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Who Is the Modern American Deer Hunter?

Today's deer hunters aren't quite like those of the past. Here are a few reasons why and how.

Who Is the Modern American Deer Hunter?

The author poses with a nice Kentucky buck.

Season after season, elements of deer hunting remain the same. But each year, things change, too. Throughout the decades, it’s led to a very different deer hunter than those of the 20th century, and even the earliest days of the 21st. So, who is the modern American deer hunter?

Is: Using More Technology

Modern deer hunting is loaded with advanced tech. Improved firearms and scopes. Better bows and accessories. Cellular trail cameras. Incredible optics. Even apps are a big part of modern deer hunting. AccuWeather, DeerCast, HuntStand, onX, Weather Underground and many others are routinely implemented by hunters. Not to mention apps associated with wildlife agencies designed to check in wild game harvests, among other things. Plus, don’t forget about all the cellular camera apps that hunters use.

Is Not: Gaining Access to More Lands Than in the Past

As time goes on, deer hunters are gaining access to smaller and fewer tracts of land. Properties in America are smaller and more fragmented than ever before. And larger properties that remain intact are routinely locked up by landowners that don’t allow hunting or hunt the land for themselves. As a result, hunters are gaining access to fewer and fewer acres.

Is: Gaining Access to More and Better Information

A good aspect of modern deer hunting is access to more and better information. Just think of the deer hunting myths that hunters use to believe in. There are dozens of these that we used to subscribe to, but no longer do thanks to quality whitetail research efforts. Because of this, the modern deer hunter is equipped with more accurate info than ever before.

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While most modern deer hunters are treestand or ground blind hunters, some still use the still-hunting method.

Is Not: Maintaining Traditions

Some traditions that used to dominate the deer hunting landscape are dwindling, and rather quickly. Deer camps of old are less common than they once were. General woodsmanship is fading from hunter skillsets. Tracking, still-hunting and other tactical knowledgebases are diminishing, too. You’d be hard-pressed to find a newly built wooden treestand. And deer check stations only recently resurged to monitor the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Is: Shifting Consumer Habits

Each year, hunters continue to adapt and change what they spend money on. These shifts in consumer habits result in new products emerging, and older products becoming obsolete. Still, of course, obvious staple items remain top sellers.

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Modern deer hunters enjoy many elements of the hunt, including the pursuit of mature deer.

Is Not: Shooting as Many Younger Bucks

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Each year, states report fewer young bucks taken in the annual harvest. Consequently, more older-age-class bucks are being harvested. For those hoping to shoot bigger bucks, this is a good thing. Furthermore, it’s a good thing for the deer herd. A balanced age structure is what nature intended.

Is: Spending More Money

While deer hunters are adapting how they spend their hunting-allocated dollars, it’s clear that the average deer hunter is spending more than even in the recent past. This is mostly due to rising costs, but also increasing commitment from deer hunting’s core base.

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Many deer hunters are land managers with an emphasis on improving habitat for wildlife.

Is Not: Using as Many Trail Cameras on Public Lands

States continue to limit the use of trail cameras on public lands. Some states, such as Arizona and Kansas, completely banned the use of cameras on public ground. Other states limit the use of these on various levels of regulation.

Is: Using More Trail Cameras Than Ever on Private Lands

On the flip side, private land deer hunters are using more trail cameras than ever before. This is an increasing trend as hunters who still have access to private property ramp up the number of cameras deployed. Likewise, they continue to increase the number of cell cams afield, too.

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Shed hunting is a major part of modern deer hunting culture.

And Some Deer Hunters Are Quitting Altogether

Unfortunately, many deer hunters are leaving the lifestyle altogether. There are many reasons for this. Some are clear, others are not. Commonly known reasons that deer hunter numbers appear to be declining:

  • Money and the economy are getting tighter.
  • People aren’t mentoring as much anymore.
  • Other hobbies are getting in the way.
  • Agricultural development, urban sprawl and other habitat destruction.
  • Rising land access challenges.
  • Dwindling public lands and quality of public lands.
  • Declining deer population densities and health.
  • Convoluted hunting laws.
  • Increasing competition.
  • Unrealistic goals and expectations.
  • They’re aging out.
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The modern deer hunter practices with their weapon frequently.

“For those of us who are seasoned hunters, we need to be aware that what we have enjoyed for years is in danger,” said Travis Sumner, a long-time outdoor industry vet. “We all need to get involved and offer opportunities for hunters to become mentors.”

Of course, some individuals, but especially organizations, are working to grow hunter ranks. “We operate as a hunting camp for first-time adult hunters through our Field to Fork program,” said Hank Forester with the National Deer Association. “We have private landowners exploring similar models, and we’ve found success connecting NDA branches with unleased timberlands for new hunter outreach.

“Community-based programs are our best path forward for organized mentoring,” he continued. “We bring together groups of local hunters who are willing to mentor, sharing their knowledge, time, equipment, and access.”

As expected, deer hunters are changing. In some ways, for the better. In others, maybe not so much. But everything always changes with time. That much we know. And all we can do is work together to keep deer hunting as good as it can be for deer and deer hunters alike.




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