Bow-Wounding Losses Are Low

Steve H. from South Carolina writes to ask about bow-wounding losses. "My gun-hunting buddies still have a bias against bows for deer hunting because they believe that bowhunters wound and lose a lot of deer. I thought that bow-wounding losses were pretty low. Who’s right here?"

Dr. Dave Samuel

Steve, you are right. There have been several studies and all show that around a 10- to 15 percent wounding rate with bows. But as most bowhunters know, most deer shot with arrows are found, and those not found recover.

I say this because of two reasons. 1. Very few deer are found dead in the woods with arrows in them or with archery wounds. 2. Deer shot in gun season sometimes have broadheads in them, with no ill effects.

The bottom line is deer shot with arrows either die or recover. A relatively few number go off and die a slow death and are not recovered, which is what the animal rights groups want you to believe. 

There are detailed studies to back this up, but space does not permit us to go over each one. Suffice it to say that bow-wounding losses are probably around 5 percent of all deer shot with arrows. So, if there are 100,000 deer killed by archers in your state, probably 5,000 more died from arrow wounds. From a biological perspective that is pretty darned good. 

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Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for If you have a question for Dr. Dave, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, senior editor of‘s content at Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 31 years.

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