All hunters complain, at least one, about having to buy a hunting license. For that matter, they’ve probably complained that they were limited to hunting only during a few short weeks a year. But in fact, there is a very good reason why we need hunting licenses and we need a hunting season. That is, that without the restrictions that hunting season and hunting laws place on “We the People,” there wouldn’t be any game.
When this country was first settled, it teemed with game. Early explorers were unanimous in their praises for both the quantity and the quality of wild game, ready for harvest by European long guns. Who hasn’t heard the reports of buffalo covering the Great Plains? The herds were so vast that they went on for miles.
Yet where are those vast herds of buffalo today? What has happened to the deer? The truth is that there have been times in our nation’s history where the game were all but extinct due to overhunting. Without proper controls, it could easily happen again.
In the early days of our country, wildlife flourished, especially deer. Reports dating from the early 1800s indicate that there were more deer in Illinois than there were when the nation was founded. Wolves and other predators had been hunted ruthlessly by farmers in order to protect their livestock. This allowed deer populations to grow, as the predators which killed them were nearly hunted to extinction.
But by the late 1800s, the deer population in Illinois had dropped to the point where they were virtually eliminated. Hunters, who were allowed to hunt year-round, without a bag limit, had killed off the deer. 
It took a major conservation effort on the part of the state of Illinois to repopulate the deer in their state, including importing white tail deer from other parts of the country. Now, deer are plentiful once again and hunters are once again harvesting deer in the fall. But restrictions are in place to ensure that overhunting doesn’t happen again.
Illinois isn’t the only state where this happened. As settlers moved westwards, they cleared out much of the wild game population in state after state. This was the result of not only hunters harvesting the game, but also of farmers taking much of the game’s natural habitat. Time and time again, animals were killed nearly to extinction, before conservation efforts were put in place.
The Problem Today
Many survivalists and preppers talk about living off the land, following a societal collapse. But the population of the United States is much higher than it was in the 1800s. In 1800, the entire U.S. population was only 5.3 million people. A century later, it had grown to 76.2 million people. But today, we have about 319 million people.
Less than two percent of our population has a stockpile of food in their home. So, it’s reasonable to assume that most people will be looking for whatever food they can find. Without their normal food sources to depend on, people will be looking for everything from stray cats to edible house plants. Many, having heard of our ancestors hunting for food, will naturally assume that they can, too.
To even think that the current game population could support the current population of people is somewhere on the far side of foolish. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, we have more than 13.7 million hunters in the United States (as of the 2013 hunting season). With that number of hunters, it wouldn’t take long at all to lower game levels to a near-extinction point once again; and that’s without everyone else out there trying to hunt for food as well. (This is why it is so important to grow and raise your own food.)
But we have to remember: Not all gun owners are hunters. With somewhere over 300 million privately owned guns in the United States, there are many more people who will be out there trying to hunt, than the “real” hunters in our society. Even if those people are ineffective hunters, their mere presence will make the game go deeper into the woods.
Let me throw one more monkey wrench in the works here. The vast majority of our population is concentrated on the East and West Coasts, especially the Northeast and Southern California. Yet those aren’t the areas of highest game density. In fact, the areas of highest game density are where the population is lowest. So, the people with the greatest need will find that they will have the least possibility of hunting for their food.
This means that if anyone in the country would have a chance of living off the land, it’s the people who live in the lowest density areas of the country, especially Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas. Perhaps those people can depend on game to help them survive, but the rest of us are going to need other sources for our food.
What is your reaction? Do you think there is enough wild game to support America, post-collapse? Share your thoughts in the section below: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/deer/historyofmanagment.cfm