And What the Future of Record Book Bucks Looks Like
Deer hunting is an ever-changing world. It might not seem that way on the surface, but it is. Deer populations rise, fall and run stagnant. Sometimes big bucks are killed. Other years they aren’t. Some seasons produce big deer in areas Booners haven’t been seen for years. Just take the recent Tucker buck from Tennessee as an example. The beauty in Boone & Crockett’s Trophy Records search function? We can see where the big bucks are coming from right now, not just the deer that were killed a half-century ago.
We’ve compiled the data from the last five years based on number of entries per square mile to eliminate the advantage of being a larger state. We’ve done this to show where the biggest bucks are coming from right now and to shed a little light on what the future of Boone & Crockett bucks looks like in America.
Whether you’re looking to buy land, lease ground, or just trying to determine where the best place is for a Booner this fall, we’ve got the information you need right here. No bull. Just the facts.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00600
Top county for typicals: Buffalo (20)
Top county for non-typicals: Dane (five)
This place has the typical whitetails. It’s entered 234 typicals in the last five seasons. It’s also entered 92 non-typicals. That’s world-class numbers. Needless to say, Wisconsin is still king in the deer hunting world.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00505
Top county for typicals: Pulaski (six)
Top county for non-typicals: Todd (five)
Kentucky is a dang good deer hunting destination right now. Sure, Kentucky has only produced 201 entries to Wisconsin’s 326 in the last five years. But when you factor in the size of each state, things even up fairly quickly. Kentucky is right on the front-runner’s heels.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00498
Top county for typicals: Butler/Meigs (five)
Top county for non-typicals: Summit (five)
Ohio hasn’t always been a well-known big buck state. But it has become much more so in the last five to 10 years. It’s produced 204 entries in the last five seasons. Sure, that’s three more than Kentucky. However, Ohio is a little larger state, which reduces the total entries per square mile. But the data doesn’t lie. This is still a great place to be in a tree.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00371
Top county for typicals: Delaware (five)
Top county for non-typicals: Ripley/Sullivan (three)
This is the dark horse in the big buck race. Few think of Indiana, but it’s a really good destination. It doesn’t make the all-time top 10 list, but it’s certainly climbed up in the ranks in recent years.
Top 10 States of All Time Total Entries
1. Wisconsin — 1,683 entries
2. Illinois — 1,363 entries
3. Iowa — 1,248 entries
4. Minnesota — 1,121 entries
5. Kentucky — 954 entries
6. Ohio — 913 entries
7. Missouri — 804 entries
8. Kansas — 791 entries
9. Texas — 694 entries
10. Indiana — 662 entries
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00285
Top county for typicals: Allamakee (seven)
Top county for non-typicals: Warren/Harrison (four)
Iowa is the heralded state that so many want to hunt. It’s the epitome of the deer hunting world for many bowhunters. No, it isn’t what it used to be. It’s dropped off significantly from where it was 10 to 15 years ago. Plus, it’s only cranking out half as many as Booners as Wisconsin and Kentucky on a per-square-mile basis. But it’s still Iowa.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00191
Top county for typicals: Bureau/Fulton/Marshall/Ogle (three)
Top county for non-typicals: Jo Daviess/McHenry (three)
The Land of Lincoln is No. 2 on the all-time list. But it falls to No. 6 when taking into account the size of the state and considering the most recent data. It might not rank as high as it used to, but it’s still offering pretty darn good deer hunting.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00177
Top county for typicals: Houston (six)
Top county for non-typicals: Otter Trail (nine)
This is one state that many people forget about. It’s not well-known to non-residents, either. Sure, Minnesota is great historically speaking. But it’s still really good today, too.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00175
Top county for typicals: Riley/Trego (three)
Top county for non-typicals: Pottawatomie (five)
You might be surprised that Kansas doesn’t rank higher on this list. I was. But I fear that within the next 10-15 years the Kansas legacy won’t be what it once was. We’ve already witnessed the continuous decline in past seasons. Only time will tell, though.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00136
Top county for typicals: Lincoln (three)
Top county for non-typicals: Mercer (four)
This is just an all-around good state for deer hunting. It’s never been near the top. But it’s never really fell from grace, either. Call Missouri Old Faithful, if you will.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00133
Top county for typicals: Wicomico (three)
Top county for non-typicals: Cecil/Charles/Kent/Queen Anne’s/St. Mary’s/Wicomico (one)
This might just be the biggest shocker on the list. I didn’t expect Maryland to make the top 10 list for the past five seasons. But here we are and Maryland is the big buck capital of the Northeast.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00102
Top county for typicals: New Castle/Sussex (one)
Top county for non-typicals: None
Delaware, another northeastern destination, snuck onto the list as well. Don’t count these little states out. They’re producing a good number of big bucks to be such small states. If you’re looking to hunt in this region of the country, Delaware is a solid option.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00086
Top county for typicals: Cross/Phillips (four)
Top county for non-typicals: Phillips (three)
Razorback country is also great deer hunting country. Arkansas deer hunters have been tagging good numbers of record-book bucks. However, we don’t quite know how the recent finding of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) could affect their ranking in the future. Time will tell.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00081
Top county for typicals: Coahoma (five)
Top county for non-typicals: Marshall/Tallahatchie (two)
Here’s another southeastern state making the top 15. It’s no secret that Mississippi is a solid option for those who hunt in the South. It’s no Kentucky, Wisconsin or Ohio. But, along with Arkansas, it’s about your best option in the South.
14. West Virginia
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00066
Big mountain bucks are hard to come by. West Virginia seems to be producing a pretty steady flow of them nonetheless. If you’re an Appalachian hunter, forget Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. West Virginia is where you need to be hunting.
Entries (per square mile) the last five seasons: .00065
Top county for typicals: Berrien/Monroe (four)
Top county for non-typicals: Livingston/Washtenaw (two)
Rounding out our list is another Midwestern state, of sorts. While you’d expect a state like this to do better numbers than the likes of Maryland and Delaware, it didn’t. In fact, it’s only done about half as much as those in the last five seasons.
As you compare the two lists above, you’ll notice the huge differences between the all-time lists and the most recent data. You’ll also notice a huge difference between total entries vs. total entries per square mile. There’s a big difference. And things are rapidly changing across the deer hunting landscape. It looks like we’re witnessing the beginnings of a shift. We’re likely entering a new era.
It’s crazy how things have changed throughout the years. It used to be Illinois that everyone talked about. Today? Hardly a peep. Illinois deer hunting has greatly declined in the last 10 years. It’s No. 2 on the all-time list. It falls to No. 5 on the top states since 2010. Dial it in to the recent data even more by just looking at the last five seasons and it drops to No. 6. There are still some big deer to be tagged there, but nothing like it once was.
Other states have really come a long way in recent years. Indiana is one such state. It’s produced 133 total entries and .00371 entries per square mile to jump up to No. 4 in the last five seasons. That’s pretty significant. And when you have states like Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and Maryland ranking in the top 15, and states like Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas ranking outside of the top 15, there’s certainly a shift beginning to happen.
Two things really come as a small surprise. First, few expected Maryland to rank in the top 10. Delaware coming in just behind it only supports the fact that a pocket in the Northeast is prime big buck country. Secondly, select Midwestern states aren’t producing like they used to. Both of these things have been coming. But it’s still eye-opening data.
When it comes down to it, just about every state with huntable populations are doing pretty well in terms of all-around deer hunting. It’s still the good old days for those who love whitetails. But if you’re looking for the best of the best white-tailed bucks, better head to one of these 15 states. I think you’ll be glad you did.