The Best Destinations to Hunt Trophy Whitetail Deer Bucks in.
I carried 9 record books and several maps from my library up to my office in an effort to compose a current article surrounding where the most record book bucks had been taken in regard to location. After hours of research I discovered that not enough current information existed to compose an article with information any more recent than 2002.
With the whitetail industry peaking at an all time high I was disappointed as hundred maybe thousands more record book whitetails have been entered into the record books since 2002. Thus I will present statistical information through 2002 and then present recent trends to forecast or predict what states one should consider for the booking of a whitetail deer hunt.
Statistics through 2002
Now that you’ve decided to go on the hunt of a lifetime in pursuit of trophy whitetail bucks, which destination should you choose? What are the best locations to hunt from in an effort to bag that whitetail buck of a lifetime? It will be the focus of this article to provide through educated research, and provide evidence to the reader on where you should elect to book your next whitetail deer hunt. While we have heard and seen massive amounts of information targeting areas such as Webb County Texas, Pike County Illinois, Buffalo County Wisconsin, Zone5 of Iowa, and Provinces in Canada many other locations exist and go by unnoticed annually that I will attempt to reveal.
Initial information was researched through the Boone and Crockett Club, Pope and Young Club, Safari International Club, and Buckmasters. These entities are without doubt the primary sources of historical information available to the modern day whitetail enthusiastic.
In 2002 Field and Stream Magazine presented a four page foldout map to reveal what areas within the continental United States to show where Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young Deer were harvested. The map was color coordinated with the colors white, yellow, orange, dark orange, and red. White areas were locations that had no whitetail buck trophy entries. The red areas were areas that had more than 31 entries in the Boone and Crockett Record Books. Thus the entire map of the United States is shaded from white to red to show the densest areas of whitetail buck record book buck entry. A thorough look at this map shows the states that recorded the most whitetail record book buck entries. These area in 2002 were reported as being:
Illinois: Portions of Illinois that have produced the most record book whitetail bucks were in West Central Illinois in around Pike County, Illinois.
Iowa: Portion of Iowa that have produced the most record book whitetail bucks were in the South Central, and South Eastern areas which are typically known as Zone 5.
Missouri: Portions were extreme Northern Missouri with counties such as Shelby, Knox, Adair, and Macon being the primary targets.
Texas: While Texas seems to be famous for record book whitetail bucks the majority of the State of Texas did NOT show great success. Really the only counties that were impressive were Webb, LaSalle, Dimmitt, Kenedy, and Kleberg.
Wisconsin: This State show very impressive areas of hunting throughout.
Canada was not represented on this map produced by Field and Stream. I can remember as I began to build my outfit service these are the states I focused on obtaining ground and lodges in. While many hunters travel each year to Canada in search of the remote Canadian Wilderness Whitetails I suggest hunters can save a pile of money and get on just as big of whitetail bucks right here in the United States if enough research is done.
If you haven’t seen this four page color coordinated map it was quite impressive to say the least. Much research was done by Field and Stream to produce such a document. I applaud Field and Stream for the work but had always wished it showed Canadian Provinces. The problem with the map is that its almost 7 years old.
In college my Economics Professor once told me that statistics are only as good as the person recording them. I believe all the aforementioned clubs do keep good records and have great systems of service in place to the whitetail enthusiast. While we look to these clubs for guidance and statistics to determine where to book a trophy whitetail hunt trip there are always problems with reporting to some degree. Several of these clubs have actually set up scoring booths and promoted scoring of animals in certain areas. For example: If the Boone and Crockett Club were to set up and attend several Iowa Whitetail Deer Shows and allow for free scoring of bucks in the area obviously many more bookings would show up in Iowa for the that season.
Another problem is that many more whitetail bucks that would meet the record books are not reported for entry. For example. I have thirteen Pope and Young Bucks on the Wall and have never entered one of them. I would be bold enough to suggest many more bucks have been harvested that would meet the record books that have not been entered than those that have been entered into the books.
Also two of the major record book clubs allow high fence entries. As I have shared before I know for a fact in many high fence hunting areas domesticated deer are shipped in from other states for hunters to shoot.
