of thousands of people hunted deer and antelope to extreme scarcity across the mountain states and prairies. Times were very lean years prior to the dustbowl and depression.

    “Food for thought”

    God bless.

  8. During the 1930s, the depression, the game populations in Montana crashed. They were shot out by subsistence hunters. It took the numbers DECADES to recover. This was in a time of far lower human population and far fewer roads than we have now.

  9. One thing you didn’t calculate-waste. Many, if not most of those people killing animals for food have no idea how to preserve fresh meat for long term consumption. Once the meat spoils they will have to kill again. It is also likely true that they won’t be around long after eating spoiled meat, so…it could be a wash.

    1. One method of meat preservation that is quick, easy, proven, and will eliminate waste has been used for hundreds of years; is to put the meat in a heavy salt / brine solution. Yes, you have to rinse it well for use but it will preserve it for a very long time. Many vegetables have been preserved this way also, think sauerkraut. For this and other uses I have hundreds of lbs. of salt stored away. It is cheap and throughout history has been used as a condiment, food preservative, and actual currency. If you do not have it in your preps consider adding a few hundred lbs. for future use and barter.

  10. Very good observations, I’ve had thoughts along the same lines. I would note that regarding the eastern states, the majority of the population centers are along the coast. I think the northern parts of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine will weather the added pressure just fine. Here in Maine, with a total state population of only 1.3M and almost all of that along the southern coast, I expect there won’t be much, if any, impact on the northern regions. I echo the sentiment that non-hunters have little chance to make a go of it in an emergency. 40+ years of hunting and fishing has taught me one thing, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

  11. While i too hold the same doubt on “SHTF” scenario as does the author we can look no further than Venezuela and hear stories of people eating zoo animals !

    Personally think given peoples hostility to one another, the sheer size of the eastern seaboard population, the dependence of on-time delivery/huge amounts of food shipped into the cities every day a economic collapse could bring about horrors unknown to modern day man.

    Whether or not this would result in cannibalism is unclear, but references to “long pig” is highly disturbing. Perhaps the fact it gets mentioned in the survival community indicates people do plan on eating their neighbors.

    Staying in shape, training hand to hand combat and proficient with a firearm will hopefully keep you off of someones dinner plate .

    God help us all !

    1. In every major calamity of long duration where starvation occurred through history, there have been reports of cannibalism.

      I remember reading many years ago about the deplorable conditions in Russia during WWII. I believe that it was in Leningrad where one vendor always seemed to have a supply of sausage for those who could afford it. Once the source of his sausage was discovered, he was executed.

      Your mentioning of the slaughter of Venezuelan zoo animals made the news in the last couple of years. Remember also that news reports have indicated that dogs and cats have all but disappeared in some cities there.

      FYI, 70% of South Koreans admit to having tried dog meat. 30% admit to eating it frequently. Given its concern about Western outrage about eating dogs, in advance of the Seoul Summer Olympics in 1988, the South Korean government made a concerted and well-publicized effort to encourage restaurants in Seoul to remove dishes containing dog meat from their menus. At the Pyeong Chang Olympics in 2018, you will probably recall there was a considerable brouhaha over the consumption of dog meat in the country. International “dog rescues” by some were reported in the news.

  12. If memory serves me, whitetail deer tend to stay within five or six miles of where they were born. I remember that in the early ’80s a private nature preserve run by a foundation had a deer population that was starving. The very large whitetail population had stripped the forest floor of anything edible and was starving. The problem was that the foundation had never allowed hunting, so the herd kept breeding and was never culled. With every passing day, the deer became weaker and subject to being ravaged by the outbreak of disease, disease that would not be confined to the preserve. The great mass of the whitetails, being “homies,” would not venture out of the preserve to find food.

    The state Fish & Wildlife agency, which had always provided financial support to the foundation, resolved the problem by threatening to withhold funds. While the foundation fought, kicked and screamed, the problem was solved. A separate deer season was set for the preserve, and a lottery was held to determine who the participants would be. The deer harvested, however, were pitiable, one yearling doe recorded as weighing 40 lbs.

