Business Blog

A Closer Look at Deer and Big Game Hunter Numbers


Numerous times here at the Realtree Business Blog we’ve examined the size of the hunting market and studied notable trends. Much of that information is based on license sales, which obviously is an indicator of how many hunters take to the woods and fields each fall. However, it’s not clear sometimes whose numbers to follow when you’re trying to assess the size of the market. We covered this quandary here in an earlier blog post.


Another consideration when trying to measure hunter participation is the fact that not all hunters buy a license every year. This is known as hunter “churn,” and we looked more closely at that aspect of counting participants here in separate blog post.


Thanks to some data gathered by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, industry businesses who want to gauge the size of markets based on interest in hunting various species can get some more detailed information. Let’s take a look at some big game participation numbers by species. Then, in future blog posts we’ll examine small game and waterfowl hunting participation as well.


Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first: White-tailed deer are by far the most popular big game animal. But you knew that. How popular? In 2017, according to the NSSF Report, America’s Hunters – A Detailed Look at Demographics and Expenditures, nearly 11 million hunters pursued deer (for the purposes of this study, “deer” also includes mule deer) and they spent more than 167 million days in the woods, averaging 15.5 days per hunter.


Turkey hunters numbered roughly 3.1 million, followed by elk at 866,000, bear at 526,000 and moose at 105,000. For more details, check out the chart below. 


Big Game Deer Hunter Number 2016 | Realtree B2B


While participation in turkey hunting is a distant second to deer hunting, and the other species trail even further behind, that doesn’t mean your marketing efforts toward other types of big game hunting isn’t worthwhile, but it’s nice to have this snapshot of how big your potential customer base is so you can keep things in perspective.


Editor’s Note: Check back here over the coming days and weeks to get additional perspective on small game and waterfowl hunting participation, as well as marketing tips to keep your products noticed and relevant during the upcoming hunting seasons.