The Benefits of 30 Million Dead Deer

The Deer Hunter’s Almanac has tons of information about whitetails in North America, on newsstands by the end of the summer.
The Deer Hunter’s Almanac has tons of information about whitetails in North America, on newsstands by the end of the summer.
Steve Sorensen
Steve Sorensen
Contribiting Writer

In the last five years, American hunters have killed almost 30 million whitetail deer. That’s a lot of venison.

How do I know this? I’ve just completed an annual project for Deer & Deer Hunting magazine. I’ve handled this project since 2014. I collect data from all 44 states with whitetail deer (plus all the Canadian provinces). I find what a license to hunt deer costs, where the top harvest areas are, where Chronic Wasting Disease is spreading, and more. The biggest piece of the job is assembling the most recent deer harvest statistics.

This project puts me in touch with deer biologists and wildlife managers in every state. It’s how I spend the month of June, and I learn a lot from it.

The last five years are probably the most productive deer hunting years in history. Most states are near their all-time high in deer harvested. Texas hunters, for example, killed over 883,000 whitetails in the 2018 season. Only one season was higher. That same year Pennsylvanians harvested more than 374,000 and New York hunters took over 227,000. That’s a million and a half deer in just three states in a single year.

So how many meals do 30 million deer provide? A conservative estimate is about 50 meals per deer. Do the math: 30 million deer times 50 meals equals one and a half BILLION servings of venison. Here’s that number with all the zeros: 1,500,000,000. That’s a huge benefit of hunting.

Another benefit is that 30 million dead deer mean hunters are doing an important service to our society. Deer populations continue to be high in most states. If we went one or two seasons without hunters killing deer, the population would increase to the point where the costs to society would be intolerable. Costs would include crop damage, forest regeneration, and automotive insurance claims. And it’s not just about fender benders. Those insurance losses amount to over a billion dollars per year, but that’s just money. Deer collisions cost human life — more than 200 lives lost every year. How many more people would die if hunters hadn’t killed 30 million deer?

Non-hunters might think that with hunters killing 30 million deer in five years, we’ll soon run out of deer. Nothing could be further from the truth. If left to live, those deer would have made more deer, lots more. Those 30 million would be 60 million or 100 million deer by now, probably more, ravaging the landscape for food. As it is, thanks to the principle of “the birds and the bees,” the ones we hunters didn’t kill replaced the ones we did kill. Yes, hunters play an important role in the balance of nature.

How many deer hunters does it take to kill 30 million deer? Only about 10 million people in the United States are deer hunters. That sounds like a lot, but hunters are a minority — a small minority. Those 10 million hunters represent just one hunter for every 33 citizens. If you removed all the people from New York City and replaced them with all 10 million deer hunters, you’d cut the population of the city in half, and there would be no deer hunters anywhere else.

Here’s another benefit of 30 million dead deer. Those 10 million deer hunters generated a lot of money for wildlife management through one of the most successful programs the federal government ever created. The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 includes an 11% tax built into the price of every gun we buy, every box of ammunition, and much of the gear we purchase.

The federal government distributes that money to the states annually, based on the number of hunting licenses sold. The money goes for law enforcement, education, research, habitat renewal, support of non-game species, and more. Thank hunters for the birds at your feeder.

30 million dead deer have raised billions of dollars for wildlife, but as hunting declines that money will disappear. What happens then? No one has a plan to replace hunters as the most effective component in wildlife management.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.