According to a recent survey conducted by the National Deer Alliance, 42 percent of deer hunters said they have travelled outside their home state to hunt deer in the last three years.
In the past decade, there has been a surge in whitetail hunters who are travelling to hunt other states. Part of this is due to the information available on the internet and an increase in outdoor television programming.
This has put the quality of deer hunting available in some states in front of millions of people who had no idea how much better the deer hunting can be in other areas of the country.
It’s no secret that the number of outfitters has exploded, and land is being leased and bought up by serious deer hunters across the best areas.
Managing land for quality whitetails has been the craze, but where does that leave the guy who wants to hunt in an area with the best bucks but either can’t afford an outfitter or would rather go it alone? Enter the brotherhood of do-it-yourself (DIY) public land hunters. I’m one of them and since you are reading this, you may be too.
What follows here is the result of exhaustive research on more than 30 whitetail states. I looked at nine factors that influence the quality and availability of deer hunting. I ranked each state in order based on these nine factors and came up with a top 20 states.
Of these nine categories, I felt that some factors were more important than others so I ranked four of them on a scale of one to three (License cost, license acquisition, deer population, and intangibles/reputation).
The other five I ranked on a scale of one to ten (harvests per hunter, harvest density, amount of public land, and the ratio of B&C and P&Y bucks in relation to the overall harvest) because I felt they would weigh more heavily in the decision-making process.
Let’s take a brief look at each of these.
Nonresident License Cost: These ranged from $74 for Maine to $704 (including 3 preference points) for Iowa.
Difficulty of License Acquisition: States that offer over the counter tags were given more points than states in which it is hard to draw a tag.
Overall Deer Population: Your chances of seeing a deer is somewhat based on this factor. Several states made moves in this category, mostly not for the good.
Harvests Per Hunter: This is a computation of the annual success rates for deer hunters in each state. It ranged from 1.607 deer per hunter in Mississippi, to .073 in Washington.
P&Y Ratio and B&C Ratio: This is a computation of the ratio between the record book bucks in relation to the overall harvest for the past five seasons 2010-2014.
For example, more B&C bucks have been killed in Wisconsin than any other state, but Wisconsin also has a very high deer harvest. If you look at the number of B&C bucks as a percentage of the overall harvest, five states rank higher than Wisconsin: Kentucky, Kansas, Colorado, Iowa and Indiana.
Hunter Density: This is the number of deer hunters in the state in relation to the amount of land. It’s a good indicator of the amount of hunting pressure you will find on public land.
Amount of Public Land: This is a ranking based on the acreage of public land in the state that is suitable whitetail habitat. This includes Federal, state and private land that is open to public hunting.
While western states like Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado offer huge volumes of public land, most of it is more suitable to elk and mule deer than whitetails. Since whitetails are mostly found on private farmland along the riparian areas of these states, that was taken into consideration.
Intangibles: This is a one to three subjective ranking based on a gut feeling. Seems like everyone wants to hunt Iowa, that’s why there are nearly four applications for every available tag most years.
But places like the western states also have an appeal because of the unique experience and the difference in scenery. Very few nonresident licenses are sold in the southern states, which is another indicator of the intangibles.
So here goes the ranking of the top 20 states for the DIY hunters. Some of them may surprise you (I was surprised Indiana ranked so high and Montana ranked so low). I welcome your comments and suggestions; you are certainly free to disagree with me.
One more thing before we start, because I know you are curious, here are five honorable mentions, the states that ranked from 25-21 in order: Washington, Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan, Maryland.
- <h2>20. Texas</h2>You might think a state with an annual harvest of nearly 600,000 deer and has produced more than 100 B&C bucks in the past five years would rank higher but it has some significant strikes against it. The biggest issue with Texas is finding a place to hunt. Availability of public land is minimal, and it gets pressured hard. And when you look at the actual number of trophy bucks in relation to the huge overall harvest, the state is actually pretty average. <p></p> Texas has some things going for it, such as a long rut, pleasant hunting weather and the chance to see a lot of deer. Hunting deer in Texas is a unique experience in whitetail hunting and is on the bucket list for a lot of hunters. A deer license is $322 and allows you to shoot two bucks. <p></p> <strong>License Cost:</strong> 1 <br /> <strong>License Acquirement:</strong> 3 <br /> <strong>Deer Population:</strong> 2 <br /> <strong>Harvests/Hunter:</strong> 9 <br /> <strong>P&Ys/Harvest:</strong> 3 <br /> <strong>B&Cs/Harvest:</strong> 3 <br /> <strong>Hunting Pressure:</strong> 8 <br /> <strong>Huntable Land:</strong> 3 <br /> <strong>Reputation/Intangibles:</strong> 1 <br /> <strong>Total:</strong> 33