The Deerslayer, the Suburban Cowboy, and the Militia

By Liston Matthews

Hunting with Suppressors
The Deerslayer, the Suburban Cowboy, and the Militia
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

United States -( From time to time, an email circulates on the web that purports to count the number of hunters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and some other states, then compares those numbers to the army sizes of several nations around the world.

The idea behind this comparison is the notion that it would be foolish for a foreign nation, China for instance, to invade the United States. None of those emails that I have seen have had any supporting documentation, though. Digging around on the Internet, I found a report at Bear Miller Outdoors, but no supporting links.

With curiosity aroused, I decided to research the subject, with a different twist. I decided to look at annual deer harvests in Tennessee and surrounding states, and for the United States as a whole. For the sake of simplicity, one deer tag equals one deerslayer. A deerslayer, then, is someone who has killed a living animal that approximates a human in size.

But counting deerslayers wasn’t sufficient to tell the whole story, so I decided to include what I will call suburban cowboys. I define these as owners of modern autoloaders such as AR-15’s and their variants, AK-47’s and their variants, and other semi-automatic rifles and shotguns; and a host of pistols and revolvers. Some of the handgun owners will have handgun carry permits.

Another group that adds significantly to the tally is the number of citizens of all ages who have borne arms for the Stars and Stripes, in particular those who have seen the elephant.

Obviously, there is significant crossover among these groups. The deerslayers may have been in uniform. The suburban cowboys may hunt. The defensive handgun users may hunt, and may participate in competitive shooting.


We will look at Tennessee and its contiguous states, and the most recent data easily found on them, then look at the national total. Here are recent total kills, in increasing order:

Kentucky                    85,467

Tennessee                   148,865

North Carolina            153,629

Virginia’s                   190,745

South Carolina            202,952

Arkansas                     211,048

Mississippi                 258,341

Alabama                      300,000

Georgia                       412,068

Total                            1,900,000

The deer kill in these nine southeastern states approaches 2 million.  Even the largely urban state of New Jersey, with its restrictive gun laws recently reported an annual harvest of 52,704. The American rifleman reported a deer harvest of 6.2 million deer by some 10 million hunters in 2010.

There are other game animals that were not researched for this report. This includes small game such a squirrels and rabbits, and other big game, such as moose, bear, antelope, and elk. Understanding that here, too, there will be some crossover, it is safe to speculate that somewhere between six and ten million Americans kill a large game animal each year, and many more kill small game (aim small, miss small). Most of these animals were killed by someone who had some skill as a marksman, and some degree of woodcraft. This data suggests that at any given time, perhaps eight million deerslayers could take to the field.

Suburban cowboys packin’ heat

Having shown that multiple millions of adequately skilled hunting marksmen are here in the United States, we look now at citizens with handgun carry permits. There are now over 250,000 permits in Tennessee, and according to the Dr. John Lott at the Crime Prevention Research Center, the number of permits nationwide was over 11 million in 2014. These armed individuals have all taken the serious step of jumping through their respective state’s hoops, paid the requisite poll tax on their second amendment right, and carry a loaded handgun in public. Some states have enacted Constitutional Carry, requiring no permit, and there is no way to count the ones carrying in those states. Allowing for some crossover, all these individuals combined with the deerslayers could amount to fifteen million or more!

Suburban cowboys and the modern sporting rifle

The FBI reported over 23 million NICS checks in 2015. Although no clear statistics could be found, a good percentage of those are modern sporting rifles such as the AR-15. It is commonly accepted that the AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America and Americans are buying guns a a record pace, including these rifles. Making a wild guess that twenty percent of these are AR-15’s, AK’s, and other sporting rifles similar to military designs, we have between four and five million of these that went into private ownership just last year! For purposes of this report, we do not even attempt to speculate how many more of such rifles are out there.

The militia

Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American…. [T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” (Tench Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.)

The Founders recognized that the people are the militia, and the Second Amendment codified the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Just the groups mentioned above could potentially fall out as twenty-five million militiamen.

How does this compare to the armies of the world? Here are the top eight armies, with their troop strength, according to

1. USA (Army and Marines) 1.3 million
2. China 1.25 million
3. South Korea 1.24 million
4. India 1.12 million
5. North Korea 1 million
6. Israel 633,000
7. Pakistan 550,000
8. Russia 415,000

These nations combined could field around 7.5 million soldiers.

So, how would the 25 million militiamen fare against a land invasion from China? It seems that barring use of nuclear weapons by the Chinese, and assuming that we could muster up the willpower, America would suffer tremendous loss, but ultimately prevail.

I can now confirm that the email mentioned at the beginning is believable. Let those who would deprive Americans of their birthright as an armed warrior nation take a warning from Tenche Coxe, and we who support the right to keep and bear arms continue to voice his words that, “The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.”

