15 Most Pressured Deer Hunting States in America

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Some of The States on This List Might Surprise You

Realtree's Antler Nation is great for studying many aspects of the quality of a state's deer hunting. (Realtree photo)

The factor when it comes to consistently killing deer — bucks or does — is pressure. You can’t kill a deer that isn’t there. Two of the biggest reasons a given deer won’t be somewhere that it previously was? A) Someone killed it. Or B), someone pressured that deer and pushed it elsewhere. Obviously, food sources, bedding cover, water availability, habitat destruction, disease, predation and a host of other things play a role, too. But hunting pressure is the flavor of the day and we’re going to see which states receive the most of it.

Before we delve into the list, it’s important to know how we received these results. While one way to measure this is to compare the number of hunters per square mile, we opted to go another route. Instead, we compared the number of licenses sold annually to the estimated whitetail population. This provides a better idea of how many deer there are per hunter and how much those deer potentially get pressured each season.

Because of this method, some states were not included because their state agency could not provide (new) estimated annual whitetail population data at the time this was published. These states include: Washington, Indiana, Arizona, North Dakota, Oregon, Michigan and New Mexico. As for the rest of the country, each state was analyzed and ranked based on state-agency-provided data. So if you don’t like the results, don’t shoot the messenger. We’re just here to tell you the way it is.

Interestingly enough, some of the states that made this list are some of the best big-buck-producing states in the country. First, it doesn’t surprise me that more hunters flock to these states. Secondly, the low deer-to-hunter ratio also allows for bucks to have more access to food and quality habitat (due to less competition between deer), which in turn means bigger racks. The correlation is thought-provoking, for sure. Also worth noting is the fact that all of the states to make this list are western, midwestern and northeastern states. Not one of the states from the Southeast made it. Does that help bust the age-old myth that the Southeast’s lack of big-buck production is (partially) due to overhunting and heavy pressure? Perhaps it does. Either way, the data is fascinating.

15. Ohio / Vermont

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.9:1

We had a two-way tie to start things off. Both Ohio and Vermont have a 1.9:1 deer-to-license ratio. Not bad. But also not very good when you consider the two least-pressured states boasted 11.3:1 (Mississippi) and 13.1:1 (Virginia) ratios.

14. Maryland

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.8:1

Next up, The Old Line State. Maryland has a healthy population of deer (214,000). But it also has quite a few licenses sold (118,000). Despite this, Maryland still cranks out some giant bucks and is potentially the No. 1 sleeper state for Booners in the country right now (other than Delaware).

13. Connecticut

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.7:1

Connecticut is that Northeastern state nobody ever thinks about. At least, that’s the case for deer hunting. After all, mostly surrounded by other states with higher grades in our Antler Nation grading system, it did only receive a C.

12. Maine

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.7:1

Maine — home to Realtree.com’s own Turkey Hunting Editor Steve Hickoff — isn’t know for deer hunting. But it does have several deer hunters and a few whitetails running around in the big-timber Northwoods.

11. Pennsylvania

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.6:1

Pennsylvania arguably has the richest hunting tradition in the country. After all, they do (or used to) let school out on the opening day of deer season. That might be one reason they have so many hunters. And we love it.

10. New Jersey

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.5:1

No. 10 on our list is New Jersey — another little northeastern state that few hunters (other than locals) think about. That said, some nice bucks come out of there every season. But it doesn’t hurt when you have almost as many tags as deer.

9. New Hampshire

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.4:1

New Hampshire has some good deer hunting. But it gets some pressure, too. But not so much that you can’t find good hunting. It received a B on our Antler Nation grading system.

8. Montana

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.4:1

Montana is a very popular destination for deer hunters — especially during the early season. So it doesn’t surprise me that it made the list. That said, despite the deer-to-license ratio, there’s still some dang good hunting here.

7. New York

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.3:1

The great state of New York has many claims to fame. Low hunting pressure isn’t one of them. It has a lot of deer. But it also has a lot of hunters. Even so, don’t be discouraged if you hunt here. We’ve already established that a close deer-to-license ratio doesn’t automatically mean bad hunting.

6. Illinois

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.3:1

The state of Illinois has lost some of its appeal throughout the years. About 10 to 20 years ago, that’s where everyone wanted to go. Many still do. But due to that, and the invasion of Chronic Wasting Disease, the deer-to-license ratio has plummeted. It’s not what it used to be.

5. Massachusetts

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.2:1

Coming in at No. 5 is the northeastern state nobody ever spells right — Massachusetts. This state, tied with the next two on this list, sees heavy hunting pressure each year. It just doesn’t quite get the press as the others.

4. Minnesota

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.2:1

Historically speaking, Minnesota is a big-time Boone and Crockett buck producer. Not so much in recent years, though. And like the rest of the states on this list, it sees a fair number of hunters flocking to the deer woods each fall.

3. Wisconsin

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.2:1

Fabled Wisconsin is the all-time top producer of Boone & Crockett bucks. Just pull the most recent data and it’s still cranking out more big deer than any other state. Why? Well, it does have some of the best genetics, soil and habitat. But it also has a very high number of deer hunters (and many who use guns). I think that’s a big part of their claim to B&C production.

2. Rhode Island

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.1:1

With barely more deer than licenses sold, Rhode Island narrowly avoids the No. 1 spot on this list. That said, northeasterners swear that it’s the best state in that region. Is it really? Who am I to judge.

1. Iowa

Deer-to-License Ratio: 1.0:1

So, this might blow some folks mind. Really. Iowa is what many say is the best state in the country for pursuing whitetails. It's also the one state (of the top B&C producers) who tries to regulate hunting pressure the most (by not allowing rifle hunting during the rut and greatly limiting non-resident access). It also has — based on the data — the most hunting pressure. That’s rich. With only one deer per license sold, it takes the top spot for the most deer hunting pressure in America. Don't believe me? Look at the data.

Don’t Miss: 2017 Antler Nation State Grades

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