Archery Wounding Rates
Wounding is an unfortunate but unavoidable part of hunting. No matter how much a hunter practices or is selective about the shots they take, deflected arrows, jumped strings, buck fever, and other factors are eventually inevitable and largely out of their control.
How Common Is It?
Studies of archery wounding rates—the percentage of deer that hunters hit, but do not recover—have suggested a wide range of rates (3% to 58%). This is due to differences in methodology, equipment and hunting regulations and has led to confusion as well as misrepresentation of the number of deer wounded by archers. However, more recent studies focused on modern archery equipment found wounding rates between 14% and 18%.
Ultimately, the fate of wounded deer is the most important question. As it turns out, most survive. Collectively, research suggests wounding loss—the percentage of deer that hunters hit but are not recovered and die because of the wound—is less than 10% and possibly less than 5%.
Where a deer is hit impacts its chance of survival. A study in Oklahoma using radio-collared deer found all of the wounded deer that died were hit in the abdominal cavity. In contrast, deer that survived wounding (but died later of unrelated causes) had been hit in skeletal muscle, but not vital organs.
Is Wounding Loss Accounted For?
Yes. Vermont Fish & Wildlife biologists account for wounding loss when developing population estimates and harvest recommendations.
How Can Hunters Minimize Wounding?
- Use newer gear. Bowhunting equipment improvements have increased accuracy and precision.
- Education helps hunters make better decisions.
- Hunting experience leads to better decision making in the woods. Long-term research found hunters who harvested more deer had lower wounding rates.
- Practice improves shooting proficiency and helps hunters understand their limits. It is also important to practice with the bolts or arrows that you will hunt with, as different ones will fly differently.
- Do not take long shots! Research shows most shots beyond 30 yards result in a miss or, worse yet, a wounded deer. Don’t shoot, even if your bow or crossbow is accurate at longer distances and you’ve practiced those shots. The primary reason isn’t accuracy. It’s speed. The fastest crossbows on the market today fire a bolt at around 450 feet per second (fps). However, sound travels at 1,125 fps, and crossbows are loud. That means a deer will hear the shot before the bolt gets there. Thus, the likelihood of a deer “jumping the string” greatly increases beyond 30–40 yards.