If you’re not a bowhunter (I’m not), there’s a good chance you might underestimate the number of people who are.
According to the latest numbers from the Archery Trade Association, there are 3,761,233 bowhunters in the United States. That’s decidedly not a small number - unless you’re a Congressman talking about the federal budgets. To them, it’s a statistically insignificant rounding error. If you’re still reading, you’re likely not one of our fiscally irresponsible legislators.
To come up with that head count, the ATA worked with state wildlife agencies and the National Deer Association to determine bowhunting participation numbers in each state for the 2021-22 hunting season.
Whether it’s the relatively small number of bowhunters in Hawaii (1,384) or the more than 331,000 in Pennsylvania, the total numbers make it apparent that bowhunting remains significant to the hunting world.
According to the latest stats I have seen (2021), there were 15.2 million hunting license holders in all categories in the United States. “All categories” including rifles, pistols, shotguns and bows (vertical and horizontal).
“This is the most reliable single-source of bowhunting participation data generated to date,” says the ATA’s President and CEO, Jeff Poole. “We are pleased to share this information and know the data serves as a benchmark to inspire growth nationwide.”
And it’s worth noting that the current numbers are being bolstered by younger hunters. That implies that “feeder groups” like S3DA and the NASP are doing more than adding seasoned competitors to our junior Olympic teams.
In fact, Dan Forster of ATA tells me that according to research by the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports , “participants ages 6 to 17 made up 23 percent of all bow hunters.” According to Forster, that’s a “marked improvement from 13 percent a decade earlier.”
How statistically significant? The only other group (adult age cohort if you speak “research”) to grow its participant numbers was bow hunters age 65 and older. “Mature hunters,” he wrote, “saw an 8 percent average annual 3-year growth.”
That doesn’t mean the numbers weren’t positive for other groups, just smaller. The Council to Advance Hunting and The Shooting Sports’ research says that twenty-seven percent of hunting participants were female. Numbers of Black and Hispanic hunters also showed growth.
To me, the biggest takeaways from the Council’s research were the facts that forty-nine percent (49%) of hunters participated before the age of eighteen; and sixty eight percent (68%) were introduced to hunting by family members.
That means that not only are the traditions of hunting and shooting being passed on; they’re being offered to people who might have felt unwelcome or ignored before. As we’ve written before, there’s room in the tent for everyone.
Seems word’s still getting around.
We’ll keep you posted. No joke.
— Jim Shepherd
Editor’s Note: Here for your reference are the bowhunting totals in an easy-to-reference guide from the Archery Trade Association.