Part 7 of 9: Where Do You Hunt Out-of-State Each Season?
For those who aren’t aware, license sales foot (most of) the bill for conservation. A host of other things such as excise taxes and grants help fund it, too. But, by in large, it’s the direct sale of licenses, tags and other state-required documentation that keeps the lights on for deer, deer hunters and deer hunting.
Within those states, most or all of them allow non-resident hunting. The catch — those traveling into the state (who reside elsewhere) have to pay a steeper fee than in-state hunters. That’s reasonable and expected. That said, many controversial topics surround non-resident deer hunting each year. One of those is pricing. This was a primary focus in the Quality Deer Management Association’s (QDMA) 2019 Whitetail Report.
“Resident hunters often complain that non-resident fees are too low and thus too inviting for non-residents to intrude on their hunting land, or that a large portion of hunters in the woods are from other states or provinces,” QDMA said. “Non-resident hunters often complain their fees are too high and thus uninviting for them to pump dollars into rural economies. Regardless of which side of this discussion you sit on, realize most state agencies are funded primarily by license revenues. Wildlife is a public resource to be enjoyed by all, but unfortunately not funded by all. Hunters are the backbone of wildlife management programs and they (we) fund the lion’s share of our wildlife agency budgets.”
Regardless of which side you sit on, the takeaway is that license sales are good. And money derived from this revenue source directly benefits wildlife. No re-channeling of money. No redistribution from a general fund. No grants. It’s the best and most direct way to get money into the hands of wildlife officials conducting boots-on-the-ground work. But I digress.
The point here today — determine where non-resident hunters are the most prominent today. And the data tells us a lot. Most importantly, there are clear hotspots, and overlooked ones, within each region. Here are the highest and lowest percentages of non-resident deer hunters by state and region.
Total Percentage of Non-Resident Hunters By Region
West: 19 percent
Southeast: 11 percent
Northeast: 11 percent
Midwest: 8 percent
Canada: 2 percent
Top States with the Highest Percentage of Non-Resident Hunters
Colorado: 35 percent
Wyoming: 30 percent
Arkansas: 29 percent
Kansas: 27 percent
Mississippi / Rhode Island: 18 percent
In the Southeast, Arkansas was the clear-cut, most-popular destination for non-residents with 29 percent. Mississippi (18), Alabama (13), Oklahoma (13) and Georgia (12) rounded out the top five for the region. Arkansas and Mississippi aren’t shockers, either. Good bucks are to be had in each state, and significant percentage of the buck harvests in these states are comprised by 3 ½-plus-year-old deer. On the flip side, states that had extremely low percentages of non-resident hunters were Florida (2), Texas (3), Louisiana (4) and North Carolina (6).
In the Northeast, things were much the same, but also different. The gap between the least and most visited states was much smaller. Furthermore, without access to the data, you’d likely have guessed the highest and lowest percentage states to be in the opposite category they actually sit in. Rhode Island (18), Maryland (17), New Hampshire (14), Vermont (13), Delaware (12) and Maine (12) are the most popular states for non-resident hunters in the northeastern part of the country. The least visited states are Massachusetts (4), Pennsylvania (6), New Jersey (7), New York (7) and Virginia (7).
Looking to the Midwest, Kansas is the definite hotspot, with 27 percent of hunters being non-residents. Behind it is Nebraska (13), Ohio (12), Kentucky (9) and South Dakota (8). Some shockers were Michigan (2), Missouri (3), Minnesota (3), Iowa (4) and Wisconsin (6). Even North Dakota was lower than expected at 1 percent. I expected midwestern percentages to be higher across the board. The simple truth — they aren’t.
As expected, the West has the highest percentage of non-resident deer hunters. Of the five states that provided data, it went: Colorado (35), Wyoming (30), Idaho (13), Utah (10) and New Mexico (6). And lastly, looking to Canada, of the provinces who submitted information, the order was: Alberta (4), Ontario (2), New Brunswick (1) and Quebec (1). Worth noting — I suspect Saskatchewan would rank very high on that list if it had available data.
As you plan your out-of-state deer hunt for this fall, this information might be worth considering. Think about areas getting the most pressure. Remember the states receiving very little. Make an educated decision accordingly.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.