Taking a trip to discover new locations for hunting whitetail deer is the dream of every hunter. After all, that monster buck could be just over the state line!
As the fall season approaches and you have made the decision head off into the wilderness, which direction should you be heading? With so many hunters out in the bush and the field, bagging that trophy whitetail is going to take some preparation and thought. You will need to do a thorough analysis of the area you are considering and get some verified numbers on the current deer population.
It is essential to remember that the plan for a successful whitetail deer hunt is a complicated recipe involving several ingredients, including quality equipment, marksmanship, and hunting techniques. Most hunters returning home with trophy whitetail bucks have two things in common. They spend significant amounts of time in their stand, and they hunt at every opportunity.
If the area you are planning to hunt in lacks a sufficient buck population, you will be disappointed with the results of your endeavors, regardless of how excellent your marksmanship skills are. The chase is on for this year’s record buck, no matter where you choose to hunt. To increase your chances, consider taking your hunting party to one of the states and locations listed below!
Des Moines and its surrounding areas are well-known for having high populations of deer. However, there is tiny available public land (only 0.7%) for hunters. Out-of-state hopefuls need to complete an application and pray their name is among those drawn for hunting privileges, making it even sweeter for those who do get one.
Since Iowa is the land of the giant whitetail—the record buck being taken in Albia by a 15-year old who scored 307 5/8 inches!—it is well worth getting your name in for a chance to hunt the plentiful deer throughout the state.
Considered to be one of the greatest whitetail hunting location secrets, Kentucky always manages to make it onto any list of where to go for record bucks in the United States. There are numerous tracts of public land, friendly regulations for out-of-towners, and a well-balanced and healthy herd with a longer than average season.
There are some portions of the state where doe tags are limited only by what you are willing to pay for. Plan on parking your tree stands somewhere near Louisville for the best results. If you go to Kentucky for your hunt, plan on bringing home the venison—literally. The record buck for the state was taken on public land and scored 246 3/8 inches.
Deer hunters lucky enough to make it to Georgia are truly blessed. There are almost 1,000,000 acres of wildlife management areas throughout the Peach State, and more than one million deer call it home. There is an annual kill rate of over 400,000 whitetails in Georgia with no “bad” area for hunting.
150-inch bucks are standard, and the Di-Land WMA—included on Field & Stream’s list of the 100 best hunts on public land in the United States—is one of the best areas in the country with the highest success rates. Statewide, the average annual hunter success rate is 55%.
It is a perfect country for deer—lots of grass, cover, and forage spots well-traveled during the fall. The record buck was taken just outside of the Atlanta area and scored 213 4/8.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and whitetail deer hunting is no exception. By a large margin, there are more bucks killed in the Lone Star State than in any other. With more than 1.5 million acres of public land available for hunting, making the trek to the Dallas area should be on the bucket list of every hunter.
Not only is Dallas a preferred location because of the bucks in the immediate vicinity, but it’s also a short trip to Oklahoma, where increasing numbers of big bucks are being found. The record for kills in Texas came in 2008 when, on paper, almost 620,000 whitetails were taken.
According to the B&C, Texas ranked as one of the top five states for whitetail hunting and held the number-five spot from 1830 until 2001. The most massive buck on record in Texas was taken in Webb county in 2010, and it scored 307 1/8. Ironically, this is the second record-breaking buck to come off this privately-owned ranch land, making one wonder if hunting skills are an inherited family trait!
Colorado’s essential characteristics are the diverse habitats for whitetail deer found in significant numbers from the mountains to the open grassland areas. The best hunting will be located throughout the eastern portion of the state, including Colorado Springs and, especially, along the Arkansas River between Pueblo and Las Animas.
Very few trophy bucks are taken from tree stands in the state. With so many miles of open crop areas to use as bedding areas, most big bucks brought down in Colorado come from patiently glassing the fields until you spot the one you want. If you choose to come here to hunt, expect to do plenty of stalk and spot hunting!
There is almost no hunting pressure since it is likely you will not cross the path of another hunter, but you need to be careful not to stray onto private land. The record buck earned the number-eight spot of glory on Pope and Young’s All-Time Young Typical Bucks and scored 195 7/8.
Boone & Crockett, the nation’s oldest wildlife conservancy, ranked Kansas as eighth from 2005-2010 for whitetail hunting. Of all the states, Kansas also ranks number three when it comes to hunter success rates. The problem in Kansas is the same as in Iowa; there are plenty of huge bucks, but getting to them is where the difficulty lies.
There are only about 420,000 acres open to public hunting or 0.8%. Compared to Michigan with more than seven million public hunting acres, it’s hard not to notice the differences.
The deer tag lottery system does offer relatively high chances of you getting a tag, but the cost of private land or guided hunts is often astronomical and unfeasible for many hunters. However, if you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list state hunt, investing the money in trying your luck in Kansas may be all you ever dreamed and more.
One of the best counties in the entire state for large whitetail is Pottawatomie. This is also where the record buck scoring 264 1/8 was taken in 1998.
While some of the states listed above may not even have been on your radar, each one has a proven track record when it comes to monster trophy whitetails. Whether you are looking to travel across the country or just across the county line, the United States offers a varied selection of premium areas to hunt.
North, east, south, west—the next record buck is within your reach. Get ’em, and happy hunting!