Irregardless of whatever problems their may be with reporting entries in the record books the reporting is accurate enough to determine trends in mature whitetail buck existence in given areas.
Up to 2002 here is how the top ten states ranked in regard to most entries in the record books for whitetail deer:
# OF ENTRIES
Note that Iowa is listed as the number 1 State. This particularly interesting as Iowa is the toughest State in the United States of America to obtain a whitetail archery tag from. Think of it this way. Iowa ranks #1, and gives out the fewest tags. How is that possible. The truth is Iowa is whitetail heaven. Firearms tags are relatively easy to obtain but archery tags can take up to 3 years to obtain with 2 years being the norm.
The truth is do to the fact that these record book clubs only update their books every 2 to 5 years there is not enough current information recorded to determine where the top 10 states currently rank. Have they declined or inclined? Have new states entered into the top 10 or have old states dropped out of the top 10? Who knows? Disappointingly enough it is virtually impossible to see a current program, map, or resource to show us the top 10 states as they enter more or less entries into the record books. Thus one must be up to date on trends in the United States to predict where the States might lie to 2008.
Forecasted Rankings for Future Years
I would suggest the following top ten rankings of most entries based upon trends and conservation law changes discovered.
Iowa Whitetail Deer Hunting: The State of Iowa is currently rewriting all the Record Books despite the fact it is the hardest state to obtain an archery tag in the nation. Gun tags are relatively easy to get. It is presumed that current government entities are literally frozen by the Iowa Bowhunter’s Association. The reality is the Iowa Bowhunters Association is so politically connected they continue to prevent non resident hunters from obtaining the appropriate number of deer tags to give outsiders the opportunity to archery hunt Iowa. It’s an insane situation as the State of Iowa is a poor state and could really use the tourism dollars. I have literally watched hundreds of Iowa Whitetail Outfitters shut their doors. Landowners lose lease money. Hotels lose bookings. Even local business’s are struggling in rural areas when all could be saved if the State would simply stop discriminating against non resident hunters.
Despite it all gun tags are easily obtained, as are late season Muzzleloader tags. Usually the first year one tries to get a gun tag they will receive one.
Archery tags take 2 to 3 years of application to obtain, but they are well worth the wait. Iowa will continue to rewrite the record books despite operating under this handicap. To think what Iowa’s number of entries would be if archery tags could be obtained over the counter. Literally Iowa’s biggest tourism attraction is kept in check by one politically connected organization. What a shame.
Wisconsin Whitetail Deer Hunting: Wisconsin tags are easy to obtain and the
state is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. This state will continue to produce big deer over and over again without a doubt.
In 2007 I traveled to Wisconsin to try and lease ground. I obtained a plat book and literally spent months trying to set up a division of my outfitting service in Wisconsin. Each landowner I spoke with had one of two things to say when I ask to lease their ground. They either were avid deerhunters and were loyal to family and friends and simply refused to lease, or the landowner wanted over $65 per acre to lease ground. The problem with $65 per acre for leasing is that an outfitter would have to overhunt the ground so hard to pay for it that clients attending would be madder than a hornet. Simply put. Wisconsin is a hard State to get into and if you book with an outfitter prepare to be placed on an overhunted property. Get this……………….to guide in Wisconsin you must be a resident of the State according to Wisconsin Law. I found this to be virtually discriminating and one day you will see this State be sued for discrimination regarding this issue. It’s literally a deterrent to prevent outside business’s from entering the state for outfitting which I believe would again in turn hurt its economic state regarding tourism. What is it with whitetail that would make a man or governmental system “hog” all the deer for themselves.
Missouri Whitetail Deer Hunting: Wow, who would have thought I would rank
the State of Missouri as #3. Missouri was ranked as the #6 State in 2002. Since 2005 Missouri has enacted a law that any buck shot must have at least 4 points on one side of the rack. This law combined with Missouri’s current level of quality will eventually catapult this state into the next best thing to Iowa. I have watched Missouri’s deer herd vastly improve in quality as I am a Missouri resident. In fact hunters of IMB Outfitters have reported in 2007 that Missouri produced better success rates than Pike County, Illinois in all facets of the season. Early season hunting, pre rut, the rut, gun season, and late muzzleloader. Missouri is the sleeping giant that is being awakened. Prepare to see Missouri bucks begin to take the covers of many Whitetail Specialty Magazines soon and often.