    My point with this is that there may be a great number of deer harvested in suburban areas where deer often appear in front and backyards plundering flower beds and vegetable gardens, but when they are harvested by people shooting through their kitchen windows or from their back porch, the deer will not be quickly replaced by other deer who fill the void left by the deer that were harvested. The replacement of these deer in the same area could take quite some time.

    The author points out the problem for urbanites heading to the country to hunt for wild game. Not only would fuel be a problem, but competing for the available game population would make the hunters unwelcome. A local would tend to regard that buck and five does that cross the “south 40” each morning around 6:30 as being their own property, and they won’t take kindly to some fellow from the city who came tramping across their property to shoot one of those deer.

    But, of course, this also begs the question, how many urbanites are actually going to jump in their cars and, even if they have the fuel to do so, drive to the country to sit on a log day in and day out, to bag a deer. If times are really “spicey,” how’s this likely to work out for their families back in the neighborhood?

    Lewis and Clark were mentioned in the comments. The expedition crossed vast regions where only Indians and a few French trappers had set footprints, when game, presumably was at its most plentiful peak. Yet, had it not been for the dogs with which the party traded with local Indians, it would have starved. (Clark and the rest of the men were said to have preferred dog meat to venison. Lewis refused to touch dog meat.)

    Rabbits were mentioned in comments above. The speed at which rabbits multiply is, of course, amazing. Two domestic rabbits, if bred as fast as possible, can produce 3.7 million offspring in 4 years. Wild rabbits, however, are a primary food source for some predators, and finding them as the winter progresses in rural areas becomes more difficult due to the effects of predation, the lack of food, slowed reproduction activity, and infant rabbit (kit) mortality due to the cold.

    In a SHTF situation, a person would have to make his/her own decision about whether there is any truth to the “old wives’ tale” (why aren’t there any “old husbands’ tales?”) about whether you should eat wild rabbits only in months ending in R due to parasites.

    1. I think that readers probably got my gist, but let me make a correction. I just re-read my comment in which I stated, ” Two domestic rabbits, if bred as fast as possible, can produce 3.7 million offspring in 4 years.” I should have written “Two domestic rabbits and their offspring, if bred as fast as possible, will produce 3.7 million rabbits in 4 years.”

      Here’s my source for that figure: https://rabbit.org/how-many-rabbits-can-a-rabbit-make/

    2. @survivormann99
      What do you think is the root of the Chronic Wasting Disease?

      This is very similiar to the mad cow disease as I understand it.

      My theory has to do with them being fed at feeders.

  13. In urban areas, rats generally greatly exceed the human population, plus they replenish very rapidly. However, you have to be able to take them and process them without picking up the human-susceptible diseases they carry.

    1. If you have a subscription to Netflix, search for a program entitled “Rats.” It will give you the heebie-jeebies.

      In one part of it, it shows rats being trapped in Cambodia. They are then placed in cages that are stacked 8 feet high on the back of a motorcycle, and then driven to Vietnam where they are chopped into pieces and served in a restaurant.

      I don’t remember if restaurant patron says they “taste like chicken.”

  14. One aspect the author did not consider are wild pigs. Current estimates show that wild pigs in Texas and Louisiana are beyond the capabilities of hunters to control. Pig meat is the ultimate survival meat. Deer and rabbit are too lean for long term consumption. Hogs have that vital fat. And hogs are literally everywhere.

