Editors Blog

Schmidt: This is Deer Hunting’s Age of Opportunity

Never before in our history have we seen such liberal seasons, bag limits and methods in which to go afield in search of whitetails. Some might argue the merits of certain seasons and tools (I’ll never call them “weapons”), but this is not the time nor place for that discussion.

I took this Nebraska buck while hunting with a crossbow last season. Ten years ago I though I’d never hunt with a crossbow. Today, I enjoy going afield with it just as much as I do with my compound bow. And my muzzleloader. And rifle. You get the point! (Photo courtesy of Mark Sidelinger)

As we approach summer and also our country’s birthday, I urge everyone to celebrate the freedoms, efficiencies and technologies at our disposal as modern hunters. The trends for 2018 begin with three methods of deer hunting that were all considered ancillary forms of pursuit just 25 years ago: archery, muzzleloading and crossbow hunting. Let’s take a look at where all three are today:

1. Bowhunting

It really wasn’t that long ago when hunting with a bow and arrow was considered an activity reserved for leisurists who had a negligible effect on deer populations. Although gun season is still the big hammer as far as overall deer harvests are concerned, today’s vertical bowhunters (mostly compound bowhunters) are responsible for about 20 percent of the annual harvest. In states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and New York, this means bowhunters are putting up anywhere from 40,000 to 120,000 deer per state per year.

2. Crossbow Hunting

I’ll put crossbows in their own category for the sake of this column, but it’s time to end this silly separation. Crossbow hunting is here to stay, and it is the modern hunter’s form of bowhunting in much the same way that compound bowhunting was to the archers of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The trend that showed up in Wisconsin this past year — where crossbow hunters and harvest outnumbered vertical bowhunters for the first time in state history — is one that is about to take over North America. And for good reason: The average age for all bowhunters in North America is creeping toward the 40-year-old mark.

3. Muzzleloading

Hunting with a front-loader is no longer a novelty, as more than 2.9 million hunters go afield with one each year. Again, it’s all because of our forward-thinking game departments that have forged new seasons for such tools.

When you add in the 4.5 million bowhunters, these alternative forms of deer hunting have allowed whitetail managers to spread out pressure and keep up with burgeoning deer populations, especially in fringe farmland areas that don’t draw enough hunters during the regular firearms seasons. Weed out the guys and gals who “do it all,” and you’re left with about 3.5 million folks who hunt only with a centerfire rifle, shotgun or handgun. The methods they employ really haven’t changed much over the generations, but the tools and accessories they use surely have changed.

Check out those new technologies deeper on this website, in our print magazine, and within our three television shows on Pursuit Channel. Then follow up by visiting the websites listed for these manufacturers.

This isn’t about becoming a gadgeteer. It’s about finding that one extra improvement to your current setup that will help you derive more enjoyment from the hunt.

Study Spotlights Most Effective Media For Outdoors Entertainment

Despite shifts from magazine, radio and television advertising to digital, mobile and social ads by many outdoor companies, research shows that the swing to new media and mobile is akin to leaving fish to find fish. “Outdoor Life, Media Usage & Economics by Generation,” a 22-page report released April 2018 by blue-chip independent media consultant Brad Adgate, frames America’s population around each group’s economic reality, media consumption and recreational preferences, building a strong case that new media ad placement remains an anemic alternative to traditional media.

With its focus on hunt-fish-shoot, the findings are must-read for businesses working in the outdoor space. It uses stark objectivity to show the financial challenges faced by mid- to late-Millennials and Generation Z, the world’s wholesale adopters of everything digital. Taking all of the data from this research project into account, readers may discover this excerpt, which speaks pointedly to media consumption: “The largest study on advertiser’s ROI came from the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF).

The study measured over 5,000 ad campaigns using 12 years of data that totaled over $375 billion in spending. “ARF found that when advertisers drop traditional media for digital, the result was a decline in sales. ARF offered recommendations: investing in a number of platforms instead of shifting from platform to platform; adding traditional media to digital to boost ROI; and using traditional media and new media, to reach millennials.”