About the Author:

Liston Matthews is a longtime firearms civil rights advocate in Knoxville, TN. He is involved with the Tennessee Firearms Association, and executive director of the Farragut Gun Club. Visit his website at

  • 10 thoughts on “The Deerslayer, the Suburban Cowboy, and the Militia

    1. All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide. — A. Lincoln

    2. Liston,
      We continue to have Project Appleseed events around the country. Although the Appleseed program has no connection to modern “militia”, we do teach, as you know, about the militia of April 19, 1775. On that day 14,000 turned out to oppose the British efforts to confiscate arms from the colonials. Please have your readers check for the schedule and location of events during 2016.
      Great article, my friend.
      Thank you.
      Everett Womack, RSO, Instructor, Shoot Boss
      Project Appleseed

    3. Someone (almost certainly NOT IJN Admiral Yamamoto) wrote about a Japanese invasion of the U.S. mainland, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

      While the source of that observation is unknown, the wisdom of it is well nigh unassailable. If China – or anybody else – were foolish enough to invade here I am convinced that you would see skinheads and gangbangers standing shoulder to shoulder doing their best to kill the invaders. In the cities there would, doubtless, be a gun of some sort behind every door frame and window sill. In the countryside it would be katie-bar-the-door! Even assuming that the Chinese possessed the air/sea lift capacity to put significant numbers of troops ashore, they would have a baggage train literally stretching across the Pacific Ocean. And it is a hugely long way from the west coast across the heartland to the east coast. I would expect them to have to fight for every foot of ground in between. And there is no way to assume the conquered lands behind the front would stay conquered. I cannot imagine how many troops would be needed to protect their logistical pipeline across the continent. And every trooper assigned to protect the logistics train would not be available to fight the war.

      This is not patriotism or bravado speaking. I believe that many Americans would simply surrender and collaborate with the invaders. WWII should have shown us that. But I believe that sufficient numbers of Americans would defend our homeland to make the Chinese – OR ANY OTHER NATION CONSIDERING ATTACKING US – wish they had never let somebody convince them that the USA would be an easy target for conquest.

    4. I regret to say, a large % of the people carrying a rifle in pursuit of white tail deer in the USA could not be described as competent woodsman or marksmen. I wish it were not so, and I try to teach those who will listen and care to practice- 40+ years of experience in rifle shooting and marksmanship raining formed this opinion. Far too many ” bros” and “bubbas” who understand neither the weapon they are carrying nor the craft of hunting adequately, and do not invest the time and ammo needed to learn to shoot competently in the field.

    5. Raconteur,
      You are exactly right. We have many young battle-hardened veterans who could provide great leadership in such a scenario.


    6. Thanks for your efforts and taking the time to put this summary together.
      I sincerely appreciate your efforts and have passed your information on to others that will find this interesting reading.

    7. This article brings to mind two important points relating to the Second Amendment. First, there are those who say the Second Amendment has nothing whatever to do with hunting or hunting arms. The article clearly demonstrates a logical connection between defense and hunting arms.

      The second point is historical and relates specifically to something Benjamin Franklin wrote about hunters in 1747 colonial Pennsylvania. A little background is necessary to understand Franklin’s point regarding defense. Pennsylvania was the only American colony never to have adopted a compulsory militia law. Thus, no one in that Colony was ever required by law to possess arms, train, or turn out for organized defense. Franklin was trying to form The Association, a voluntary defensive organization to protect the Colony against attacks from privateers.

      In a pamphlet entitled “Plain Truth”, Franklin clearly stated why it was possible for the people of Pennsylvania to protect the Colony, in spite of the colonial government’s refusal to pass any militia law:

      “If this now flourishing City, and greatly improving Colony, is destory’d and ruin’d, it will not be for want of Numbers of Inhabitants able to bear Arms in its Defence. ‘Tis computed that we have at least (exclusive of Quakers) 60,000 Fighting Men, acquainted with Fire-Arms, many of them Hunters and Marksmen, hardy and bold.”

      Knowledge, possession, and use of arms in hunting had a clear relationship to defense. But what is the historical relationship to the Second Amendment? Pennsylvania was the second American state to adopt a Declaration of Rights, and it was the first to include “the people have a right to bear arms” language. Pennsylvania virtually copied Virginia’s Declaration Article 13 into its own Article 13, but replaced Virginia’s leading well regulated militia of the people clause with the right to bear arms language. The first two state bills of rights, Virginia’s and Pennsylvania’s, provide the original predecessors of the Second Amendment’s two clauses, and in both cases they were limits upon the state government. Well regulated militia in Bill of Rights context means defensively effective armed population, not government regulated militia. [See The American Revolutionary Era Origin of the Second Amendment’s Clauses at for documentation.]

      For those who would like to know the American historical details of Second Amendment development, including earlier hunting related points like that above, they are included in The Founders’ View of the Right to Bear Arms: A Definitive History of the Second Amendment.

    8. Of the estimated 25 million militia, what percent would be combat veterans, capable of combat? 5% would be 1.25 million of highly experienced and motivated soldiers fighting on their home turf. Not a pleasant thing to engage, if you are the aggressor, especially when they go after the people giving the orders.

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