  15. Thank you all the comments!
    Also sorry this article has no real survival information and is instead just basically an opinion piece.
    I did not mention wild hogs or several other creatures that could and would be eaten. Wild hogs have large populations in some areas but are not found in many many states. In the wild few animals can provide the needed fat. Bear and raccoon come to mind that do often have excess fat. Most wild critters are very lean. Good point above about the fat!
    I fully understand that farmers and ranchers would fight hard to defend their livestock. They would know that their livestock was vital to their own very survival. Unfortunately those farmers/ranchers might well be way out-numbered (at least in some areas).
    Right now hunters travel sometimes long distances to hunt. Even twenty to fifty miles would be a huge distance in the end times if things ever get as bad as we are discussing here.
    Now we hunt doves but there are many song birds of similar size that could be eaten in hard times. Along with larger birds that currently are not hunted like herons, egrets, bitterns, and others. Just look at all the very tasty pigeons in both urban areas and rural spots.
    I did not talk about fishing but obviously there are more fishermen than hunters. Also those living along the coasts would have the ocean to supply a variety of food. Lakes and streams often have crayfish which while mostly shunned now, are certainly good to eat.
    I’m saying that right now today there is a lot of possible food in rural areas of the USA but still most people live in those big urban areas and most are not familiar with what is available in the country, don’t know how to catch, kill, and cook it, and likely would not have the means to travel to those rural areas in the end times. Also starving people have a VERY reduced capability to walk let alone hunt.

  16. What about domestic pets, such as dogs & cats? Now we may turn up our noses & say Never, but when one hasn’t eaten meat in 2-3 wks, & your family is getting weak from lack of food, one will start seeing neighborhood dogs & cats as attractive protein. & one doesn’t need to tell the kids what they’re eating. Tell them you came across a wild critter/chicken/whatever’s common in your area. Cultural limits like not eating the neighbor’s pets, will fall by the wayside when people are near starving.

    1. Nick: Eat your own pets if you wish, but beware trying to dine on someone else’s dog. My dogs are needed for SHTF survival, they protect the livestock, and property, hunt, herd, etc., and will alert to an intruder way before I could detect them. Anyone attacking my dog will be shot in a SHTF scenario.

      1. americuh, thanks for the warning, but we obviously live in very different communities. In our sm town neighborhood, we have a stray dog in our yard every week or 2, & stray cats are a dime a dozen, esp for anyone who leaves a bit of catfood on their porch or deck. Here’s an illustration of a true event some years ago. A grandmother & her g-son visited our church, & I occasionally went w/ our pastor to visit them. On one visit, the g-mother told us that she’d gotten a puppy for her g-son. They did not have a fenced in yard & couldn’t afford a fence. But they neglected to keep their pet leashed & just let the pet run free in the neighborhood. 6-7 weeks later, they complained about a car that hit the pet & didn’t stop to apologize. That’s the mentality in our community, although there are also responsible pet owners. BTW, in our state, it’s legal to trap any animal that comes onto one’s property, & our sheriff said the law applies to pets. Best wishes!

  17. Hunting is also much easier on the hunter in nice weather, when it is 30 below, and snowing a lot, not so much. The animals tend to hunker down more as well. Unexperienced hunters will be popsicles before they bag anything.

  18. Sadly I should report that I know of 2 very experienced hunters whom are nice grandfatherly gentlemen, well respected, frankly explained to me that they would shoot and eat humans during a WROL situation. One is a doctor. I did not explain how I felt on the matter. Seeing I was disgusted, one insisted that I would do the same if starving. They both shocked me. I’m still shocked.

    I would not plan on hunting unless I had a security with me, and I would not risk it unless desperate. Local hunters, and hunters fleeing to their favorite deer camp can show up in your area, and out of desperation take your kill, or just you. I recently canned up 215 pounds of meat protein, and will not stop until I run out of space. Most folks will not have enough. It is easy to grow potatoes, but not meat. Ranchers could easily be overwhelmed by towns people, and all wildlife devastated quickly. And then there is the ‘other white’ meat.

    Even if there was a massive die off in the big cities, out here in the boonies, a higher percentage will survive, and some of them not prepared, will prove to be the most successful at taking what they want. In many cases, it will be hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. This kind of harsh reality is hard to accept. This is ‘end times’ stuff.

  19. I feed the deer and hogs in my area almost year round. On almost any day I have hogs I can harvest. I also have enough canning supplies to put up 400+ pounds of meat. This I will do as quickly as possible before the Golden Horde gets anywhere near my BOL.

