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How Tough is New England Hunting?

How Tough is New England Hunting?

new england hunting

There has been a lot of writing recently comparing the best states to hunt with the worst.

The consensus of many of these articles is that New England is the worst part of the country for hunting. I understand where this is coming from. The data does indeed show that New England has the lowest success rates for whitetail hunting. I would like to clarify my New England pride in light of this.

I have hunted throughout the United States and harvested my fair share of Pope & Young class bucks. My experience has taught me that if you harvest a buck in New Hampshire regardless of size, you deserve a trophy. If you have challenged the unforgiving swamps of Maine to put meat on your table, you are accomplished. If you have conquered the Green Mountains of Vermont or any other mountains in New England, you are seriously tough. Even the grouse hunting is harder than the flat aspen cuts of the upper Midwest. 

You can take pride in your accomplishment if you have hunted through the mecca of suburban deer hunting in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Despite the odds being stacked against us at every corner, we continue to do the impossible. The influx of suburban hunting has put many trophies in the Northeast Big Buck Club, which is far more challenging than the big buck mecca’s of the Midwest and South.

So what are the hard facts on deer hunting in New England?

For the 50,000 hunters in Connecticut, 12,897 deer were harvested. That puts the ratio at 25.7% between the number of hunters and deer harvested. Maine had the lowest ratio of 10.4% between 181,000 hunters to 18,839 deer harvested. This only exasperates the continued struggle with the Maine deer herd and the economic impact associated with it.

Rhode Island had a ratio of 12.1%, Vermont 13.4%, Massachusetts 19.9%, and New Hampshire 20.7%. How do these success rates compare to the rest of the country? Well, Texas has a hunter to harvest ratio of 150%. Over 58% of Texas hunters in 2011 harvested deer. South Carolina in the southeast has a ratio of 89.1%. Missouri has a ratio of 50.9%, Wisconsin 38.8%, and Ohio 39.2%.

To put it plainly: the odds are stacked against anyone hunting in New England.

Across the entire region, the ratio averages out to 17%. As a result, this is about three times less than the worst Midwest states. I feel compelled to mention our northeast sister states of New York and New Jersey. New York comes in at a 27.7% ratio of 823,000 hunters to 228,000 deer harvested (2011), while New Jersey had a 53.3% ratio.

The next time you hear someone bashing New England hunting or making comments about the size of a deer, remember to tell them that, not only is New England building the toughest hunters in the country, but every deer there is a trophy.

View Comments (14)
  • To whom it may concern,
    This is an area of deer hunting that is worthy of further reporting. There are issues that surround this most difficult challenge of hunting in hostile environments, tight spaces and the challenge of other hunters and activists . Entitlement and lacking common decency rules the day.
    I have experienced invasion into my established space by other hunters and private citizens, as well as other hunters keeping my kills.My trophies. With little recourse to such actions. This area of ethics are a concern for the New England hunter. Many towns are trying to make hunting difficult with restrictions. The anti-hunter is gaining grounds and at the same time deer populations and subsequent tick infestations are a problem here. Yet we press on. The hardy New England-er is a breed of their own, worthy of a closer look. As a descendant of the pilgrims of Plymouth bay colony I can attest to the rich and often overlooked history of a people who are firmly rooted in the Northeast. Who despite the invasion of the new , still hold fast to principals that few here wish to respect or understand. We are now the minority but we are like the earth , the wind and the tide. We will not go away..In spite of the invasion of restrictions and harassment we prevail , we adapt, we endure, and we overcome. Dare to ask and you will have the challenge of a lifetime to address. Dare to fight the invasion and you will understand what a New England-er is.

    • I’d like to second that! Since moving to southern NH from north-central VT 8 years ago I’ve seen more unethical hunter behavior than I care to remember. Including busting a turkey poacher on opening day of the spring season who came into a field I was already set up in – went past me into the woods – proceeded to shoot a jake, not tag it, breast it out and carry the breast meat out of the woods in one hand and his shotgun in the other. I got the plate number, brought the carcass to NH F&G and they got him. Then there was the time I shot a buck the day before Thanksgiving and had it stolen by another hunter. This is foremost in my mind because just this morning – at the very same tree stand where I shot that buck – I had a still hunter come in within 50 yards of my treestand(we were both wearing orange) and rather than turn away or wave and veer off course – he kept right on still hunting past my tree stand. The worst part is that – while I’d consider him an unethical hunter – he’s a damn good still-hunter because 40 mins later I heard a shot – the closest shot I’ve ever heard in all my years of hunting that didn’t come from my own weapon. Then I heard the deer run . . . and drop dead. I debated whether or not to bother going to see what he shot but after about 20 mins my curiosity got the best of me and I got down and headed in the direction of the shot. 70 yards away I found a gutpile. He’s shot, tagged, gutted and dragged the deer out(a different way mind you) in a little over half an hour. A deer that may have been bedded, may have been headed my way – I’ll never know. Such are the trials and tribulations of hunting in northern New England. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to fill a tag either in NH or VT for the past three years in a row – but it’s looking like I wont’ make it four in a row the way my season’s going. And it’s not for lack of deer either. But the “perfect storm” of low deer densities(compared to other areas of the country), coyotes, harsh winters, marginal habitat and low-quality food, few places to hunt, more hunting pressure where hunting is allowed, AND unethical behavior combine to make ME, NH and VT the absolute toughest place to kill a deer in the world. I don’t care what anybody says, Jackie Bushman, Bill Jordan, The Lakosky’s the “Nuge” – they should all come up here and film a hunting show . . . see how they do LOL!!!!

