Why it Matters: Across the Midwest, firearm deer hunting seasons are among the most anticipated hunting seasons every year. Due to both the timing of many rifle seasons in relation to the white-tailed deer rut and the opportunities that rifle hunting can afford, hunters across the country count down the days until they can hit the field for their chance at filling deer tag. As firearm seasons start to wind down across much of the region, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) reflects upon these seasons and what they mean for sportsmen and sportswomen.
- Firearm White-tailed deer hunting seasons often interest hunters of all ages and skillsets thanks to both the timing of the season and the forgiving nature of hunting with a method of take with a long effective range.
- In many states, most deer harvested in the fall will be harvested during firearms seasons, with a large proportion of those harvests taking place during the opening days of the seasons.
- In addition to providing critical harvest information regarding the health of a state’s deer population, harvest data and post-season surveys can also be used to estimate participation rates and the success of R3 efforts.
White-tailed deer hunting is one of the most important reasons that many sportsmen and women consider fall to be the most anticipated season every year. This is particularly true for hunters who participate in firearms hunting seasons across the Midwest. In preparation for rifle season, hunters spend countless hours scouting, hanging stands, tuning their gear, and sighting in their scopes for a chance to harvest a deer. While the archery season can be intimidating to some hunters, firearm hunting seasons can provide hunters with better odds to successfully harvest a deer given both the timing of the season in relation to the rut and the increased effective range of many firearms when compared to archery equipment.
In most states, firearm deer hunting seasons boast the greatest harvest rates throughout the year. In fact, most states actually report that most deer harvested in a given year are harvested during firearm seasons, often with the bulk of that harvest taking place during the opening weekend of season. Data collected as hunters report their harvests allow state fish and wildlife agencies to evaluate the status of their state’s deer herd and make the necessary adjustments needed to ensure that, by relying on hunting as the preferred population management tool, the population remains healthy and sustainable for future generations. This reliance on hunting to manage deer populations is particularly important given the growing threat posed by Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) throughout the nation. In fact, Missouri recently ended the state’s first ever extended firearms CWD season in certain high-risk counties throughout the state, resulting in an additional harvest of more than 11,000 deer which reduces deer densities and reduces the likelihood for animal-animal spread of the disease.
State fish and wildlife agencies, when compared to historic datasets, can use harvest reports and surveys to evaluate participation rates among hunters. In the face of declining participation in hunting throughout the nation, coupled with shifting perspectives on hunting among the general public, this data is critical for states as they seek to improve their recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts. To learn more about participation trends in your area, as well as things that each of us can do to promote our time-honored outdoor traditions, visit your state’s fish and wildlife agency’s website, and stay informed. More importantly, take someone new hunting every chance you get!