Which State Has The Best Deer Hunters in America?

NY adirondacks 2018 3Hunters in the Southeastern region of the U.S. were the most successful in 2017, with 55% of hunters killing one or more deer, according to the Quality Deer Management Association’s 2019 Whitetail Report.

South Carolina was #1 in the nation, with 69% of hunters shooting at least one whitetail. Mississippi was a close second with 63% hunter success.

42% of hunters across the Midwest shot a deer. The deer-hunting in Michigan, with a 50% success rate, and Ohio (40% success) improved in recent years, while Indiana (35% success) and Iowa (30%) showed declines as compared to 5 years ago.

Not the least bit surprisingly to me, the Northeast remains the toughest place in America to kill a deer, with only 33% of hunters across the region tagging an animal in 2017.

Maine, with a hunter-success rate of only 13%, is the toughest place to kill a deer (much less a good buck) in the nation. That’s one reason I want to go back there and film another BIG DEER TV show.

Deer hunting is not supposed to be easy all the time. And it’s obviously not in beautiful and intriguing Maine, where I hope to be with a camera crew this November, slogging it out and trying to buck the odds to become one of the chosen few 13%.

Click here to download your free copy of the 2019 Whitetail Report, and scroll to page 23 for the hunter-success rate in your state.

qdma 2019 report

Top 10 Deer Bowhunting States

ohio gary nov 8 2018The QDMA’s 2019 Whitetail Report points out that bowhunting for whitetails has never been more popular. In 2002 only 15 percent of the total whitetail harvest in America was taken with archery tackle; that percentage rose to 23 percent in 2017.

Check out these numbers from 2019 report:

The 5 states with the most bowhunters are: 1) Pennsylvania (339,600 bowhunters); 2) Michigan (311,000); 3) Wisconsin (246,211); 4) New York (231,000); 5 Missouri (222,717).

The 6 states with the most bowhunters per square mile are: Pennsylvania (7.6 bowhunters PSM; 2) New Jersey (5.9); 3 Michigan (5.5); 4) New York (4.9): 5) Ohio (4.5); 6) Wisconsin (4.5).

The top 5 states with the highest percentage of annual deer harvest with archery tackle: 1) New Jersey (58% of total deer harvest in 2017); 2) Massachusetts (43%); 3) Ohio (43%); 4) Illinois (39%); 5) Kansas (37%).

I add that all the archery statistics above include both vertical bow (mostly compound) and crossbow. Love it or hate it, no doubt the modern crossbow has increased hunter numbers and the popularity of bowhunting, especially in the Northeast and Midwest.

 

 

 

 

Deer Hunting Tip: Benefits Of Winter Scouting

winter rubIf you’ve got a free day this weekend or next, and if there is no snow on the ground in your area, go back out to the stands you hunted last fall, walk out from them in an ever-widening circular pattern and look for old sign. You will learn a lot about how deer used the terrain, structure, cover and wind when traveling from bed to feed 3 or 4 months ago. You will find spots where bucks rubbed and scraped the most. You will learn if you need to move your stand 50 to 100 yards…or maybe you’re in a good spot and should stay put…or maybe you should pull out of the area all together. All this will double your chances of whacking a big deer when you come back to hunt in 8 or 9 months.

Trails

Cut deer trails near your stands and follow them. They will all lead, if in a roundabout way, to food sources and bedding sites. The freshest trails in the snow, mud or leaves come and go to winter food sources. But older, drier, fainter trails are more important. They lead to and from food sources that deer hit back in the fall and during the rut, when most of your hunting took place. If you missed those trails by 100 yards or so when you hung your stands last fall, move them closer before next season.

As you follow the trails, note how they hug brush, cut through low spots, curve around fence corners—all potential funneling spots for stands next season. Also, use a map, compass and your imagination to visualize how the deer on those trails worked into the predominant wind, especially the closer they got to food sources and bedding areas. The more you can nail down how deer use the common winds in your area, the more bucks you will see and shoot.

Rubs

Take note of every “signpost” you run across in the woods. A dominant buck blazed that monster rub last October or November. A cluster of rubs as thick as your calf is really what you want to find. It is sign that the rubber spent a lot of time in a core area close by. He or another mature buck will be back in there rubbing trees this fall.

I’ve noticed that in some parts of the country, notably the Midwest and Southeast, bucks show a preference for rubbing aromatic cedars or pines. Look for trends like that. For example, if you find that 70 percent of last fall’s rubs were on evergreens, you’re on to something. As you scout, veer over to investigate every green patch or strip, especially those near crop fields, oak flats and creeks. You’ll turn up more and more rubs in those spots. You’ll know where a lot of bucks will hang out and blaze new rubs this fall, and you’ll want to hang some stands there.

