Dissecting the Archery Data from NDA’s 2021 Deer Report

Which state has the longest archery season? How do bowhunters contribute to the national deer harvest? Find out here.
Photo Credit: NDA

Author: Cassie Gasaway

The National Deer Association published its “Deer Report 2021” in January. The 68-page document has tons of facts and statistics about deer and deer hunting. We’re partial to bowhunting and archery information, so we zeroed in on what the report had to say about it. Here’s what we found — and how that data compares with previous Quality Deer Management Association whitetail reports.

The NDA’s “Deer Report 2021” compiles information from all 48 contiguous U.S. state wildlife agencies for their 2019 to 2020 deer seasons. It often groups the information by region, including the Southeast, Northeast, Midwest and West. Please download the report to see the regional breakdown, the archery statistics listed below and other information about hunting in the U.S., including COVID-19’s impacts on the 2020 season.


Archery Season Lengths

The top five states for the longest archery season in 2020 were Rhode Island (177 days), New Jersey (164), Arkansas (156), Delaware (152) and Connecticut (139). Deer hunters in the Midwest enjoy the nation’s longest average season length at 112 days. The report also says 10 of the 13 Midwest states (77%) have archery seasons over 100 days. The Northeast and Southeast had an average archery season of 93 days. The West averaged the shortest archery season at 38 days. The national average archery season in the U.S. is 87 days, whereas the average firearms season runs 37 days.

Compared with the seasons of 10 years ago, all 48 states offered a similar number of, or more, days afield. In fact, nine of 13 Northeast states reported increased opportunity from a decade ago. You can find this information on pages 32 and 33 of the 2021 report.

The stats pictured above reflect the difference between deer harvests by weapon type. Photo Credit: NDA

Higher Archery Deer Harvests

It seems hunters are taking advantage of increased archery opportunities. The report found that archers take 25% of the annual deer harvest, compared with 64% for firearms hunters, 10% for muzzleloader hunters and 1% using other means. The archery harvest is up 2 percentage points from the 2020 and 2019 whitetail reports, which overviewed the 2017 to 2018 and 2018 to 2019 seasons, respectively, and up an additional 8 percentage points from the 2003 report, which found archers took 15% of the annual deer harvest in 2002.

Regionally, bowhunters averaged the highest percentage of the harvest in the Northeast (33%), and Southeast bowhunters took only 16% of the harvest. Individually, New Jersey leads the U.S. in the percentage of total harvest taken by archers (65%), followed by Connecticut (53%), Massachusetts (48%), Ohio (48%) and Illinois (44%). This information can be found on pages 14 and 15. New Jersey also held the top spot for total harvest taken by archers in previous whitetail reports, hovering between 57% and 58% in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 reports.

New Jersey has the second-longest archery season at 164 days, being beaten only by Rhode Island at 177 days. The state’s muzzleloader season is 64 days, and its rifle/shotgun season is 44 days. In most cases, the archery harvest is indirectly proportional to the length of the firearms season. If people can’t gun hunt, they’ll likely pick up a bow instead, causing an increase in archery harvest numbers.

Additionally, New Jersey bowhunters are allowed six antlered bucks and one to unlimited antlerless deer, depending on the Deer Management Zone. Nine other states offer unlimited antlerless opportunities. Bag-limit information for each state is on page 23 of the “Deer Report.”


Crossbow Usage

The “Deer Report 2021” didn’t review the use of crossbows versus vertical bows among the states, but the 2020 report found crossbow harvest exceeded vertical bow harvest in 11 of 25 states (44%) that were able to separate their data.

For more information on crossbow usage and findings, read the National Deer Association’s article “The Facts About Crossbows in the Deer Woods” by Kip Adams.

Visit ASA's data dashboard for real-time updates. Photo Credit: ASA

Other Exciting Industry Statistics

In case you missed the ATA’s announcement at the end of April, the industry is booming!

Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports study in early 2021 found that hunting license sales increased by 5% nationwide from 2019 to 2020, with growth rates varying by region.

Additionally, the American Sportfishing Association worked with the ATA, state fish and wildlife agencies and others to create a free real-time data dashboard that allows states and industry members to get an accurate picture of statewide license sale data and information. The dashboard mirrored the 5% increase in hunting participation and also found license purchases grew 15% for women and 4% for men. Southwick Associates Inc. published an article with several highlights regarding which demographic groups drove the 2020 participation surges.

More recently, a quarterly federal excise tax record was set at $20.4 million for archery equipment. Watch this two-minute video as ATA’s vice president and chief conservation officer Dan Forster talks about the recent USFWS federal excise tax update. This data is an indicator for archery equipment sales and a strong start to the year. It also means more funds are available to state wildlife agencies for conservation.

The ATA receives updates regarding federal excise tax collections from the IRS each quarter. These reports are available exclusively to ATA members. Click here to visit the ATA’s federal excise tax webpage. Then, click “Download FET Collections Table (2010-Present).”


Moving Forward

As interest in bowhunting strengthens and new hunters join our ranks to happily pursue deer with a bow and arrow, ATA members must be available to answer questions, provide advice and guidance and connect newcomers to quality products and mentors.

If you have questions about or need assistance with your business, the ATA can help. Take advantage of your ATA member benefits including advocacy updates, on-demand educational videos, tools that connect your business to conservation, advice and support from ATA staff and MyATA service providers, access to the ATA Trade Show and more. Read ATA’s article “Join or Renew: How an ATA Membership Benefits the Industry and Your Business” for more information. Or, visit the ATA’s membership page.

If you have questions, contact Wendy Lang, ATA’s senior membership manager, at or (866) 266-2776, ext. 103.

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