Could the COVID-19 crisis impact upcoming hunting seasons that are still months away? The short answer is yes.
The way things continue to unfold it appears as though there is a huge chance the COVID-19 shutdown could have a repeat event this fall. All of the news and warnings indicate a return of the virus, especially if the population continues to ignore government warnings about sheltering-in-place or if the “return to normal” occurs too quickly.
It is now May. That makes big game hunting seasons open normally in roughly five months. Other seasons such as waterfowl quickly follow. So, under the worst case scenario this fall when hunting seasons dates roll around, we could still be under sheltering rules and social distancing protocols or worse. This will definitely impact a variety of hunting activities unless huge adjustments are made.
Hunting camps with several people being outfitted at once may have to take fewer hunters, spread them out in more cabins or tents, or certify that the hunters are COVID-free before they come to camp. Ditto for outfitters, guides, wranglers, and cooks. It may be difficult to social distance a guide and a hunter in pursuit of a bugling bull elk. Same for other species.
Hunting lodges taking in a dozen or more deer hunters, western game hunters, upland bird hunters and such will certainly have to rethink some things. How do you feel a dozen guys around a single dining table? Small issue, but big task. Every camp I have ever hunted in found spacing a normal issue. Daily drive outs could have 3-4-5 hunters in one vehicle. Horse pack trips out of camp will have several hunters going at once. This will have to be dealt with.
Classic southern deer camps will have issues, too. In my own bug out cabin there could be as many as 4 hunters in house with a couple more coming in to share a meal. The space is tight, but always enjoyable. That atmosphere may have to change dramatically and not for the better. Even work around the skinning rack could be compromised, not to mention inside some shooting houses. Something to think about. What about fall camp work days?
What about traditional duck hunting in blinds, or goose hunting in ground pits? Same issues, too many hunters too close. Camps and lodges will have the same issues. Feeding and delivering hunters to hunting areas could get dicey.
Think about the local economies in all these scenarios. Local diners depending on hunter traffic for food service, and area hunter supply stores hoping for plenty of business and retail sales? It can all get very complicated. The ripple effects could be huge. All hunters should be planning for all of these contingencies now. We should all be praying for a vaccine.
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