Jim Bennett

The Deer Shack is no more. Our residence for the Wisconsin deer season, an old mobile home in the woods with no water or electricity, was sold by the owner right before the deer opener. We are now a homeless bunch of deer hunters and the deer season is just around the corner. We are definitely not the first deer hunters to lose a shack or land. Land changes hands and what once was a family farm can quickly become a housing development. The good old days on the family farm are long gone. Farmers I knew as a kid grew old and sold their farms. I used to laugh at hunting public land but for the last 10 years I’ve called public land home and enjoyed it.

So how many hunters are out there?  Which states have the most hunters? According to Realtree, Texas has around a million hunters followed by Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with around 700,000, then by Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma and Georgia with around 400,000. Hunter numbers are dropping slightly but shooting sports numbers have remained constant over the years. Currently Realtree reports that there are over 63 million people who fling arrows, send lead at targets or hunt. Target archery has nearly 8 million participants with almost a quarter of those being teenagers. There are 6.2 million bow hunters with 1.5 million women involved. Target shooters with handguns, rifles and shotguns come in at around 20 million with nearly 6 million women blasting away at targets.

Texas is hands down the leader in deer hunting with well over a million hunters, followed by Pennsylvania 969,000 hunters, Michigan 763,000, Tennessee at 727,000 Wisconsin 717,000 Minnesota 592,000 New York 535,000 Alabama 507,000 and Missouri at 496,483. Although numbers are not as high as they once were, those are still great numbers out in the field living off the land.

As far as harvest reports go, Texas leads the way with nearly 650,000 deer taken, followed by Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with well over 300,000 deer harvested. Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas and Virginia with over 200,000 deer taken make up the top 10. Next comes New York, South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Minnesota, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana and West Virginia with a 200,000 (plus or minus) annual harvest. That adds up to 336 million pounds of meat or 1.34 billion meals. At $9 a pound the venison harvest provides an economic impact of over $3.02 billion.

As far as the Deer Shack goes, I found a nice cabin for rent on Airbnb. It’s on a lake that is loaded with fish according to the DNR fishery reports I could find. And to say this rental cabin is an improvement over no running water or electric and an outside biffy at the old Deer Shack pales in comparison. It’s someone’s palace on a lake with heat, water, showers, full kitchen, decks, and patios and all for $100 a night. Exactly what we paid and had on 40 acres before. Thank you, Bee, in advance and it’s only 20 miles from Deer Mountain.

Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at jamesbennett24@gmail.com

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