Over the last two weeks, an increasing number of states have heavily restricted businesses and travel, with six, so far, going as far as issuing “shelter-in-place” orders that limit travel, business operations and activities to those that are defined as “essential.” Although many of these orders are similarly worded, there are enough differences to leave each gamebird business wondering what exactly the rules are in their state.

A business lockdown the magnitude of what we’re experiencing in America today is unprecedented, which means interpreting the various shelter-in-place orders is new for everyone involved including law enforcement, health departments and more. So far, the orders make allowances for people to travel to obtain food and encourage getting outside and exercise. The orders also specify that businesses related to the food supply chain, including agriculture, are essential.

The combination of all of these factors has led many gamebird businesses to conclude that they are still able to operate. Because state governments have been overwhelmed with a barrage of requests for interpretations from business owners, officials have advised people to read the order and make a determination for themselves as to whether their operation is essential.

Not surprisingly, this is not much of a comfort to hunting preserve operators who would much rather have some specific guidance. Fortunately, though, states do not seem eager to throw the book at businesses that continue to operate as there are widespread reports that law enforcement and health officials are issuing warnings on first time visits.

Two critical items are key to businesses that have decided to remain open. First, the businesses and their customers must maintain strict social distance protocols. Clubhouses must be closed. There should be no food or beverage service. There should be no direct exchange of money or supplies. All transactions should be done through electronic means, over the telephone or through billing. And second, a business must be prepared to explain why they believe the order allows them to continue to operate. In other words, they must explain why their business is essential.

It’s important to remember that most Americans have never considered that our business segment even exists, and this would include law enforcement and health department officials. This makes it vitally important to be prepared to walk them through the aspects of the order in your state that you believe apply to your business, should they pay you a visit. NAGA has already worked with gamebird businesses in Wisconsin and Ohio to provide this information, and we can help you to draft an explanation for your business, too.

While it’s not a binding legal document or opinion, it demonstrates that your business is not simply defying a shelter-in-place order. Instead it shows that you have put real thought into complying with the social distance requirements and how your business fits in with food production and the exercise needs of people and their hunting dogs. Anyone interested in this assistance can contact NAGA’s executive director, Rob Sexton at rob@northamericangamebird.com.