41% of Deer Hunters Take At Least One Deer, But States Range From 18 to 71%

January 10, 2024 By: NDA Staff

An average of 41% of deer hunters successfully harvested at least one deer in the 2022-23 hunting season, and 17% took two or more, according to the National Deer Association’s latest Deer Report, released today. These success rates varied widely by state and region, however, and the complete list is included in NDA’s Deer Report.

Download the 2024 Deer Report here

“Multiple deer bag limits are the norm today, and some hunters perceive this as assuring an overharvest of deer,” said NDA Chief Conservation Officer Kip Adams and one of the report’s authors. “However, the reality is only a small percentage of hunters actually fill multiple tags. For example, a license in Georgia allows two bucks and 10 antlerless deer, but nearly half of Georgia’s hunters do not harvest a single whitetail.”

Regionally, the Southeast led the country with 56% of hunters successfully taking at least one deer. The Midwest was next with 40% of its hunters taking a deer, followed by the West (35%) and Northeast (33%). The Southeast also led the country with 26% of hunters shooting two or more deer, followed by the Midwest (14%) and Northeast (11%). State-by-state success rates are included in NDA’s new Deer Report, available for free download to NDA members.

NDA’s latest analysis also reveals the percentage of successful hunters is down from 48% in 2011, marking a 7% decline in just over a decade. Likewise, the national average for hunters harvesting two or more deer decreased from 21% to 17% in that same time period. Overall, hunter success rates have decreased in all U.S. regions, with the Northeast having experienced the largest decline from 2011 to 2022.

Interestingly, the overall deer harvest of nearly 6 million in the 2022-23 season remains near record levels despite lower rates of individual hunter success.

Antlered Buck Harvest

NDA’s new Deer Report includes an estimated 2022-23 antlered buck harvest of 2,958,432, which was the fourth highest in the past 10 hunting seasons and just below the highest buck harvest of the new century set in 2020 (see graph below).

Antlerless Deer Harvest

The estimated antlerless deer harvest of 3,001,563 was up 1% from the previous season and is only the second time the antlerless harvest has topped 3 million deer in the last 10 seasons.

A Few Other Highlights

  • The average percentage of the antlered buck harvest that was 3½ years and older was 42% in 2022. This is the highest percentage ever reported. More than one of every three antlered bucks shot in the U.S. is at least 3½ years old.
  • New Jersey hunters take the highest percentage of deer with archery equipment at 65% of the harvest, while Rhode Island hunters take 42% of their deer with muzzleloading rifles.
  • The major whitetail states in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast combined burn nearly 9 million acres annually with prescribed fire, and the Southeast leads with nearly 6 million of the total.
  • Deer season opens early enough to provide velvet buck harvest opportunity in 39% of states and 67% of Canadian provinces.
  • The use of drones for deer scouting is legal in 11 states, and the use of drones for deer recovery is legal in 13 states. 

NDA’s 2023 Deer Report covers data for the 2022-23 hunting season, the most recent season with complete harvest data available from all major deer states. Complete state-by-state estimates of total buck harvest, buck age structure, and many other harvest parameters are available in the full Deer Report, which also includes a look at numerous other critical issues for deer hunting.