You scroll through Facebook and Instagram during deer season and it’s like . . . Booner . . . Booner . . . . Booner . . .
It’s true, it can seem in fall and winter that everyone is killing the big one, except for you. You aren’t killing them. And there’s nothing you can do about it. At least, there’s very little.
Like most deer hunters, I’ve dreamed of killing such a whitetail, too. I took the largest buck of my life this year — a giant clean 8-pointer that officially scored a whopping 163 6/8 inches. It too fell shy of the 170-inch all-time mark. (But it is unofficially the third largest velvet clean 8-pointer ever taken.)
See, killing a Boone and Crockett buck is more about luck than skill. It’s very difficult to hit the magic number — even in a state such as Kentucky. It isn’t like one lives on every property, or every county for that matter. There’s just not that many of them roaming the woods. But just how common are they? Well, let’s take a look. And we’ll use my big-buck-producing home state of Kentucky to paint the picture.
In the last 10 years, 733,868 white-tailed bucks have been harvested in the Bluegrass State. During that same timeframe, only 418 bucks (typical and non-typical) have been entered into the Boone and Crockett records. For those who dream of a record-book buck, that’s a sobering thought. In essence, of the near three-quarters of a million Kentucky bucks that’s been harvested in the last decade, only 0.06 percent of them made the cut.
Now, I know not all of you hunt in the buck-rich state of Kentucky. Some of you are from similar states such as Ohio, Iowa, Kansas and other northern and midwestern strongholds. But even there, the odds remain about the same or slightly lower.
For those of you who hunt in the Northeast and Southeast, odds plummet even further. Those who hunt in Florida — which has only two all-time B&C entries to its name (both non-typicals) — virtually have no chance of accomplishing the big feat. South Carolina has only a total of 13. And most other southern states (Texas included) aren’t that great for killing a book-worthy buck.
Back to the Bluegrass, out of all bucks taken in Kentucky since records have been kept, only 1,017 have been entered into the Boone and Crockett records database. That too is a staggering truth. Simply put, record bucks just aren’t that common — even in the areas where they’re the most common. In fact, Kentucky ranks third in the country for total B&C entries per square mile of land mass within the last 10 years.
Here’s the top-20 breakdown:
Wisconsin | 712 total entries | 0.01310 entries
Ohio | 457 total entries | 0.01116 entries
Kentucky | 418 total entries | 0.01052 entries
Indiana | 368 total entries | 0.01026 entries
Iowa | 354 total entries | 0.00633 entries
Illinois | 331 total entries | 0.00595 entries
Missouri | 301 total entries | 0.00436 entries
Kansas | 322 total entries | 0.00393 entries
Minnesota |293 total entries | 0.00368 entries
Delaware| 6 total entries | 0.00307 entries
Maryland | 27 total entries | 0.00276 entries
Arkansas | 84 total entries | 0.00161 entries
Mississippi| 69 total entries | 0.00147 entries
Connecticut | 7 total entries | 0.00144 entries
Michigan | 80 total entries | 0.00140 entries
Nebraska | 106 total entries | 0.00137 entries
Oklahoma | 94 total entries | 0.00136 entries
Pennsylvania | 56 total entries | 0.00124 entries
West Virginia | 29 total entries | 0.00120 entries
Virginia | 46 total entries | 0.00116 entries
This list is surprising for two reasons. First, it shows just how rare B&C bucks are. Secondly, based on total entries per square mile of the state’s total land mass (the best measure for trophy potential), it shows some of the big-name states (such as Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, etc.) aren’t as high on the list as you’d think. While they might have more total entries, that doesn’t mean your odds of killing one there are better. It just means they have more land mass, deer and deer hunters to stack the records. Interestingly, when you put each state on a level playing field as we’ve done above, you see that a lot of states you wouldn’t expect make the top-20 list.
So, as you can see, it isn’t easy to kill the big one. Nor is it completely based on skill. But there are things you can do in order to increase your odds of tagging a true giant.
First, hunt in a state where they’re the most common — even if that means doing DIY, out-of-state deer hunts. Find the state that ranks high on the list, and that makes the most sense for your location and budget, and begin the search. Whether that’s an outfitted hunt, leased property, hunting by permission or pounding public land, begin that process.
Next, use record databases such as Boone and Crockett’s Trophy Search, and find what counties produce the most record bucks. This will help dial in on an area with good genetics, and where deer have the habitat and general dynamics necessary to reach maturity and grow big sets of bone.
Once you’ve dialed in on a county, look for that specific property within the county (or counties) you’ve narrowed it down to. Try to find that piece of ground that doesn’t get a lot of pressure around it. Maybe it’s adjacent to a state or national park, or some other large tract with contiguous acres that receive minimal or no hunting.
After you’ve found the property you want to hunt, do a great job of scouting and posting trail cameras to see what’s really out there. Shed hunting during the post-season on properties you plan to hunt is also a legitimate tactic for finding big deer.
Lastly, understand that it will take time to bring your dream to fruition, if it happens at all. But understand that it has no chance if you don’t try. And the chase . . . the hunt . . . is what it’s really about anyway.
So, don’t let the terrible odds discourage you. Just realize how difficult it will be, let that drive you, and take the appropriate steps to set yourself up for success.