Special Report

States with the Most Bow Hunters

Karel Bock / iStock via Getty Images

Hunting is an increasingly popular pastime in the United States. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of licensed hunters hit a 35-year high in 2021, topping 15.9 million for the first time since 1987. While the vast majority of hunters use rifles or shotguns, a small subset prefer a more primitive method — bowhunting.

Unlike many hunting rifles, which can harvest game from several hundred yards, bows have a maximum effective range of only about 40 yards. The added challenge, in addition to some states allowing longer hunting seasons for bowhunters, are major draws to the sport.

The National Deer Association, a wildlife and habitat preservation organization, estimates that there were about 3.3 million bowhunters in the U.S. in 2021. Adjusting for population using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, this comes out to about 10 bowhunters for every 1,000 people nationwide. For comparison, there were 48 total licensed hunters for every 1,000 people in the U.S. the same year. But in some parts of the country, bowhunting is far more common than in others.

Using data from the NDA and ACS, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the most bowhunters. We ranked the 40 states with available data on the number of bowhunters for every 1,000 state residents in 2021. Supplemental data on the share of deer harvested with a bow is from the NDA, and the total number of paid hunting license holders by state is from the U.S. FWS.

Depending on the state, the number of bowhunters ranges from about 2,400 to over 330,000. Meanwhile, the concentration of bowhunters ranges by state from about 1 for every 1,000 people to 52 per 1,000.

In many of the highest ranking states on this list, hunting tends to be more popular in general. In five of the 10 states with the highest concentration of bowhunters, the number of licensed hunters for every 1,000 people is more than double the national average. (Here is a look at the most popular American hunting destinations.)

In some parts of the country, bowhunting’s popularity is likely due not only to hunter preference, but also legal restrictions on certain firearms. In Delaware, for example, only rifles that fire straight-wall ammunition can be used to harvest deer, and in Illinois, deer hunting with a rifle was not permitted until 2023 and is now only legal with single-shot rifles. (Here is a look at the 14 most versatile hunting rifles.)

40. Nevada

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 1.0 per 1,000 people (3,121 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 34.0 per 1,000 people (106,861 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 10%

39. Washington

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 1.8 per 1,000 people (14,262 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 23.9 per 1,000 people (185,147 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 9%

38. Colorado

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 2.1 per 1,000 people (11,963 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 63.8 per 1,000 people (370,736 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 7%

37. Rhode Island

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 2.1 per 1,000 people (2,351 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 7.3 per 1,000 people (7,985 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 39%

36. Florida

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 2.9 per 1,000 people (63,407 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 10.0 per 1,000 people (217,113 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 22%

35. Arizona

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 3.7 per 1,000 people (26,631 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 48.0 per 1,000 people (349,554 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: N/A

34. Utah

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 4.0 per 1,000 people (13,304 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 80.3 per 1,000 people (268,075 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 10%

33. Massachusetts

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 4.3 per 1,000 people (30,360 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 8.5 per 1,000 people (59,652 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 48%

32. Connecticut

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 4.5 per 1,000 people (16,094 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 8.5 per 1,000 people (30,807 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 51%

31. Oregon

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 4.7 per 1,000 people (19,855 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 78.1 per 1,000 people (331,475 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 10%

30. New Jersey

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 4.9 per 1,000 people (45,508 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 7.7 per 1,000 people (71,707 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 64%

29. Texas

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 5.7 per 1,000 people (168,301 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 39.6 per 1,000 people (1,170,316 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 11%

28. Maryland

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 5.9 per 1,000 people (36,400 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 18.9 per 1,000 people (116,422 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 35%

27. Wyoming

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 7.0 per 1,000 people (4,063 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 235.3 per 1,000 people (136,205 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 7%

26. South Carolina

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 7.3 per 1,000 people (37,962 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 42.2 per 1,000 people (219,222 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 8%

25. Georgia

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 7.7 per 1,000 people (83,314 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 71.2 per 1,000 people (769,105 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 15%

24. Tennessee

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 8.0 per 1,000 people (55,870 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 104.5 per 1,000 people (728,759 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 13%

23. Delaware

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 10.5 per 1,000 people (10,538 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 16.7 per 1,000 people (16,728 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 20%

22. Virginia

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 10.9 per 1,000 people (94,385 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 29.3 per 1,000 people (253,650 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 14%

21. Maine

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 11.2 per 1,000 people (15,400 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 151.5 per 1,000 people (207,849 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 9%

20. New York

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 12.3 per 1,000 people (244,226 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 28.2 per 1,000 people (560,346 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 28%

19. Illinois

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 13.7 per 1,000 people (173,710 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 22.9 per 1,000 people (289,922 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 45%

18. Kentucky

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 14.0 per 1,000 people (62,923 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 71.3 per 1,000 people (321,347 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 21%

17. Ohio

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 14.7 per 1,000 people (172,947 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 30.6 per 1,000 people (360,421 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 48%

16. Louisiana

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 14.8 per 1,000 people (68,400 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 95.7 per 1,000 people (442,678 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 9%

15. New Hampshire

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 16.3 per 1,000 people (22,616 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 43.6 per 1,000 people (60,629 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 28%

14. Nebraska

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 16.3 per 1,000 people (32,000 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 94.2 per 1,000 people (185,034 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 12%

13. Iowa

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 18.0 per 1,000 people (57,587 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 69.1 per 1,000 people (220,576 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 24%

12. Minnesota

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 18.3 per 1,000 people (104,711 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 96.5 per 1,000 people (550,663 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 13%

11. Alabama

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 19.4 per 1,000 people (97,580 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 100.1 per 1,000 people (504,600 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 21%

10. Kansas

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 19.9 per 1,000 people (58,334 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 86.9 per 1,000 people (255,143 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 47%

9. Pennsylvania

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 25.5 per 1,000 people (331,000 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 73.6 per 1,000 people (953,903 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 35%

8. Mississippi

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 26.5 per 1,000 people (78,254 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 95.9 per 1,000 people (283,021 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 16%

7. Oklahoma

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 29.4 per 1,000 people (117,216 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 125.2 per 1,000 people (499,182 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 31%

6. Michigan

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 30.3 per 1,000 people (304,278 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 65.8 per 1,000 people (660,933 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 32%

5. South Dakota

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 30.7 per 1,000 people (27,445 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 230.4 per 1,000 people (206,316 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 17%

4. Missouri

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 32.9 per 1,000 people (202,726 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 82.7 per 1,000 people (509,963 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 20%

3. North Dakota

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 38.4 per 1,000 people (29,765 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 194.5 per 1,000 people (150,724 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 19%

2. Vermont

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 46.5 per 1,000 people (30,000 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 99.7 per 1,000 people (64,343 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 28%

1. Wisconsin

  • Bowhunters in 2021: 52.1 per 1,000 people (307,450 total)
  • Paid hunting license holders in 2021: 113.6 per 1,000 people (669,813 total)
  • Share of deer harvested with a bow in 2021: 32%

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