Outside my window, I see a group of wild turkeys. And then I think, “Would I shoot a turkey?”

I’ve never had food anxiety. But I’m experiencing it now.

Living in Montana I’m naturally surrounded by hunters, ranchers, and farmers. People shoot animals. People raise livestock. And people grow food. But not me. Sure, my husband hunts, but he’s not here. Sure, we have a freezer full of meat, but it won’t last forever. 

My husband is what the government calls an essential worker. He’s out working on the railroad, making sure commodities continue moving. He’s three hours away in western Montana on a traveling railroad gang living out of a camper. Maintaining train track. Shoveling ballast. Swinging a sledge hammer. And me? I’m working from home as a part-time magazine editor in rural Montana. And I’m 15 minutes from the nearest grocery store.

I’ve admired the turkeys roaming the valley for years. But today I see them differently. I see food.

Outside my window, I see a group of wild turkeys. The male is puffed up. It’s mating season. I’ve admired the turkeys roaming the valley for years. But today I see them differently. I see food. My yard has food in it. Perhaps it’s the pandemic. Perhaps it’s because it’s lunch time. But a part of me is relieved. Even if I can’t get to the grocery store I won’t starve. 

And then I think, “Would I shoot a turkey?” “Could I shoot a turkey?” I have YouTube. I have a gun. I have ammo. But I don’t have a hunting license. And I don’t even know if turkeys are in season. Is it legal? Do normal laws apply during a global pandemic? If I’m actually starving, could I ethically shoot a turkey without a license? I would like to think no. It’s a firm no. But what if my hunger becomes real? I don’t know what starvation feels like. 

Suzanne and husband, Joe, pose for a selfie while on a kayaking trip in Fall 2019. (April 2020)

Suzanne Downing

Suzanne and husband, Joe, pose for a selfie while on a kayaking trip in Fall 2019.

Having these thoughts makes me realize how my relationship with food has changed in the past month. Living under a stay-at-home order from the government feels so strange. Hiding out from an invisible virus feels even stranger. It’s mentally exhausting. And it’s just weird. Everything about normal is now not normal. And not normal is now the new normal.

I want to get in my car and go to Costco. It was my old normal. Fresh peppers and avocado were always easy to come by without risk. Have I become too dependent on others to provide for me? What would Ma Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie think of me? She did pioneer chores all day without electricity or running water. I have high speed Wi-Fi. I don’t have a cow to milk or a garden to harvest, and I’m looking out my window contemplating if I would or could shoot a turkey.

I’ve never had food anxiety. But I’m experiencing it now. Hundreds of thousands of people have been attacked by the Covid-19 virus and my heart goes out to the families suffering the loss of loved ones. Although my husband is away from home, he’s working hard to keep America running. He’s essential. I get it. But I miss him and I wish he was here to hold me and to teach me how to shoot a turkey.

An overhead view of Suzanne's freezer filled with pike, pork, cattle, deer, and elk meat. (April 2020)

An overhead view of Suzanne’s freezer filled with pike, pork, cattle, deer and elk meat.

Suzanne Downing is an outdoor writer and photographer in Montana with an environmental science journalism background. She likes eating freeze-dried "astronaut's" ice cream on hikes and believes that you’re never truly dressed without a smile.