With the archery deer hunting season set to kick off this Saturday, Sept. 16 in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D, as well as archery bear in these same units, you aren’t alone as a bowhunter.
According to research numbers from the Archery Trade Association (ATA), there are 3,761,233 bowhunters in the United States. To come up with that head count, the ATA worked with state wildlife agencies and the National Deer Association to determine bowhunting participation numbers in each state for the 2021-22 hunting season. Whether it’s a relatively small number of bowhunters in Hawaii (1,384) or more than 331,000 here in Pennsylvania, the total numbers make it apparent that bowhunting remains significant to the hunting world.
According to the latest stats, there were 15.2 million hunting license holders in all categories in the U.S. All categories include rifles, pistols, shotguns and bow (vertical and horizontal).
It’s worth noting, that the current numbers are being bolstered by younger hunters. That implies that feeder groups lie S3DA and NASP in schools, are doing more than adding seasoned competitors to our junior Olympic teams.
ATA says that according to research by the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, participants ages 6-17 make up 23 percent of all bow hunters. That’s up from 13 percent a decade earlier. Whereas bowhunters 65 and older saw an 8 percent average annual growth. And this could be with the easier to shoot crossbows.
Add to this, the same Council found that 27 percent of hunting participants were female while the number of Black and Hispanic hunters also showed growth.
Interestingly, the biggest takeaways from the Council’s research were that 49 percent of hunters participated before the age of 18, and 68 percent were introduced to hunting by family members.
Another interesting number ATA learned was that in their 2021 state-by-state bowhunter study, the following states had six-digit numbers of bowhunters. They are as follows:
Arkansas, 128,810; Illinois, 173,710; Michigan, 304,278; New York, 244,226; Ohio, 172,967; Oklahoma, 117, 216; Missouri, 202,726; Pennsylvania, 331,000; Texas, 168,301; Wisconsin, 307,450.
It’s apparent from these that Pennsylvania can officially claim to be the bowhunting capital in the USA.
Perhaps one reason for the aforementioned is the number of deer we have. They are all over including places they’re not expected to be. Name a patch of woods, even a fencerow, and there’s a good chance there are deer there. If my one late grandfather who lived in Ironton and traveled to Pike County every season to deer hunt and would rarely see a buck, were alive today, he couldn’t believe there would be deer in his backyard.
My buddy who lives on Buckingham Drive in Salisbury Township near Lehigh Parkway, has deer almost daily in his back yard.
Another friend who lives in Moore Township, came home one recent morning to find a nice buck sitting under his apple tree and another buck sitting by a bush.
Then there’s the small field off MacArthur Road and adjacent to Whitehall Police’s active shooting range. Usually one or two doe can be seen in the morning munching on soybeans. The shooting doesn’t seem to bother them.
Of course there’s also GES Chemicals (formerly Trojan Powder Company), whose huge land holdings are home to a large deer herd that keeps perpetuating.
Again, this is could be why bowhunting is so popular in Pennsylvania and in some cases, residents don’t hear it happening as one landowner I spoke to who allows hunting, put it.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.