Which state is doing the best job of producing white-tailed deer for hunters to hunt? The results might surprise you, because the updated numbers have revealed former stalwarts are now sinking into obscurity while others are rising.
Here’s a glimpse at the numbers. Again, this is about sheer numbers of deer that hunters are taking home — not trophy potential. As with most things in life, hunting is about numbers. There’s strength in hunter numbers, and the best way to keep those numbers up there is to provide ample opportunities (access) and ample game (deer) to see and potentially harvest.
No drum roll needed for the #1 state. They have it figured out in spades.
One more preface: These numbers are 5-year averages from 2014 to 2018. This year’s stats will be included in the 2021 Deer Hunters’ Almanac®.
Rank Harvest (rounded off in thousands)
- Texas 737K
- Georgia 358K
- Michigan 345K
- Pennsylvania 338K
- Wisconsin 307K
- Missouri 274K
- Alabama 255K
- Mississippi 249K
- New York 217K
- Arkansas 205K
- Texas is a gun-hunting powerhouse, having notched gun-deer harvests in excess of 800K deer annually in each of the past two seasons.
- Wisconsin is sinking like a stone — due mainly to overzealous population management (hunters are issued 3 free doe tags with every license purchased, and additional tags can be purchased for a small fee.) Wisconsin set the national record for an annual deer harvest in 2000 when hunters bagged 618,274 deer (Texas has since eclipsed that mark twice). This year’s Wisco gun-deer harvest is the lowest on record since 1980. Wisconsin hunters can expect an average annual harvest of about 265K deer over the next several years — about half of what this former #1 state produced for more than 21 years beginning in the late 1980s.
- Michigan’s #2 ranking is tenuous at best. With the elimination of baiting and feeding statewide, expect the state’s harvest to plummet from last year’s mark of 360,666. Michigan had nearly 1.1 million deer hunters in 2000. Only 602,000 people bought licenses last year, and early reports from 2019 indicate another loss of about 20,000 hunters.
- Georgia, Missouri and Alabama are three states that have shown remarkable consistency in the number of deer hunting licenses sold and the number of deer harvested over this 5-year reporting period.
- States not making the list that show promise include: South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana and Kentucky.
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