Study Recent Records and Trends Before Planning This Year's Hunts.
Big bucks. They’re like fat bank accounts and fast cars. Everyone wants one. And while it isn’t realistic to think everyone will have the opportunity to kill one, it doesn’t hurt to try. That dream of killing a 170-plus-inch buck is what keeps many people awake at night. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.
So, if you’re among that group of people, we’ve put together a tidbit of information that can hopefully get you started down the right path. Everyone puts out lists of the top Boone & Crocket states every year, but rarely do they think about the here and now. We are, and thanks to Boone & Crockett’s record keeping, we’ve compiled data that’s relevant to today’s hunter, not those who hunted 75 years ago.
Here is the top 10 Booner states for deer hunting since 2010. Look at how those numbers stack up to the historical figures, and then set your hunt plans in motion.
It isn’t too late to begin the journey for that monster buck this fall.
Entries since 2010: 440
The land of the badgers. It’s quite the destination for big deer. Although Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has plagued this state for the last 15 years, it still manages to crank out big bucks in the areas of the state where the disease isn’t quite as prevalent.
Top 5 Non-Typicals (All Time)
1. Picked Up (St. Louis Co., MO/1981) — 333 7/8”
2. Picked Up (Portage Co., OH/1940) — 328 2/8”
3. Tony W. Lovstuen (Monroe Co., IA/2003) — 307 5/8”
4. Jerry D. Bryant (Fulton Co., IL/2001) — 304 3/8”
5. Timothy J. Beck (Huntington Co., IN/2012) — 303 7/8”
When people think of Wisconsin, it’s places like Buffalo County that come to mind. That piece of dirt is gold for deer hunters. And if you ever have the opportunity to hunt that area, it’s certainly worth the price of admission. It’s cranked out 27 B&C typicals since 2010. Sauk, Trempealeau, Richland and Vernon counties are right behind it with 50 collective entries. As for non-typicals, Vernon, Sauk, Shawano, Dane, and Waupaca counties take the top five spots with a total of 34 entries in the last six seasons.
All in all, Wisconsin is a prime destination for Booner bucks. Is it as good as it once was? Absolutely not. In fact, other states have gained ground in the last three to four years. But Wisconsin is still king, for now.
The Bluegrass State is red hot with monster bucks. Entries are lighting up the map from all corners of the state and it doesn’t seem like it will be slowing down anytime soon. The best part about it: A large portion Kentucky’s big deer have entered the books within the last 20 years, and it continues to trend upward in the rankings.
Although the entire state has great deer hunting, there are a few counties (as with most states) that have produced more throughout the last several years. The typical category is where Kentucky really shines. Ohio and Casey counties take the top two spots with nine and eight entries, respectively. Pulaski, Shelby, and Whitley counties are tied for third with six apiece. As for non-typicals, Pulaski, Christian, Todd, Warren and Wayne Counties have a combined 16 entries.
One of the most attractive things about Kentucky is the chance at a velvet buck. Not only that, but a Boone & Crockett buck in velvet. Granted, you’d have to strip the velvet to enter it in the books, but that aside, it’s pretty appealing.
If you’d asked me 15 years ago if I thought Ohio would be as good as it is today, I’d have replied with a “no.” That said, the secret is out and everyone knows about Ohio. The cat is no longer in the bag.
Top 5 Typicals (All Time)
1. Milo Hansen (Biggar, SK/1993) — 213 5/8”
2. James Jordan (Burnett Co., WI/1914) — 206 1/8”
3. Larry W. Gibson (Randolph Co., MO/1971) — 205”
4. Melvin J. Johnson (Peoria Co., IL/1965) — 2014 4/8”
5. Robert W. Smith (Pendleton Co., KY/2000) — 204 2/8”
So where is the best hunting? Well, that depends. But some of the biggest bucks (in recent years) have came out of the southern end of the state. One such county is Adams County. It’s produced eight B&C typicals since 2010. Butler, Muskingum, Coshocton and Franklin take the other top four spots with six, six, five and five, respectively. Coshocton, Highland, Licking, Summit, and Adams take the top five non-typical spots with a total of 26 entries in the last several years.
If you like hunting big timber bucks, look no further. Ohio has some agriculture, but it’s known for big hills and big blocks of timber. If that’s your style, this is your place.
Most serious hunters herald Iowa as the No. 1 premiere destination for killing big bucks. Yet it’s No. 4 on the list since 2010? Well, that’s because firearm season aren’t regarded as highly and the state is much more attractive to bowhunters. But at the end of the day, it’s Iowa. And Iowa still has big bucks and a lot of them.
Since 2010, in the B&C typical category, Allamakee, Van Buren, Decatur, Warren and Adams counties take the top five spots with a total of 26 entries. As for non-typical bucks, Decatur, Lucas, Warren, Guthrie and Harrison counties have accumulated 25 qualifiers.
I’ve never hunted in Iowa. But I want to. I can’t think of anything cooler than getting the chance at a buck of a lifetime. One day, Iowa. One day. Until then.
