The National Deer Association’s annual Deer Report is out and it contains interesting information on bowhunting trends.
Per usual, the report relies primarily on data from two years prior, as that’s the most recent comprehensive info available from state agencies when NDA compiles their report. Still, it’s very enlightening.
Deer Harvest Trends
Nationwide, bowhunters took 25% of the total deer harvest in 2021. Regionally, the Northeast took top honors accounting for 33%, followed by the Midwest at 28%, the West at 25%, the Southeast at 16% and Canada at 11%. New Jersey led not only the Northeast but the nation with bowhunting accounting for 64% of the total harvest, followed by Connecticut at 51% and Massachusetts at 48%. Next highest were Ohio at 48% and Kansas close behind at 47%. Clearly, bowhunting continues to play a strong role in controlling deer populations more developed states.
It’s probably not surprising that Illinois leads the nation in terms of percentage of bowhunters, at 74%. The First State – Delaware – is second at 67%, followed by Connecticut (66%), Massachusetts (66%) and Ohio (61%). It’s worth noting that the Northeast also had the highest proportion of hunters participating in both archery and muzzleloading seasons, and the highest number of deer hunters per square mile (8).
Crossbow use continues to grow though the growth rate has slowed considerably as they gain more widespread acceptance. Crossbows are now legal in 46 states compared to 21 in 2012.
Crossbow hunters continue to make up a growing proportion of the bowhunting
Of the 45 states that responded to the NDA’s survey, 15 have some limits on what is considered
legal in terms of draw weight and/or size. Eight states have other restrictions on things like bolt
and/or blade size, draw length, safety mechanisms, and limiting use to disabled hunters. Those are some of the bowhunting-specific highlights. Now for some general trends.
Deer Harvest Trends
Not surprisingly, Texas led the nation in antlered buck harvest (447,972) and antlerless deer harvest (379,958). The other top four in buck harvest were Michigan (223,476), Wisconsin (153,112), Pennsylvania (145,320) and Missouri (143,815). Remaining top four on the antlerless side were Pennsylvania (231,490), Alabama (177,842), Michigan (171,583) and Georgia (160,398).
Of particular note, nationwide harvest data showed a slight upturn in terms of percentage of yearling bucks in the antlered harvest for the first time since 2017. However, it was still at 27%, only slightly above the previous year’s record low of 26%. Interestingly, four of the top five states in terms of highest proportion of yearling bucks were all in the Northeast. Meanwhile, four of the top five states in terms of lowest percentage were in the Southeast. There’s lost more info but you’ll have to read the report.
The NDA’s annual Deer Report is the most thorough and comprehensive of its kind. It’s loaded with lots of great information, and is available free from their website at deerassociation.com. While you’re there, consider joining the National Deer Association to help them with their mission of promoting and supporting deer hunters nationwide.