Trending | October 28, 2016
Well, the temps are dropping, the leaves are turning pretty colors, and the days are getting shorter, and that means it’s whitetail hunting season in America.
It’s an annual ritual, sacred in its own way, passed down from generation to generation. Hunters from Alaska to Florida, from Maine to Texas, and all the fly-over country in between are sighting in their weapons, buying fancy new camo and the latest toys, scents, and lures, picking out their stands, and eagerly looking forward to opening day. If you’re a bowhunter, the season may have already begun.
And times have been good. For several years the nation’s deer hunters have enjoyed both record setting harvests and unprecedented numbers of trophy bucks. But it looks like the party’s over, at least for a time. As reported in Field & Stream magazine, many states across the Midwest and beyond have seen whitetail deer harvests fall by almost half, and record book trophies have fallen by about the same amount. The reasons are varied, but disease, loss of habitat, unwise legislation, and poor herd management seem to be the main culprits.
But although we may be going through a correction, there’s still plenty of excellent deer hunting to be found, it’s just that you might have to work a little harder at it, and be willing to go where the deer are at.
Where’s that you say? Glad you asked. Here’s a look at some of the best states for whitetails in 2016, based on factors such as recent harvests, access to public lands, costs for licenses, and record bucks taken, in no particular order, but all would make the top 20 of anyone’s list.
- Indiana - The Hoosier State has been something of a well-kept secret for many years, except to the hunters who live there. On top of a per-hunt success rate of 50%, Indiana has ranked in the top ten for Boone and Crockett Club entries for the last decade, making the state your best bet for bagging a record book buck.
- Texas - Like they say, all things are bigger in Texas, and that includes the whitetails, both in size and numbers. Huge bucks are common in the Lone Star State, and the deer herd is estimated at over 4 million individuals. And with 1.5 million acres of land opened up for hunting, Texas is the place to be in the Southwest.
- Wisconsin - The Badger State has a reputation for great deer hunting, and it’s one of the most affordable states for hunters too. Resident licenses are currently just $24, and non-resident licenses can be had for only $160, a deal compared to some other states. It boasts well over a million deer roaming five million acres of pristine wilderness, just waiting to be turned into steaks and chops and attractive man-cave wall decorations.
- Georgia - If you’re more of a meat hunter than a horn hunter, head to Georgia to fill up your freezer. Trophies aren’t numerous here, but the state led the nation in the antlerless deer harvest in 2011, and there are plenty of bucks taken every year too. The success rate per hunter is more than 55%.
- Wyoming - The whitetails that inhabit the Cowboy State are of a subspecies known as Dakota deer, and large antlers are a common characteristic of these animals. There are plenty of them, and plenty of public land on which to hunt, but most of it is in the mountainous regions of Wyoming, and that means lots of walking up hills and long shots. And also the hunting experience of a lifetime, and some incredible scenery.
- Iowa - The state is legendary among deer hunters, consistently producing B&C record-setting bucks, and among the best places in the U.S. to hunt if you’re hoping to get your name in the books. However, only 265,000 acres are open for hunting, licenses are expensive, and you have to have your name drawn in a lottery to get one. It may be whitetail paradise, but like Heaven, only a privileged few get in. But those lucky few have an excellent chance of bringing home a monster.
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