Deer Downturn: The Latest Data From the Lower 48

F&S crunched the latest data from every state wildlife agency in the Lower 48, as well as from the QDMA, the NSSF, and the B&C and P&Y Clubs, to create this overview of today’s deer hunting scene. The news is not great. National harvest and success rates are both down about 12 percent, and trophy trends are worse still. But take heart. There are a few bright spots, and still some stellar hunting.

MONSTER MULEYS

Colorado had more than twice the record-book entries of any other top-five muley state in 2014.

Top Five 2016 Muley States
F&S combined 2014 success rates, trophy production, and recent trending to predict next fall's best deer hunting states. Here are our top picks for western muleys.

NEW NO. 1

Yes, Mississippi! Hunters average almost two deer each, and an amazing 72 percent of tagged bucks are mature, according to the latest data.

GROWTH SPURT

Rhode Island’s success rate is up almost 50 percent.

UP-AND-COMER

While success in other top buck states has plunged, Kentucky is up almost 26 percent.

Top Big-Buck Losers
Record-book entries from top trophy states have taken a dive since 2010. Though many rebounded a bit in 2014, the big picture is still bleak. These states were hit the hardest.

Top 10 2016 Whitetail States
We used the same formula at left and added whitetail-buck age-class data from the QDMA to rank the best whitetail states for the 2016 season, including a surprise winner.

The Trophy-Buck Bust

Among states with 25 or more B&C and P&Y entries in 2014, all but one are down since 2010. Wisconsin and Illinois are down by almost 700 bucks combined.

Illustration and charts by Mike Sudal