15 Best States for DIY Deer Hunting in 2018

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

How Many of These States Have You Hunted In?

Idaho

Image 1 of 15

1 | Idaho

Deer Population Rating: B

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: C

License Cost Rating: C

Public Land Rating: A

Hunting Pressure Rating: A

Overall Rating: A-

This state doesn’t put out many Booners, but the Pope and Young potential is off the charts. It offers minimal hunting pressure and success rates exceed 40 percent annually. Furthermore, Idaho has some of the best hunting in all of the West. Most tags are sold on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Idaho

Photo credit: Tim Irwin

Image 1 of 15

Mississippi

Image 2 of 15

2 | Mississippi

Deer Population Rating: A

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: C

License Cost Rating: B

Public Land Rating: A

Hunting Pressure Rating: B

Overall Rating: B+

If the Southeast is in your sights, Mississippi is likely the best state for DIY deer hunters. Hunting pressure isn’t terrible. There are a lot of mature bucks in this state. And there’s 2 million acres of public land. You can’t beat that. They did recently find CWD there, but all in all, it’s still a fantastic whitetail destination.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Mississippi

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Bruce MacQueen

Image 2 of 15

Wisconsin

Image 3 of 15

3 | Wisconsin

Deer Population Rating: B

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: A

License Cost Rating: A

Public Land Rating: A

Hunting Pressure Rating: C

Overall Rating: B+

It has more trophy whitetails in the books than any other state. By the books, it’s a run-away train when you compare them to all other states. It has 6 million acres of public land available for deer hunters as well. Plus, if you subscribe to the idea that the Johnny King buck is actually the world record typical, they own that title, too.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Wisconsin

Photo credit: Realtree

Image 3 of 15

Ohio

Image 4 of 15

4 | Ohio

Deer Population Rating: B

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: A

License Cost Rating: A

Public Land Rating: B

Hunting Pressure Rating: A

Overall Rating: A-

Ohio might be the holy grail of deer hunting east of the Mississippi. It has a good amount of public land, less-than-average hunting pressure, and has one of the longest seasons in the region. This is hilly country, though. You better be in shape if you plan to be successful.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Ohio

Photo credit: Realtree

Image 4 of 15

Indiana

Image 5 of 15

5 | Indiana

Deer Population Rating: B

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: A

License Cost Rating: A

Public Land Rating: B

Hunting Pressure Rating: B

Overall Rating: A-

Indiana is the biggest underdog on this list. It has a great deer population, decent hunting pressure, and a good bit of public land to check out. But if you’re in the hunt for the biggest deer, public lands within an hour of the Ohio River will put you in some of the best country for out-of-state deer hunting.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Indiana

Photo credit: Realtree

Image 5 of 15

Oklahoma

Image 6 of 15

6 | Oklahoma

Deer Population Rating: A

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: B

License Cost Rating: B

Public Land Rating: A

Hunting Pressure Rating: A

Overall Rating: A-

Oklahoma is probably the best state in that part of the country. I think it’s better than Texas. And it might end up being the new Kansas in another five to 10 years. There. I said it. It has 1.7 million acres of public land, relatively low hunting pressure and lots of trophy potential. It’s a great place to hunt deer as a non-resident.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Oklahoma

Photo credit: Realtree

Image 6 of 15

Kansas

Image 7 of 15

7 | Kansas

Deer Population Rating: B

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: B

License Cost Rating: C

Public Land Rating: C

Hunting Pressure Rating: B

Overall Rating: B-

It’s Kansas. Of course the deer hunting is good. But it’s not what it used to be. And it’s a little pricey. All bad aside, it still blazes its way into the top 15 list. There are still a ton of Pope and Young deer and even a few Booners, too. If hunting public land, look into the Walk-In Hunting Area (WIHA) program. (You’re welcome.)

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Kansas

Photo credit: Art Helin

Image 7 of 15

Nebraska

Image 8 of 15

8 | Nebraska

Deer Population Rating: B

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: B

License Cost Rating: D

Public Land Rating: B

Hunting Pressure Rating: A

Overall Rating: B-

Nebraska is a sleeper state. It doesn’t get the press its southern and eastern neighbors do. That’s okay for those who choose to hunt here. The pressure is minimal compared to most states. There isn’t quite as much public land as other places, but it still has enough to roam around on. Deer populations are plentiful. It’s biggest downfall? License costs are flat-out horrifying.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Nebraska

