How Many Hunters In The US In 2024?

Written By John VanDerLaan 

Updated

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The short answer is a lot. However, putting an exact figure on the number of hunters in the US is a bit difficult due to many factors. We dug up as many statistics as we could to get a better idea of the current state of hunting in America, and we've laid it all out for you. Regardless, you can be sure there is still a large hunting movement across the nation with tens of millions of participants.

Key Facts

  • 15.9 million Americans hold a hunting license.
  • 25.87 million Americans went hunting in 2021.
  • South Dakota has the most hunters per capita with 239 hunters per 1,000 inhabitants.
  • California has the fewest hunters per capita with seven hunters per 1,000 inhabitants.
  • Eighty percent of Americans approve of legal hunting.
  • Enjoying nature is the most common reason Americans hunt.

RELATED: US Hunting Statistics: Revenue and Trends

How Many Hunters Are In The US?

How Many Hunters In The US

As of 2023, 15.9 million people in the US held a hunting license. This is often used as an estimate for the number of hunters there are, though it's not exact. In fact, research by Statista found that in 2021, 25.87 Americans aged six and older went hunting. Why such a difference? 

Factors Affecting These Numbers

Any number you see, including those above, is an estimate at the end of the day. It's impossible to know exactly how many hunters are in the US for a number of reasons:

  • In some circumstances, people can hunt without a license. Depending on the state, this may include children, seniors, landowners, etc., as well as certain game. 
  • Some people buy hunting licenses in multiple states.
  • Some people buy or receive a hunting license as a gift but never go hunting.
  • States use different systems and measurements to determine hunter numbers, making a consistent federal count difficult.
  • Some people hunt illegally, so they aren't counted in official numbers.

RELATED: Hunting Accident Statistics

How Many Hunters Are in the US Each Year?

An army of hunters on public land

Based on that same Statista research, there are around 26 million hunters in the US each year. That number has been slowly declining, down from nearly 28 million in 2017.

However, if you look at paid license holders, the number is actually going up. 15.9 million in 2023 is up from 15.4 million in 2022 and 15.2 million in 2021. This may be because states are becoming more strict as to who must pay for a license. 

What State has the Most Hunters Per Capita?

South Dakota has the most hunters per capita: 239 hunters for every 1,000 people, or 23.9 percent. Compare this to California, the state with the fewest hunters per capita: seven for every 1,000 people or 0.7 percent.

State

Paid Hunting License Holders

Population

Hunters Per 1,000 People

South Dakota

213,786

895,376

239

Wyoming

135,228

578,803

234

Montana

222,309

1,104,000

201

North Dakota

135,724

774,948

175

Maine

201,370

1,372,000

147

Idaho

275,244

1,901,000

145

Oklahoma

512,724

3,987,000

129

Alaska

93,559

732,673

128

West Virginia

205,447

1,783,000

115

Arkansas

343,300

3,026,000

113

Wisconsin

666,670

5,896,000

113

Tennessee

694,458

6,975,000

100

Vermont

62,237

645,570

96

Minnesota

545,300

5,707,000

96

Nebraska

180,932

1,964,000

92

Mississippi

271,281

2,950,000

92

Louisiana

424,918

4,624,000

92

Kansas

264,331

2,935,000

90

Alabama

452,400

5,040,000

90

Oregon

328,323

4,426,000

77

Missouri

472,993

6,168,000

77

Utah

250,565

3,338,000

75

Pennsylvania

945,731

12,960,000

73

Kentucky

319,690

4,509,000

71

Iowa

214,398

3,193,000

67

Georgia

724,269

10,800,000

67

Michigan

642,242

10,050,000

64

North Carolina

609,131

10,550,000

58

New Mexico

110,874

2,116,000

52

Colorado

296,609

5,812,000

51

Arizona

302,383

7,276,000

42

South Carolina

208,843

5,191,000

40

New Hampshire

55,562

1,389,000

40

Texas

1,094,753

29,530,000

37

Indiana

250,481

6,806,000

37

Virginia

245,517

8,642,000

29

Ohio

346,220

11,780,000

29

Nevada

89,603

3,144,000

28

New York

550,868

8,468,000

28

Illinois

293,617

12,670,000

23

Washington

171,940

7,739,000

22

Maryland

116,702

6,165,000

19

Delaware

15,619

1,003,000

16

Connecticut

32,052

3,606,000

9

Florida

191,501

21,780,000

9

Massachusetts

55,139

6,985,000

8

New Jersey

68,767

9,267,000

7

Hawaii

10,608

1,442,000

7

Rhode Island

7,514

1,096,000

7

California

262,009

39,240,000

7

Based on 2021 figures. Source: "States with the most registered hunters." Stacker. https://stacker.com/your-state/states-most-registered-hunters   

How Many Americans Support Hunting?

