An all-inclusive report for each state, including season dates, license costs, population trends, up-and-coming counties, public-land hotspots, and more
The West has arguably the best scenery in the nation. Hunters dream of seeing it with gun or bow in hand. And if that’s all you care about, it takes the cake.
If you want a nice whitetail, it has loads of Pope and Young-class bucks. Boone and Crockett whitetails? Not so much. Only 17 B&C-worthy whitetails entered the books in the past year, seven of which were Arizona Coues whitetails. That’s not good. And neither is the fact that one state in the region received the first failing grade ever given in Antler Nation.
If you’re interested in the latest whitetail information, check out detailed reports for each destination, including season dates, license costs, population trends, up-and-coming counties, public-land hotspots, and more, courtesy of Realtree’s Antler Nation.
The Grand Canyon State doesn’t offer the Texanus subspecies of whitetail, but it does have a lot of Coues deer. And it’s the best place in the country for that. There’s plenty of public land to hunt these critters on. The 2021 season is shaping up pretty good.
One of the more popular over-the-counter elk states, it’s not as good in the whitetail department. Most of its whitetail herd live in the easternmost counties. If you plan to find a good one, those are the places to be.
Few realize it, but Idaho is the best whitetail state in the region. Yes, it’s even better than Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming. Don’t believe me? The residents will thank you for it. Overall, this state has the goods, especially in the northern counties. Furthermore, 70% of the state is public ground. That is incredible and offers plenty of opportunity.
While it doesn’t produce many top-end bucks, Montana has a bunch of 120- to 140-class whitetails. It also has a lot of public land, with about 44% of it being public. Despite some recent problems with EHD, the state is shaping up to have a stellar 2021 deer season.
The Land of Enchantment doesn’t have many of the Texanus subspecies, but it has a lot of Coues whitetails. It’s hard to draw a tag, of course. But if you get one, there’s a decent chance you’ll stumble across a nice deer.
The Beaver State has a very small pocket of whitetails. Opportunities have always been limited but were good enough to keep it from getting a failing grade. With declining populations, limited trophy potential, recent bouts with disease, and the fact that the area with all the whitetails is now a limited, draw-only hunt, we couldn’t help but drop its grade.
“We do not have population estimates for white-tailed deer,” said Justin Dion, assistant wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “However, we know that populations of white-tailed deer in Umatilla County are still low due to AHD (adenovirus hemorrhagic disease) outbreaks. Black-tailed deer populations appear to be stable. Mule deer populations have been on a steady decline for several years in Oregon, and in the Western U.S.”
Washington has experienced slight decline in the past year or two but not enough to drop its grade. Plus, the agency is responding in the right manner. The hunting is still pretty good here, and anyone looking to hit the whitetail woods this fall should expect a decent season.
“Several management zones have experienced declining harvest trends in the last few years,” said Kyle Garrison, ungulate specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, presumably due to environmental conditions such as winter conditions or drought. “WDFW has responded to these trends by reducing antlerless special permit opportunities in some zones to encourage population recovery. Overall, WDFW anticipates similar overall harvest levels of deer throughout the state, but environmental conditions (e.g., continued drought) may negatively impact populations and concomitant harvest trends.”
Mostly known for elk and mule deer, Wyoming also has solid whitetail opportunities. For one, most hunters overlook the whitetails here, leaving some unpressured animals to those who come for the smaller of the deer species. It does take some scouting effort to get it done though.
The Cowboy State whitetail herd is somewhat scattered. Most are in the Bighorn Basin, Black Hills, and Riverton regions. Spend some time in these areas and you’ll likely find a buck worth the trip.