Best States for Whitetail Hunting in 2013

When it comes to big bucks, hunters are often as passionate about their home state as football fans are about their NFL teams. And just like we follow our teams, whitetail hunters want to know where their state ranks among the best in the U.S. each year.

At the same time, there are general perceptions about which states are the best for whitetail hunting. If you asked the average deer hunter what the top states are, you’d probably hear a lot about Kansas, Iowa or Illinois. But the real question is, do those states live up to their mammoth reputations? Is the hunting as good as the hype?

In order to answer those questions, we examined data from all whitetail states and built a list of criteria as a filter for all that information. It’s not an exact science—even the choice of criteria is a somewhat subjective endeavor—but we’ve come as close as possible to identifying the most essential characteristics any state must possess to be considered the best.

First, we looked at the amount of public land in each state, which is a way to measure hunting opportunity. This was a crucial category to consider, especially since states like Iowa, Illinois and Kansas rank well in trophy production but have very little public land access. It’s impossible to say a state is the best for whitetail hunting when the opportunity to hunt is afforded only to a select, wealthy few.

After that we measured trophy production using the Boone & Crockett record books. Trophy production isn’t the only thing that matters, but it’s certainly a crucial part of the equation. We tallied the trophy entries by state for typical and non-typical whitetail deer from 2002 to 2012 and assigned a score out of 10 based on rank. We also accounted for Pope & Young entries where it was substantial enough to warrant consideration.

Finally, we calculated average annual harvest numbers, hunter density and overall reputation for each state. We assigned a score—1 out of 10—for each criteria and totaled them up for an overall score out of 50. Using this method, we were able to separate the states that have a few quality deer hunting features from those that have it all. Like baseball scouts, we looked for the five-tool state that excels in all categories, one you could truly call “the best.” Check out the best states for whitetail hunting in 2013 and vote on your favorites.

  • Tim Byrnes

    I dont think I could disagree much more on some of the criteria if the search is genuinely about “the best state for whitetail hunting”. This article should be labelled more like “best state to hunt big whitetail on a dime”. I dont mind gaining the info but the title and rankings are rather misleading.

  • Harve Reworks

    “Eric Conn” needs to get his facts straight about Pennsylvania. Lots of ongoing fraud in the states deer management and nowhere near the deer numbers he speaks of. Although I would agree with the ranking of 18. Sounds about right.

  • Buck Martin

    You’ve got Iowa 17th. Yeah OK buddy. I’ve hunted public land in Iowa my entire life. I get a couple NICE bucks every year, I can tell your not a local.

  • Keith De Witt

    Waste of time reading this article.

  • John

    I am sorry. No way any state below the Mason-Dixion line is better than Michigan. Have you ever hunted in the U.P. Deer up there are born bigger than they are full grown in GA. or Miss.

  • Robert Forss

    Terrible article, probably by some desk jockey that’s never been in a deer stand.

  • Caruthers

    Finally someone recognizes Oklahoma for its potential to harvest great trophy bucks. Oklahoma has always been somewhat of a sleeper state and if youre looking for a 150 inch trophy you have came to the right spot. Oklahoma would be compared to the likes of Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, etc if they didn’t open gun season during the peak of the rut. This hurts Oklahoma bucks from reaching their full potential.

    • smd

      Wisconsin has the most trophy deer in the past decade… 700 and over 100 more than the runner up Illinois. 150 isn’t a trophy. 170+ is.

    • waynewatson

      Agree on Oklahoma, it is a real sleeper. There are monster bucks up there, and after hunting Texas for most of my life, Oklahoma is way better in terms of overall trophy potential.

  • Dang Ol deer huntin Tury

    This article… What a goon! Nebraska as 14 lol? I shot a 176 2/8″ and a 148 4/8″ with my bow this year already on PUBLIC LAND in NEBRASKA. Im of course still bow hunting does but yes I filled my two buck tags on public land before gun season opened. Do some more realistic research.

  • ain’t a rack huntet

    I think a lot more Deer Hunters are like me
    We don’t hunt for a rack , we hunt for the food
    And how much putting a Deer in the freezer saves
    us in food cost . Putting 2 deer a year in the freezer
    Saves my family easily 700 to 800 dollars a year
    In food cost . And is a very high quality food . I
    Never go out looking for a big rack , If one comes along
    I’ll go for it . But a nice doe will put a big smile on my
    Face too.

  • toads

    the deer in texas r like dogs, unless u shoot one that is pumped full of steroids….fricking joke

  • toads

    all the deer hunted in the south are fenced in deer farms, its sad!!!!

  • toads

    n.american whitetail mag or website is a joke!!!

  • Pennsyltuckyhunter

    Pennsylvania is the biggest joke in the country. And management here can be the top spot on the “fraud” list thanks to environmental extremists running the agency currently.

  • Dawn

    I cannot believe that Alabama is not on this list. The deer are everywhere.