Photo credit: Grant Taylor

Image 8 of 15

Iowa

Image 9 of 15

9 | Iowa

Deer Population Rating: B

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: A

License Cost Rating: D

Public Land Rating: C

Hunting Pressure Rating: A

Overall Rating: B+

Iowa is Iowa. It has giants. There’s no denying that. But the same reason that makes it so good makes it so hard to hunt. It takes three to four years just to draw a tag there. Preference points are 52 dollars apiece. Add four of those to a 549-dollar license/tag and you’re spending about $800 before you even leave the house. Then, when you do, it’s tough to find public land. But once you find a spot to snuggle into, my oh my. It truly is the land of giants.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Iowa

Photo credit: Gabe Adair

Image 9 of 15

Missouri

Image 10 of 15

10 | Missouri

Deer Population Rating: A

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: B

License Cost Rating: B

Public Land Rating: B

Hunting Pressure Rating: C

Overall Rating: B-

Missouri is that kid that always gets picked several rounds in on the kickball field. It isn’t the best of the litter. But it isn’t terrible either. It has plenty to offer. Missouri is a pressured state. But it has a lot of deer and solid numbers of big deer. The key is to find hidden pockets that are targeted less and that might be a little tougher to get to.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Missouri

Photo credit: Melissa Bachman

Image 10 of 15

Kentucky

Image 11 of 15

11 | Kentucky

Deer Population Rating: A

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: A

License Cost Rating: B

Public Land Rating: B

Hunting Pressure Rating: B

Overall Rating: A-

Kentucky. It’s baby Iowa with a touch of Wisconsin in it. How so? Well, it’s cranking out more and bigger bucks per season than even Iowa now. Only Wisconsin surpasses it. And really, when you compare the numbers, it doesn’t. Wisconsin sells four times as many deer permits and only puts a few more in the books than Kentucky each year to show for it. Think about that for a minute. All said, if you plan to hunt Kentucky this season, avoid the eastern third (maybe even half) of the state. A heavy bout of EHD hit last fall that wiped out as much as 60 percent of the herd in some areas. Luckily, it only takes a few years to fully recover from an episode like that. Kentucky is still a prime deer hunting state.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Kentucky

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

Image 11 of 15

Washington

Image 12 of 15

12 | Washington

Deer Population Rating: C

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: C

License Cost Rating: B

Public Land Rating: A

Hunting Pressure Rating: A

Overall Rating: B

No one ever says Washington and whitetails in the same sentence. Except for the smart public land deer hunters. This state has a lot of ground to chase deer on. It has phenomenal Pope and Young potential and doesn’t charge as much as many other states. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that you might see an elk, moose or other big game animal while you’re chasing deer.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Washington

Photo credit: Tim Irwin

Image 12 of 15

North Dakota

Image 13 of 15

13 | North Dakota

Deer Population Rating: C

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: D

License Cost Rating: B

Public Land Rating: C

Hunting Pressure Rating: A

Overall Rating: C+

Here is another state people don’t always consider as a top DIY contender. But for the out-of-state bowhunter, it is. An interesting fact — N-Dak has produced enough Pope and Young whitetails to bust into the top three in recent years. Success rates range between 35 and 70 percent depending on weapon choice.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in North Dakota

Photo credit: Brent Larson

Image 13 of 15

Virginia

Image 14 of 15

14 | Virginia

Deer Population Rating: A

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: C

License Cost Rating: B

Public Land Rating: A

Hunting Pressure Rating: A

Overall Rating: B-

This is one of the best DIY deer states in the East. It’s hard to beat it. Great deer population. It doesn’t crank out a lot of Booners, but the age structure of the herd is solid. License costs aren’t terrible and hunting pressure isn’t bad once you get off the beaten path, either.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in Virginia

Photo credit: Tony Campbell

Image 14 of 15

New York

Image 15 of 15

15 | New York

Deer Population Rating: A

P&Y Potential Rating: A

B&C Potential Rating: D

License Cost Rating: A

Public Land Rating: B

Hunting Pressure Rating: C

Overall Rating: B-

New York has a lot of deer and a lot of deer hunters. The Pope and Young potential is high, but Boone and Crockett expectations should be low. Non-resident license costs aren’t terrible for most (it varies) and a decent amount of public land is open for hunting. It’s certainly not a bad place to try if you want to hunt in the Northeast.

Don’t Miss: Deer Hunting in New York

Photo credit: Ray Hennessy

Are you a deer hunter wanting to learn how to accomplish your goals? Check out our stories, videos and hard-hitting how-to's on deer hunting.

Follow us on Facebook.

Image 15 of 15

Are you the type deer hunter who enjoys hunting a new place every now and then? Have enough drive to do the occasional out-of-state hunt? Whether this is your first non-resident DIY hunt, or you’re 100th, we’ve got the ranking system that helps find the right place for you. Derived from our overall Antler Nation grading system, here are our top 15 picks for DIY deer hunting states this season.