Illinois was and still is a great state for whitetails. However, as have several states on this list, the overall harvest (buck included) has dropped off tremendously since 2000. Despite that, it continues to crank out big deer, but it does appear to still be on the decline.
When talking typicals, Fulton, Bureau, Edgar, Jasper and Knox counties are the big players with seven, four, four, three and three entries, respectively. In the non-typical category, Clark, Jo Daviess, Macoupin, Hancock and McHenry have recently been the top five producers with a grand total of 18 bucks.
This is one state I’ve never really cared to hunt. And I’m not sure why. It’s a great destination. But it’s not as good as it once was. And maybe that’s why I have no real desire to hunt the state.
The Land of Oz is definitely the big buck mecca that everyone claims it to be. It’s always seemed to hover around that No. 5 or 6 spot in the rankings. And I don’t foresee it going away anytime soon. And that’s good news, because dreams come true in Kansas.
Top 5 Non-Typical Counties (All Time)
1. St. Louis Co., MN — 39 entries
2. Buffalo Co., WI — 35 entries
3. Fulton Co., IL — 28 entries
4. Pike Co., IL — 28 entries
5. Adams Co., IL — 25 entries
Good news for Kansas hunters: The entries are dispersed pretty well throughout the state. Coffey, Linn, Pawnee, Riley and Barber counties take the cake in the typical category with a combined 16 entries. Nemaha, Lyon, Marshall, Pottawatomie and Reno counties take home the top spots in the non-typical category with 21 entries.
I saw the largest public land whitetail of my life in Kansas. The deer was every bit of 190 inches with a 24- to 25-inch inside spread. The deer still haunts my dreams to this day. And no, I won’t tell you what part of the state it came from. You kidding me? Some things are still sacred. Absolute geographical locations are among those.
And now we come to the newcomer. Indiana is the only state on the top 10 list since 2010 that isn’t on the top 10 list of all time. For the all-time record, it sits at No. 11 in the typical and non-typical categories. And that’s saying something. It isn’t easy to break into the top 10. But Indiana continues to climb the charts. And I love it for all the Hoosier hunters out there.
Hunters in Ripley, Jasper, Franklin, Harrison and Parke counties have taken 23 B&C typicals since 2010. Newton, Noble, Sullivan, Dekalb and Harrison counties posted the top five non-typical spots with 13.
I think of Indiana as the little brother that’s just gotten old enough to kick big brother’s behind. And without a doubt, it’s kicking some big buck butt. A lot of big deer are coming out of the Hoosier state.
Here’s one that surprised me. You never hear anything out of Minnesota. It’s relatively quiet. To be No. 8 on this list, you hardly ever hear the state mentioned in the media. It’s like they have a lid on it and they aren’t telling anyone their secret. Well, sorry Minnesotans, but we’re ratting you out. You got some big deer, and you got ‘em right now.
Top 5 Typical Counties (All Time)
1. Buffalo Co., WI — 102 entries
2. St. Louis County., MN — 59 entries
3. Maverick Co., TX — 57 entries
4. Webb Co., TX — 57 entries
5. Dimmit Co., TX — 50 entries
Regarding typical records, Houston, Otter Tail, Clearwater, Fillmore and Wabasha counties have posted 32 entries. As for non-typical records, it’s much the same with Otter Tail, Houston, Todd, Washington, and Becker taking top honors with 21 entries. Talk about mass records in concentrated areas.
For those who would love to hunt Canadian whitetails someday, but don’t have the money to do it now, go to Minnesota. Big-bodied bucks. Big racks. Big fun.
Everything is bigger in Texas, even the deer apparently. In all seriousness, the reason Texas is on this list is because it’s such a big state. It’s true, states with larger geographical areas have an advantage. But life isn’t fair, and Texas is in the top 10.
Let’s face it, Texas is king when it comes to big typical whitetails. Between Maverick, La Salle, Webb, Dimmit and Kleberg counties, the top five spots posted 58 Booners since 2010. That’s impressive. It isn’t known as much for non-typicals, with Maverick, La Salle, Cooke, Dimmit and Kleberg posting the top spots with 22 entries throughout the last six seasons.
If you want big Texas bucks, head for the southwestern part of the state. That’s where you’ll find them. They’re big. And they’re abundant.
This is that state that everyone knows has big deer, but never thinks about hunting it. It’s true. Missouri has some big deer. And it isn’t the deer from 50 or 60 years ago we’re talking about. They’ve got big deer right now. And they’re ripe for the killing.
Chariton, Lincoln, St. Charles, Worth and Miller counties collectively produced 19 entries between 2010 and 2016. Mercer, Moniteau, Chariton, Cooper and Nodaway counties produced four, four, three, three and three non-typicals, respectively, for a total of 17 entries.
This state is the one nonresident hunters go to when they don’t draw Kansas or Iowa tags. Big bucks, low costs, and lots of public land make this part of the country attractive to a lot of hunters. No to mention the potential for a world class deer.