That’s a fairly simple (and common question), but it has never been readily available. The number of deer hunters in the U.S. is a moving target, pardon the pun, because it fluctuates annually, and it really depends on who you’re asking (think government spin). Well, I’m here to tell you the answer, and you might be surprised.
There’s definitely strength in numbers, and the number of deer hunters in the United States reflects this notion. As a percentage of the population, deer hunters make up 3.35% of this country’s vast melting pot. A drop in the bucket? I don’t think so. Hey, line those guys and gals up shoulder-to-shoulder, and you’d see quite the army of camo-and-blaze-clad civilians.
Heading into fall 2020, there are about 11.4 million deer hunters in the United States. More specifically, there are about 9.4 million people who hunt deer with both gun and bow, and an additional 2 million who hunt deer only with bow (that includes all archery). If you are a casual reader, do not misread these numbers. I’m going to get geeky here, so keep reading for more specific numbers.
Another interesting fact: more than 2.3 million hunters go afield with an MR-15 rifle or other similar modern sporting rifle when pursuing white-tailed deer. According to the NSSF, The term “modern sporting rifle,” aka MSR, was coined to describe today’s very popular semi-automatic rifle designs, including the AR-15 and similar variants. These rifles are used by hunters, competitors, millions of Americans seeking home-defense guns and many others who simply enjoy going to the range.
Again, there are 11.4 million deer hunters in the U.S. This includes 4.63 million bowhunters. We are just talking deer here; this doesn’t include elk, bears, moose, sheep, turkeys, ducks, geese, other small game, etc.
READ MORE: TOP 10 DEER HUNTING STATES
Each year since 1995, as part of my job here at America’s first whitetail-specific media source, I’ve tracked whitetail hunter trends in North America. After crunching the numbers compiled for our 2021 Deer Hunters’ Almanac®, I’m pleasantly surprised that the overall number of deer hunters in the United States has risen from the oft-cited “11 million deer hunters” that has been used for decades in the popular press. Here’s a closer look:
As of this writing, there are 9,110,064 whitetail gun-hunters in the U.S., per data provided to Deer & Deer Hunting by biologists from the 44 states we consider whitetail states. The states not included in our annual roundup include: Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Hawaii, California and Alaska. Knowing full well that those states also harbor deer and deer hunting opportunities (mainly mulies, blacktails and axis deer) I compiled the numbers for those six and came up with an additional 299,725 deer hunters. This would put the official U.S. total at 9,409,789 gun-deer hunters. Please note that also reflects the number of bowhunters who also hunt with a gun during a firearms season.
It is well-documented that the U.S. is home to 4.63 million deer bowhunters. Again, deriving the nation’s total number of deer hunters isn’t as easy as adding the gun-hunting total to the bowhunting total because a lot of guys and gals do both. Also, several states do not delineate between who only gun-hunts, who only bowhunts, and who does both. After closely studying this topic for 26 years, I’ve come to conclusion that approximately 44% of bowhunting deer hunters do not gun-hunt. That would put the bowhunting-only total at about 2,037,200 hunters, and the bow-and-gun total at 2,592,800 hunters (4.63 million total).
Total Number of Deer Hunters in the US: 11.4 million
Hunters who only hunt with a firearm: 9.36 million
Hunters who only hunt with archery: 2.04 million
Hunters who hunt with both bow and gun: 2.59 million
Total deer bowhunters: 4.63 million
In the final analysis, don’t believe the fake-news hype that deer hunting is somehow dead in America. Hardly. If we weren’t in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, we deer hunters could march to Dallas and take turns filling up AT&T Stadium — 108.5 times. Let that sink in for a minute.
— Daniel Schmidt is vice-president of Media 360 LLC. He joined Deer & Deer Hunting in 1995 and was named editor-in-chief in 2001. He is host of the Deer Talk Now online show and Deer & Deer Hunting TV on Pursuit Channel.