  20. So concerning domestic agriculture, about 1/3 of farming is now done by corporations. And, as the author points out much of the cattle is raised out west. The questions I have are as follows:

    We are assuming that the “event” doesn’t impact wildlife or current agricultural practices. A Yellowstone event could impact both. Perhaps the Solar Minimum may even impact populations due to no water or as in the case we are seeing this year, too much water.

    In a grid down scenario can current agriculture continue? How does a farmer milk 200 cows twice a day and BTW what is he going to do with all that milk no one can pick up- perhaps the few remaining dairy farmers will let their calves drink that milk? That could be a good thing if the farmer can still get feed and water to his herd w/o electric.

    The author has a logical fallacy in his piece (respectfully). Pete you state that the Great Delression didn’t cause the wildlife to be endangered but rather it was already at low number due to “Market Hunting” and it was game laws that were passed that stabilized the wildlife. In a True TEOTWAWKI those game laws will NOT be followed. On top of that those that do have hunting skills will revert back to “market hunting” using the game for barter for all the other things they don’t have.

    I agree with most people staying in the main population centers and slowly starving. But here is another problem with the thinking here. If you think I will be spending my day in a tree stand waiting for Bambi to walk up for me to shoot her your wrong. Traps, snares, pits, baiting – it will all be used. I don’t own a fishing pole but I own a net.

    Speaking of domestic cats and dogs- we better hope that people eat them because if they don’t we can add their population to the pool of new “Hunters” as well. The feral cat population will decimate the rabbit population.

    I leave everyone with this thought- given a number ten can of dehydrated food for $40 or a box of 300 Winchester Mag ammo which of the two is guaranteed to feed you? I think planning to “survive” on hunting is like going to a casino to raise money for your preps. Not a good plan. That isn’t to say that you don’t TRY to supplement with fresh game.

    1. 3ADscout, It sounds like, you have it right about long term subsistence living, if there was a complete breakdown of society. =

      1. ‘Fishing net, traps, snares, pits, baiting’ would be the method to use, to remain low key. [It’s possible to make your own; there’s information on the Internet]
      2. A supply of dehydrated food would get people through the period of craziness at the beginning.
      3. Belonging to a close by Church, or living in a smaller cohesive community would be needed too, in a long term societal breakdown.
      4. Using a gun to hunt with, would turn someone into the >hunted by others within hearing range, if they weren’t part of the community. There’s plenty of information about more ‘primitive’ food and animal gathering on the Internet.
      As 3ADscout said, fishing net, traps, snares, pits, baiting. [A line with multiple hooks would work for fish]

      5. >Most emergencies and societal break downs usually only last a few weeks. A supply of food and a water filtration system would keep people out of a FEMA camp food line.
      ……. SurvivalBlog has a couple of good advertisers with good products. Buy food the family likes and then eat it, as you rotate the food.
      6. Some of the small food packages are handy to take camping, or to use as ‘traveling’ food, while on vacation.
      7. There’s plenty of information about storage food, on SurvivalBlog about the different products. Some foods don’t store for a particularly long time.
      8. A pressure cooker would be very helpful, too. A pressure cooker would tenderize even old Corgi-dog-meat into something, they’d eat at Buckingham Palace.

  21. For the experienced hunter, and especially this goes for those with bow hunting experience, in WROL the absence of game law enforcement will be transformative. If you no longer have to obey game laws, like no night hunting or utilizing pit traps let’s say, your success rate will likely skyrocket. I have killed 20 some deer with the bow alone in the last 20 years, and could have killed many more had I a reason to do so. ( my limit is 1-2 Deer per year as I do most of the consuming in my family. They will sing a different tune when the food gets real scarce ) . My wife always makes fun of me if I don’t kill deer or turkey every time out but she dose that realize I pass up many deer that are to small or doesn’t suit me for some reason or another- in the good times. I won’t be so choosy when we need food fo real.

