Is Deer Hunting Better Today than Five, 10, or 20 Years Ago? NDA Members Respond

October 8, 2018 | by National Deer Alliance

In our October 3, 2018 survey, we asked hunters of various experience levels whether or not they felt that deer hunting is now better, worse, or the same as it was over the last five, 10, or 20 years. While there was some variation in the responses based on experience, each group leaned toward hunting being either better, or at least as good as what they were used to earlier in their careers. That’s a good thing, and we’re happy to see that result.

Our final question was focused on the future of deer hunting as we asked our members if they thought hunting his trending in a positive or negative direction, or if it was more or less staying the same. More than half indicated that deer hunting is trending in a positive direction, while less than 25% feel it is trending negatively. Less than 10% believe it is neither trending in a positive or negative direction, while about 12% reported being unsure. Here is some specific feedback from our members on the matter.

Trending Positive

  • About 20 years ago I would go out and see 25 does per hunt, but wasn't allowed to shoot them and would rarely see a yearling buck, which was normally shot on sight. Now the heard is so much better balanced for sex ratio as well as carrying capacity of the land. Seeing a two- or three-year old buck now is nearly as common as seeing a yearling buck was 20 years ago. Overall heard health seems more balanced and healthy.
  • The quality of herd management is far superior and has ensured the health of our deer population. Yes, technology and equipment has advanced significantly as well. However, the core feeling, passion for hunting, and my beliefs have remained unchanged since I started deer hunting in 1975. I am still an avid hunter today with far more flexibility of how, where, and when I hunt as a direct result of the noted improvements.
  • There's better science behind deer management today. We know much more about deer behavior and biology than we ever did. Deer numbers are not what they used to be, but higher deer populations are not a good thing biologically. Higher deer population is good for hunting (especially youth), but not good for the species as a whole.

 Trending Negative

  • Today's focus seems to be more on quality bucks and only bucks. There are still many hunters who hunt for meat and the enjoyment of family and friends. We don't pass on 8-pointers that are "only" two-years old. I don't watch many hunting shows for such reasons.
  • The trend is negative in large part because of the decline in hunter numbers and the increased difficulties associated with hunting (land access, lack of mentors, etc.). The spread of CWD is creating a complication that is negative in many respects - for deer, for hunters, for meat processers, and for landowners.
  • Politics and public opinion is now dictating deer management instead of biology. The trend toward mandatory antler point restrictions versus voluntary restrictions is taking away the freedom to choose, which is taking away from the enjoyment of being able to hunt the way individuals choose to. Where mandatory antler restrictions are in effect, some hunters are going elsewhere, or choosing not to hunt!

Neither Positive or Negative, or Unsure

  • I think deer management is trending in a positive direction.  Deer hunting is trending in a somewhat negative direction in terms of hunter numbers, land access, and the fact that the deer camps and group hunting is going down due to land access issues. Hunting is becoming a more selfish and solitary pursuit.
  • I feel a lot more people are trying to manage deer herds, not just antlers size. But in some ways I feel like a lot of people are losing the enjoyment of just being in woods, and with social media everyone feels they must kill monster buck to fit in, and are embarrassed if they kill a young, small buck. If it's a trophy in their eyes it shouldn't matter what someone on Facebook thinks.
  • I think in some aspects of deer hunting and management is trending in a positive direction for sure, such as better management practices on the land, creating food plots, and more hunters caring about the deer they are hunting. However, there are many hunters that just don't care and don't take deer hunting seriously or fairly for all hunters, and I am afraid will not really follow the new CWD laws being implemented by states.

We received nearly 400 comments from our members on this issue, and the above responses largely represent the feelings of most who responded. Of course, a hunter’s personal situation has a lot to do with their enjoyment of the sport. One thing is for sure, and that is deer hunters are passionate about their sport, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.