Upland Hunter With 2 Hunting Dogs

The vast majority of Americans support hunting. An extensive survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies found that 80 percent of Americans approve of legal hunting. Only 13 percent actively disapproved of hunting, the other seven percent responding indifferently.

This number has been climbing, too. In 1995, 73 percent of Americans supported legal hunting.

Support by Region

Even though four in five Americans overall support hunting, this number varies significantly across the country. The survey divided the country into four regions: northeast, southeast, midwest and west. Regional approval was as follows:

  • Midwest: 86 percent
  • Southeast: 82 percent
  • West: 77 percent
  • Northeast: 72 percent

Approval By Type of Hunting

Although 80 percent of Americans approve of hunting in general, the type of hunting greatly affects approval ratings. Even more than 80 percent approve of hunting if it's to protect human beings, provide food or manage wildlife. On the other hand, only half of Americans approve of hunting for sport and just 29 percent approve of trophy hunting.

Bow Hunting has a slightly lower approval rating, but it is growing in the US. This trend can be attributed to the allowance of using crossbows during the archery season, which has increased participation exponentially.

Who Doesn't Support Hunting?

Protester Holding Up A Sign

Anti hunting and animal rights groups are the only groups that we have found that do not support hunting.

As you can guess, the group most likely to support hunting are hunters themselves with 98.8 percent approval. (We're not sure what the deal is with that other 0.2 percent.) But here are some demographics that support hunting at rates lower than the national average of 80 percent:

  • Non-hunters: 77 percent
  • Under 35 years old: 76 percent
  • City residents: 74 percent
  • Women: 73 percent  

As you can see, though, these numbers are still quite high.

Why Do Americans Still Hunt?

Father and son with a shotgun

Americans hunt for many reasons, including:

  • Food
  • Bonding with family and friends
  • Enjoying nature
  • Wildlife management
  • Tradition
  • Challenge and sport
  • Trophies

It's difficult to determine the most common reasons because hunters usually hunt for more than one. For example, they may enjoy the challenge and the time spent with their family while also harvesting the animals for food. It's impossible to say which motivation is greater.

Nevertheless, some small studies have tried to measure hunter motivation through surveys. One from the University of Nebraska with over 7,000 respondents found that for all types of hunting, enjoyment of nature was the top motivational factor. Food was another big motivator for big game hunters, but less so for small game and upland bird hunters. Socializing was also important while challenge and trophies were the least common motivators among all types of hunting.

Food

Grilled Venison Chops

Hunting big game like whitetail deer is a great way for many Americans to get healthy locally sourced meat at an affordable price. The average deer yields over 50 pounds of venison, which can feed a family for months. Meanwhile, the same amount of ground beef costs around $300.

RELATED: Best Meat Grinder For Wild Game

Nature and Wildlife Conservation

Hunting is one of the most common ways for Americans to enjoy nature. By participating in the circle of life and food chain, you become more integrated with nature than mere observers. 

You also serve an important natural purpose: predation. For example, states promote whitetail deer hunting as a way to keep the population density from growing too high, which leads to disease and suffering for the deer population.

Similarly, the money hunters spend on licenses and permits as well as their equipment goes directly towards conservation efforts. License fees provide around $1.8 billion for conservation each year while excise taxes on firearms and archery equipment provide another $324 million.  

Bonding With Family and Friends

Dad and son Hunting

Hunting is an activity that helps bond friends and family members through shared challenges. Primatologists have found that male chimpanzees hunt to build friendships with other males, so it's no surprise that humans do as well. 

Hunting is a skill that parents can teach their children, building memories and growing closer together. Friends can find a common interest in the tree stand. Community members can come together for the same cause of conservation.

Tradition

Across the United States, many communities have long traditions of hunting for food, socialization and appreciation of nature. Participating in the tradition brings members of the community together and puts them in touch with their cultures and history.

Sport and Trophies

Whitetail Deer Full Shoulder Mount

Even with modern technology, hunting still requires practice and dedication. Finally harvesting your quarry gives you a feeling of success and personal accomplishment like any other sport. Additionally, you can mount the animal as a trophy to remind you of this triumph.

Key Takeaways

Raw statistics are great, but we think the implications are more important. Through our research, these are the main takeaways we got from the data:

  • Hunting is still an integral part of American culture and increasingly has widespread approval and support.
  • Hunting is both more common and more approved of in rural areas.
  • Hunting serves multiple purposes for those who participate. It provides a sense of community, a connection with nature and a sense of accomplishment as well as food.
Photo of author

John VanDerLaan

John VanDerLaan is the managing editor here at DeerHuntingGuide.net. He oversees a team of editors, writers and pro staff that are subject matter experts in hunting and hunting gear. John's expertise includes thoroughly testing all types of hunting gear, as well as hunting all over the U.S. and Canada. While his hunting expertise includes game birds, small game and large game, his favorite game animal is the whitetail deer and he loves to share the knowledge that he has gained over 40 years of chasing the wily whitetail with both archery gear and firearms. John is an active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

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