Look for a rub-location pattern, too. Suppose you find twice as many scarred trees on the tops of ridges than on the sides or in draws. Well, the resident bucks are “ridge toppers,” and it reveals a travel pattern that they’ll use from September through the late season. Work that into your plan and set most of your stands on ridges and hilltops.

Scrapes

In moderate climates and after the snowmelt up North, old scrapes are visible for months. Look for clusters of scrapes, which are hubs of deer traffic and good spots to hang stands this September. Try to find a scrape line and follow it. Put yourself in a buck’s hooves. Scan the woods ahead and visualize how he prowled for does. See how he worked the wind, hugged brush, cut around points, etc. You might find great new spots for stands…or get a better idea of where to watch for bucks coming and going out of your same stands next November.

Sheds

As you hike on the freshest, muddiest trails between winter feeding areas and bedding sites, look for just-cast antlers. Find a big chunk of 4- or 5-point bone (and both sides if you’re lucky) and you know one thing—a shooter that you saw last season (or maybe you didn’t see him) survived the hunting season, and if doesn’t get hit by a car over the summer, there’s a good chance he’ll be on your land next season.

This all gives you a lot to think about as you analyze the old sign you just found and work it into a fresh hunting plan for the fall of 2019.

Do You Need A Salvage Permit For Deer Skull/Antlers?

tag deerEvery winter and spring shed hunters find and pick up big “deadheads,” and many of them can’t wait to post images of their finds on Facebook or Instagram.

Let me remind you that if you find any size skull with antlers attached in the woods you might—actually you probably– need to obtain a salvage permit (or at least verbal permission) from the state to possess and transport that skull/antlers. You do not need a permit to pick up and possess shed antlers (no skull).

In most states a deadhead—the skull and rack from a buck that died of disease, was hit by a car, or was lost by a bowhunter in the fall—is treated like a roadkill buck, and subject to the same state laws, which in most cases means you need to call a conservation officer or sheriff and get a salvage tag (or official permission) before you move and take possession of the antlers.

States where I can confirm you need a salvage permit, which is usually free and available online, for a deer skull include: Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico, Arkansas, Montana, Washington, Michigan, Idaho, Oregon, North Carolina, and there are certainly many more.

Check your state regulations before you go shed hunting.

Are Crossbow Hunters Killing Too Many Bucks?

crossbow for webBack in 2014, I blogged that Wisconsin was the latest major whitetail state to permit the use of the crossbow during the regular archery season. Since then, the crossbow season in the state has run concurrently with the archery season, typically mid-September through December.

One of the original complaints from traditionalists and vertical bowhunters at the time was that crossbow hunters would kill too many bucks. There is no denying that it is easier (and takes less practice) to kill a deer with a crossbow than with a compound or recurve.

Well, 5 years later, with crossbow technology having increased tenfold, turns out those fears might have been warranted.

WKOW in Madison reports that at a recent Wisconsin Natural Resources Board meeting, Director of Wildlife Management Eric Lobner reported that crossbow hunters today are killing a larger share of bucks.

The solution would be to “reduce your crossbow harvest by 5,000 to 6,000 animals.”

Lobner presented options for changing the crossbow season, such as ending the crossbow hunt earlier than bow season, to starting the crossbow season later, and even to banning the use of crossbows on weekends.

Adding another layer to the controversy, complaints are coming from gun hunters as well as vertical bowhunters. Many gun hunters think crossbow hunters are killing too many bucks during the rut and before firearms season opens, lessening their chances.

At the center of the new crossbow debate is advanced technology. The improved power, range and efficiency of the crossbow combined with the long deer season accounts for the higher buck kill in WI.

Two things complicate this discussion even more: 1) the ongoing loss of people hunting and buying licenses these days; and 2) a concern for adding more red tape and confusion to the hunting regulations.

No doubt that expanded crossbow seasons, in WI and other states, have increased hunter participation and retention. If you restrict crossbow use, you will no doubt lose a number of hunters. With hunter numbers down significantly across the U.S., the hunting and conservation world cannot afford this.

Also, WI DNR data show that complicated and confusing game regulations and red tape drive people away and may reduce the number of people buying a hunting license, saying it’s not worth it anymore.

Upcoming public comment periods and hearings on proposed crossbow season changes are sure to be raucous and controversial, with both crossbow proponents and critics pounding their opinions and positions. And you can bet other state DNRs and hunting clubs are watching what happens in Wisconsin.

The new crossbow debate is back in 2019. How do you feel about it?