Illinois Whitetail Deer Hunting: Illinois is simply spectacular and will always be.
Illinois is what I call a “shotgun only” state.. This means firearms hunters may only use a shotgun or muzzleloader during the firearms season. This makes killing a monster buck a tad more difficult. In “shotgun only” states deer simply live longer and produce more trophy bucks as a result. Iowa shares this in common with Illinois. Its one of the reasons these two states will always thrive. At last count, Pike County, Illinois was the #1, County in the Nation for number of entries in the record books.
Pike County, Illinois has many outfitter and guides to choose from. Virtually almost every farm is leased by an outfitter. Every outfitter sports a Quality Deer Management Program which prevents hunters from killing small deer. While one can complain that Illinois is being hunted too much the truth is that it is not. Leases are still somewhat reasonable. Think about this. If virtually every farm enforces a Quality Deer Management Program its like having an entire State saying, “You can’t shoot a buck under 125 inches.” That will forever pay dividends. I have hunters that will hunt nothing but Illinois. I can tell them all the stories I have about Iowa and I still can’t convince them to leave Illinois. If you’ve ever experienced an Illinois Rut then you exactly what I’m talking about. Its like literally watching a Realtree or Mossy Oak Hunt Video.
Kansas Whitetail Deer Hunting: Kansas has typically ranked low on the top ten
list due to the fact nobody could get a tag unless you bribed a landowner. Kansas changed its whitetail conservation laws surrounding tag obtainment in 2008 making Kansas a tag friendly state. Now hunters will be able to pursue Kansas deer at will. Watch its numbers rise higher and higher. The problem with Kansas is that only a small portion of the state is great deer hunting which will always prevent Kansas from making the top of the list.
Minnesota Whitetail Deer Hunting: I am not a fan of this State. So much hunting
has occurred in this state that its number of entries will keep it in the top ten states for several years to come. I believe it’s on the decline.
Ohio Whitetail Deer Hunting: Ohio has been producing some great bucks over
the past year or so. One reason is because archery hunters are able to use crossbows even if they don’t have a physical impairment which may distort its number of entries. Ohio is also a “shotgun only” state which will continue to provide Ohio’s herd to mature.
Texas Whitetail Deer Hunting: While Texas is a wonderful place full of
wonderful people I simply am not a fan of Texas hunting. I booked a hunt in Texas and literally what it consisted of was my outfitter pouring corn on a road and putting me in a tower blind. As soon as he drove off deer were in the road eating. I felt as if I were not employing any tactics whatsoever if an effort to feel some type of ownership of a buck harvested. I didn’t even shoot even though I could have. This may be because I’m a Missouri resident and find much enjoyment in pattering big deer and outsmarting them. I just couldn’t enjoy a Texas hunt. Now hunting hogs is a different story. I would drive to Texas anytime to hunt hogs. If your from Texas please don’t get offended by this as if I was a Texan I might have a different take on things. The other weakness with Texas is that only certain areas hold big deer. Literally their were only 5 counties in the whole state that had over 30 Boone and Crockett animals harvested in it up till 2001.
Kentucky Whitetail Deer Hunting: Simply put, Kentucky offers good deer
Hunting but only in certain areas. Kentucky will forever be limited because of this situation and may not even remain in the to ten listings when updated.
Nebraska Whitetail Deer Hunting: Nebraska had not allowed non residents to
rifle hunt until two years ago. This has given Nebraska deer to grow up without the pressures of non resident hunters. Nebraska is simply awesome on its Eastern half. Over the past 3 years my outfitting service (IMB Outfitters) has simply killed big buck after big buck with ease. In fact the first rifle season and the second rifle season non residents could hunt most hunters were tagged out with giant bucks the very day of the hunt.
In conclusion, the whitetail deer continues to be the most sought after big game animal in the United States of America. There is something so special about this animal. If you’re a whitetail hunter you know what I mean when I say, “Its in our veins.” To continue to harvest record book deer you not only need to predict deer movement but watch the nation as a whole as it transforms with trends of certain locations