  22. First of all, I love the articles, but I have to admit, I love the comments more, had to laugh out loud with ‘Texas Scout’. Yes Sir, you are right! There will be many that try to take our cattle that won’t make it home. The biggest ‘take away’ for me on this article, was the reminder of how many domestic animals we have in the rural community. We all wonder how we will deal with security, especially if we have a big farm, like myself, without the personnel to watch every acre. I also think one of the problems we will face is how to butcher a steer or deer ourselves cleanly and efficiently without a lot of waste. Yes, I can see the urban hunter, sneaking in a killing a cow, butchering a portion of the meat and packing it out, before I notice. Now, we find the carcass a couple of hours later and need to go to work. Even for the hunters out there, unless you are a redneck, do you usually drop your deer at the processing plant? There is a need to learn how to butcher a deer or cow yourself and gather the tools now.

    Processing a deer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-q4IVBrL0M

    By the ‘bearded butchers’, watch all their videos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19pKFU4opTM

    I do have an issue with the author stating the “game populations were very low during the Great Depression, it was not the cause of those low population numbers. The two events just happened to take place during the same time span for the most part.” According to this article 1918 spelled the end of ‘market hunting’:


    By 1922 The Izaak Walton League of America was founded, and conservation was going strong. The reasons the Pittman Robertson Act of 1937 and the ‘Duck Stamp Act’ in 1934 was that the population was eating everything that walked, flew or swam, because they were hungry. Market hunting was long over. It is rather a moot point, but my contention is that those that lived a rural life, ate was wildlife was available and in fact disseminated the wildlife population. (I am surprised ‘Muddykidd’ hasn’t weighed in).
    I totally agree with those who think the urban die-off will be huge. Regarding ‘Chris W’ comments from Oklahoma, if 9.4% of all the deer were harvested in 25 days, then less than one year, wouldn’t you expect that 94%+ of all the deer would be harvested? I think he makes his point, the fact that the hunters weren’t hungry or seriously motivated, to me, only means that time period is decreased, in 9 months, or 6 months 95% of all deer are harvested… Not all the hunters in Ok are driving that far to hunt. Ok is a mostly rural state with a few large metro areas. Like MO or Arkansas. I agree large rural western states like Wyoming and Montana, and even Texas may have miles and miles of ‘open range’, where wildlife will escape human hunting (without transportation there). Great points made by Surviormann99, especially regarding urban folks not driving out to the country to hunt and returning home. I agree, they will either migrate here or die in the cities. Time to check our supplies and skill set, and make sure we can successfully harvest, butcher and ‘put up’ either venison, beef or other critters.

    1. Hey bud! My only contribution could be around the discussion on the depression. We have to consider how “someone,” be it a warden, county extension, or who ever….we have to consider what kinds of research methods that were used to come up with these population numbers during the great depression.

      As I have mentioned before, I have personally participated in population accounting of whitetail for a state agency. By understanding how people account for population numbers, the techniques that are used, the margin of error, in addition to technology changes, I question that there is a high probability that any guestimation of population numbers before, say, 1960ish, is complete rubbish as far as being truly accurate.

      As an example, if everyone who commented on this story was asked to go measure something, I can guarantee that everyone’s measurement is going to be different. Now, if 5 people used a measuring tape, and 5 people used their arm-span as a unit of measure, but 5 others measured by footsteps, and then all applied their measurements to a particular equation to generate a probability of size…done to generalize and simplify a basic estimation of what potentially is the most accurate number of something in the Ozark’s. to then compare that to states in the Redoubt, can we begin to see how these numbers would be so different that they really don’t mean anything?

      Of course the numbers during the depression are going to be said to be low. That “fact” was used to expand government agencies, regulate a food source by redefining it as a “game,” so that people become dependent on supply-lines. Depending on how far one reads back on history, this has been going on for several hundreds of years, and is not a new process.

  23. Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your thoughtful discussion about this subject. There have been a lot of great comments about the authors thoughtful article and hopefully we have learned a lot about the subject of wildlife as a source of food. I know that I have, and humbly learned of my ignorance in a lot of areas. These discussions bring us together in a forum of mutual help and respect, I look forward to more of these sharing of experiences and information on the myriad of subjects that effect us all in our efforts to prepare for the inevitable. Let us all give thanks to JWR for making this possible. Many of us have expertise, and knowledge that is beneficial to share so let’s keep up the good work. Again thanks to the author.

