NDA’s Deer Report: Private vs. Public Land Harvest Numbers

By Brodie SwisherJanuary 27, 20232 Comments

The NDA Deer Report always proves to be an insightful look at the current state of deer hunting numbers across the country. The report covers a wide spectrum of information pertaining to population trends, age class, harvest numbers, and much more. One interesting portion of the report covers the number of deer killed on private land in contrast to the number of deer killed on public lands each year. 

Check out that portion of the report below to give you a closer look at how private land and public stack up when it comes to the harvest data for each. 

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NDA's Deer Report shows an interesting look at the numbers for success on private and public lands.

An average of 88% of state white-tailed deer harvests occur on private land, according to the National Deer Association’s latest Deer Report, released this week. Texas reported the highest rate of private-land deer harvest at 99%, while Massachusetts reported the highest rate of public-land harvest at 43%.

“Most of America’s 600 million acres of public land are in the West, yet proportionally few hunters are residents of those states,” said NDA Chief Conservation Officer Kip Adams and one of the report’s authors. “Most whitetails live in the eastern states along with most hunters, and this new data underscores the conservation importance of habitat management and deer hunting on private land.”

Nda's Deer Report: Private Vs. Public Land Harvest Numbers

NDA’s new Deer Report includes an estimated 2021-22 season deer harvest of more than 5.9 million. So it follows that an estimated 5.2 million of those whitetails were taken on private land compared to just over 700,000 on public land – more than seven times as many. Regionally, the rate of private-land harvest included 93% in the Southeast, 91% in the Midwest, and 81% in the Northeast. Complete state-by-state data is available in the full report.

“This is not to diminish the importance of public hunting land,” said Adams. “We need to acquire more public hunting land in the east, and we need to better manage the habitat on existing public land. But for hunter recruitment, herd management, and all the ways we want to protect and improve deer hunting, we need to understand most of those opportunities will be on privately owned acres.”

In a related finding of the new Deer Report, 27 out of 47 states (57%) offer a private-land hunting access program. The greatest opportunity for new programs is in the Southeast, where only three out of 11 states offered such programs in 2022, and where 93% of the deer harvest is on private land.

Other Deer Report Highlights:

  • 66% of deer taken in the 2020-21 season were killed with a firearm, compared to 25% with archery equipment and 9% with a muzzleloader.
  • Texas boasts the most deer hunters in the nation (756,000), but ranks very low in deer hunters per square mile at 2.9. Pennsylvania has the highest number of deer hunters per square mile at 14.4, followed by New York (12.0), Wisconsin (11.4), New Jersey (10.5) and Michigan (9.5).
  • 74% of Illinois deer hunters hunt with archery equipment, the highest rate in the nation. Massachusetts has the most muzzleloader deer hunters at 70%.
  • 12 out of 31 reporting states allow holders of crop depredation permits to take antlered bucks any time of year, under any circumstances, using the permits.
  • Every state wildlife agency in the Lower 48 states uses Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to communicate with constituents. Eight of the 48 use TikTok. 

What about you? Did you kill deer on private or public land this year? Or both? Comment below, and let us know.

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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