        • Ted . . . the still-hunter was on the eastern side of one of southern NH’s characteristic low, flat-topped ridges. He was over the crest to the east – my tree was over the crest on the western side. In other words . . . we were actually – because of the terrain – about eye level. He didn’t have to “look up” to see me. He only needed to “look west” – which he did – several times. I think next year on opening day of the ML season – if I hunt this same spot – I’m gonna bring a big orange cardboard sign that says in black sharpie, “Attention still-hunters . . . look to your left . . . there’s a tree stand hunter not 60 yards from this spot who was here first. Please be ethical and give them a wide berth!”

          • My friends and I have had a rash of stands being stolen from public land in Ct….it’s bull$*** when u come out opening morning only to find your stand not in the tree!

  • I have hunted Vermont since I was 9 got my first deer when I was 12 and started hunting New Hampshire when I was 13 and got my first deer in NH the 2nd yr I’m now 31 and have shot many deer in both states and this yr I’m going to hunt NY for the first time if u hunt hard enough u will get a deer I have found out

  • I have hunted in Ma. for over 30 years. I have harvested several deer. 20 of those years were in the western part of the state. In the last 10 years I have been only hunting suburbing deer. I do find this a difficult task. Due to the large number of mountain bikers and hikers in the area I hunt [state forest] . But I accept their right to share the woods with me. And am greatful that they have gotten the local deer use to humans being in the woods. I have deer in my back yard almost every night, but can not shoot where I live. But that shows me thet are not afraid of human scent as I am at my trail cam and deer feeder daily. Maybe this will be the year I get my first suburban deer. And if I do not I know I will enjoy my time in the “woods” in search of them. I will be out there as often as I can be from now till closing day of Black Powder.

  • I am proud to be a New Hampshire White Mountain Hunter. Where you have to “Hunt” the deer. Big difference between hunting and shooting. My 5 year old nephew can shoot a big old monster buck that comes out everyday to the corn field or hits the feeder at 5 o’clock on the dot every night. Try hiking up and down the mountains, down to the rivers and back up, looking for oaks and beeches and maybe glancing a few bucks a season. Usually comes down to that one chance per season for one good, clean shot. In at dawn out at dusk. Wouldn’t want it any other way.

    • Stephen, that is the way hunting should be!

      I am no longer a hunter but spent many a fall day waking up at the crack of dawn to drive to either the western part of MA or to Maine with my dad to hunt. We spent many days walking in the woods, through rivers, up and down hills, looking through the evergreens etc looking for deer. I never shot one, I was never with my dad when he shot one, I’ve seen them running away, was almost run over by a moose running down the trail obviously spooked by something, had the deer blow at us but never saw them in the “thick stuff”. I would never give up those times spent in the woods with my dad. That is really hunting.

      We have some decent deer in this part of the country, I’ve seen some that have some nice racks on them. One that I’ve seen just down the street from my house in Southeastern NH. I haven’t seen him in a while, maybe he was shot, maybe he died of natural causes or maybe he has moved on because of development of the area.

  • Answer to headline: extremely easy, it spans multiple states, is easy to find and never moves. However, idk how or where you’d mount it and I think you might have a hard time killing it, plus, is there a season for “new england hunting”?

  • Well i have said it a thousand time,s a bow hunter from texas for instance would starve to death hear in western mass I have harvested at least 60 deer my frist with a bow was a 10 point p/y several 8 point and a whole bunch of food deer. As i get older it is harder but I will keep hunting and yes antie huntrrs towns are total bs rich urbin land owners suck soon i,ll move south and kill the notion we yankees don,t know how to hunt

  • In defense of New England hunting I will say this. I come from James Bay, Canada on the tip of Hudson Bay. If you want to talk about harsh conditions try -40 degrees every day during the season. I moved to RI in my early teens and have harvested a deer every year I lived there. I current live in the South Shore of MA and have for the last 47 years. Yea, I am old fart. Currently the way MA is set up we can in this area obtain several tags. I have filled my tags every year with Bow, Shotgun, and Black Powder and have taken some monsters.

    The problem I see facing most of the hunters here is finding and obtaining good hunting areas to exclusively hunt. I have been able to do that with exclusive rights from private owners and yes I kick people out if they are in those areas. I have over 600 acres to myself and a friend or two if I am in the mood and I usually am because after 5 heart attacks and being an old fart I can’t drag the dam things out myself. I hunt deep in the swamps and it is tight shooting with any weapon but that’s where most of the deer are in my area so I knock on their door. Besides that’s where the big boys really are any time of the year.

    If you are interested in finding places to hunt and get exclusive rights to the property contact me and I’ll tell you a little secret that works wonders.

    As far as the State of Maine it will never be the same (over 40,000 a year in the 50’s and early 60’s) until they increase the Moose permits to lower the Moose population. They are in competition with the deer for food and eat a hell of a lot more.

    As far as Vermont in the 60’s they had more deer than they knew what to do with so the state started issuing party permits for does. One permit per a party of 3. They later went to a regular season on does which lowered the population substantially. Then the blizzard of 78 hit and that state never recovered as far as the deer herd. I never hunted NH so can’t comment on that. Going West you name it I have probably hunted there.

    Last but not least is you can’t hunt part time and expect to fill those tags unless you are really good or dam lucky. Spend as much time in the woods as you can.

  • I love what you did to this photo…beautiful! These old homes makes me wonder who lived there and what their lives were like. They must have loved fleowrs! The daffodils are still thriving. Have a wonderful weekend!

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