  24. Ernest Shackleton and his men were stranded at the south pole for over a year in 1905, survived on canned food, penquins, seals, and such. They said the best meal they had was when they ate the sled dogs.

  25. I agree with you that some portions of the west will have game to be harvested, however I would also add the caveat that you need to do a cost benefit analysis on calories expended vs. calories gained.

    I will say though in my neck of the woods, the old south, there is significantly more wildlife in the cities than out “in the country.” Simply because in most cases they cannot be hunted there and there is ample food supplies. In addition to the normal trash pandas and possums there is ALOT of deer. I do believe that the city folk will kill these deer before they move out to raid farms. However once they kill off/run off the deers city folk probably move on to farms, because Americans are very particular about what they eat. If you dont believe me watch someone thats never smelled pork with boar taint cook it and they’ll probably chunk it. There are even city folk that wont eat rabit because they view it as a pest like a nutria. Everyone has a line; I’ve ate possum and trash panda but I’m not gonna eat nutria.

    As far as city folk looting farms there is historical precedent for it durring times of economic turmoil. During the end Weimar republic era there were instances of citizens slaughtering livestock in the field and taking only portions of the animal, because very very few people know how to butcher animals. Some farmers will be able to stop it others won’t; it just depends on how well them and their neighbors armories are stocked. There is also the chance that the government could buy up and destroy animals again if we run into a deflationary scenario.

    I apreciate your view, but I still don’t think hunting will be a viable option longterm. Your article was well written though!

  26. Given your numbers, @ 330m people and @ 33m big game animals, that’s a big game population 10% the size of human population, rather than 1%.

    Survivormann99 is right – I and my neighbors consider the local elk herd “ours” and would do what we could to preserve it, ditto fish in the river and creek.

    Of the 94m cattle, about 1/3 are beef and on average half of those are in feedlots, most just outside large/medium cities not far from rail yards. A significant percentage of dairy, poultry including turkeys and egg operations, and hogs are in animal feeding operations or concentrated AFOs (CAFOs).

    In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, this could be potential short-term boon for those living nearby with the means to process or relocate the animals. But coming after my livestock – protein and fat grown to succor my family and friends – would be a risky business.

  27. Most game meat is too lean. You would eventually starve to death, even with successful hunting. Our ancestors practiced “larding,” adding fat from beef or pork. That would once again become essential. By the way, horse is also too lean.

  28. Hey Pete,
    I think you have posted comments about eating wild game for survival before. I agree with several who have posted that this is not a workable plan. Just a change in allowing does to be killed w/o a permit during deer season in my location nearly decimated the deer herd in my location. I own 85 acres, with 25 being heavily wooded with hardwood trees that join timber company land that contain 2000 acres of pine timber. Before this changed, I could limit out with two bucks, by the first three days. Before this change, I could see 9 to 15 doe at one time being followed by 3 to 4 bucks. After this change, I saw almost no deer the entire season. I finally shot a button buck that weighed 60 pounds because someone had shot at it and peeled a 5 inch diameter piece of hide off his back and I figured he would not survive the winter. A close extended family member drove by a deer camp that was located close to a county road and saw 8 doe hanging from a tree opening morning of deer season in a deer lease that joins our property. This is in a large county with 35,000 population with an area of 970 square miles. In extremely distant locations from metropolitan areas, with good climate, and a good wild game population, this could possibly work when there is no herd health crisis. Take my advice. Most people need to buy at least a 20 foot cargo container and fill it completely full of long term, properly stored, dry food. I have studied this at length and this is the best and possibly only option for long term survival. I could write a 10,000 word article and describe in detail, all the facts and possibilities of the things that can and might happen. OPSEC will be a make or break issue. To paraphrase an old saying, “20,000 pounds of dried food securely and discreetly stored in a cargo container beats a possible deer in the bush.”

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