Camp Ripley Bowhunting Study Exposed


The "Camp Ripley Bowhunting Study" is a study that has been used by bowhunters to claim that their wounding rates are only 13%, and not the much larger numbers, such as 50%, as other studies have shown.

Although this study is 10 years old, it has been used a great deal by bowhunters desperately try to show that their "recreation" really isn't all that bad. This is ironic because 13% is considerable, especially when you begin to add up the numbers in a yearly kill. For instance, in 2001, bowhunters killed and retrieved 23,500 deer in New Jersey. This means that, according to the study, 3,055 deer were shot and never found. The following are my opinions on the study.

I contacted one of the Camp Ripley authors and was sent their report , "The Facts On Bow Wounding" (FBW) and a paper they presented at the "First National Bowhunting Conference" (FNBC), February, 2001.

What I read was stunning, not only for what it contained, but also for what it did not. Before I get into that, however, I had to share the following on who paid for this study:

"The study...was paid for by the Save Our Heritage Committee of the Archery Manufacturers Organization, and more than 50 bow-hunting and conservation organizations." (FBW p.2)

"The Save Our Heritage program is a special fund...imposed by manufacturers to help defend bowhunting." (FBW p.4)

The Archery industry paid $100,000 for this "objective" study and the money came from a fund dedicated to defending bowhunting. What was even more humorous than this was their claim that the study was objective because they asked for animal groups to help fund it.

"To ensure that no one could later accuse the researchers of being biased [Jay] McAnninch also asked for financial help from those opposed to bow-hunting."

I could use so many analogies about victims being asked to pay victimizers to study the cruelty done to them, and though it would expose how ridiculous that quote is, I fear it would distract from the point so I'll simply move on.

The study was done in three parts: interviews with bowhunters, an infrared deer count from a helicopter, and finally a ground search for deer. Each segment of the study is based on the previous information gathered, so that the ground search was based on the helicopter count, and the helicopter count was based on the interview.

And this is why, in my view, this study is worthless, for it is within the interviewing of the bowhunters that the science completely falls apart.

There is the obvious question of how they could know whether the hunters were lying or not. Are bowhunters really going to admit that they had a high wounding rate? The authors go on to plead that they had the ability to tell when a hunter was not telling the truth, and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, for this is not what destroys this study. This is:

The report states that 98.9% of bowhunters who were "successful" were interviewed, while only 60.8% of "unsuccessful" bowhunters were part of the study. The category of bowhunter most likely to be doing a great deal of wounding would be considered "unsuccessful", because, if they had shot a deer and not recovered it, they certainly wouldn't be leaving the study site with a deer in the back of their truck. Yet this important class of the study was ignored by nearly 40%.

The authors, by having data from nearly every "successful" hunter, came to the conclusion that "...most of the deer hit were retrieved." (FBW p.10) and "...the study showed recovery rates to be much higher than previously claimed."(FBW p.11).

Of course you would state this if the data was so severely skewed in favor of retrieved deer, but this should have never been the primary focus of a study that was supposed to calculate wounding rates. The truth is that we don't know what that 40% did or did not do, but without that vital information, this study is incomplete, to be kind, and not worth the paper it was printed on, if you didn't want to be so kind.

What's more, since the interviews were the base for the study, the following segments are immediately biased. But it's even worse than that. Let's look at part two, the infrared helicopter study.

Having been involved with similar photography with deer in 1993, the same year as the study, I know of the problems associated with it. There was no mention of the percentage of failure for the device (I don't know how a scientific study can get away with not reporting that) or, just how many wounded deer would not be counted.

The margin of effectiveness for the technology, back then, was in the 75% range, perhaps even lower. It was clear that this was an imperfect technology, and that the best aircraft to be used would be a small plane, and not a helicopter, so the error rate was probably larger than 25%. Adding into this that the camp covers 53,000 acres, and it is highly likely that wounded deer, who could live for many hours before they finally died, would move from one section of the camp to another and never be counted, the reliability of using this technology becomes even more troubling. 

This point is vital, for it was the basis for the ground searches for deer. If the infrared missed a potential 25% of the animals, or probably more, this would skew the data to a lower wounding rate.

If a 13% wounding rate is what they came up with after missing 40% of the bowhunters most likely to wound, and then missing even more wounded deer through inaccurate technology, then 13% is not the real wounding rate.

The Camp Ripley study has been called 'ground breaking' and 'definitive', yet I see little broken ground and even less definition.


The key to the bowhunting controversy, that which the authors did not and perhaps were incapable of grasping, is that the true cruelty of bowhunting lies not within the percent of animals wounded, but in the act of killing an animal with a weapon as inaccurate and vicious as a bow and arrow. Most animals shot by arrows die by catastrophic blood loss, and often they die slowly, in excruciating pain. 

"The rule of thumb has long been that we should wait 30 to 45 minutes on heart and lung hits, an hour or more on a suspected liver hit, eight to 12 hours on paunch hits, and that we should follow up immediately on hindquarter and other muscle hits, "to keep the wound open and bleeding"." Glenn Helgeland - Fins and Feathers Winter 1987.

"For a bow hunter to easily recover a wounded deer, the blood loss must be extensive. A deer will have to lose at least 35 percent of its total blood volume for the hunter to recover it rapidly." Rob Wegner - Deer and Deer Hunting August, 1991.

These quotes, from bowhunters, express the savage nature of bowhunting better than I or any study could.

My focus is not only the percentage of animals wounded and not found, but the 100% of the animals that are directly killed by bowhunters. That is where the true crime of animal cruelty occurs, and that is where the battle will be engaged and won.


Stu Chaifetz
Honor And Non-Violence For Animals