October 29, 2013
By Eric Conn
As a recent study pointed out, most hunters say they're more interested in putting meat in the freezer than hanging a world class set of horns on the wall. That's probably a good thing, especially when you consider the fact that most hunters will never kill a record-size deer in their lifetime. Meat is just more practical€¦and probable.
Even so, we'd be lying if we said massive antlers didn't factor into the equation. Like everyone else, our hearts skip a beat when we see that 300-inch giant in another man's hands, wondering how we'd respond if we ever got that kind of opportunity. We check trail cameras year in and year out, hoping to spot that freak buck we've only seen in our dreams or a sporting goods store. And since not every state has the same trophy potential, you have to ask yourself: Where's the best place to kill a trophy buck this year?
At this point it's not about measuring an overall whitetail hunting experience or picking up meat for the next round of deer jerky — it's about tracking down the trophy of a lifetime, pure and simple. With a ton of help from the NAW experts — and data from around the country — we rounded up the best big buck states for 2013.
Wisconsin probably isn't the state most people think of when it comes to great whitetail hunting, but it certainly has a track record for producing giant bucks. According to Boone & Crockett
, Wisconsin has produced the highest number of trophy entries in the last 10 years. In that time span the state has produced more than 700 trophies, which is about 130 more than the next closest state (Illinois).
A great example is Paul Keller's 2012 buck (left), which scored 231 4/8 B&C. The state also has some great public land opportunities if you're able to get away from the crowds, which only improves your chances of bagging a brute this year.
When Bill Ullrich killed his 220 1/8 B&C trophy buck
in October 2012, it only confirmed what most of us already knew — Illinois is the whitetail Mecca for big bucks. The state ranks No. 2 in the last 10 years for trophy entries with B&C (around 600), and has a great reputation for producing monster bucks. Yes, public land is hard to come by and private outfitters charge a hefty price, but if you're on the hunt for a record-size buck, Illinois has to be somewhere near the top of your list.
When it comes to premiere whitetail hunting, one of the first places that comes to mind is Iowa. And rightly so. The state ranks No. 4 overall in trophy production during the last decade and has a reputation trophy output. True, the drawing process is a bit of hassle for non-residents, but the fact remains: If you want to bag a bruiser, Iowa is worth the trouble.
Just ask Bo Russell, who killed a 231 4/8 B&C buck in Des Moines County in 2012. As big as his deer was, Russell's buck was only the second largest bow kill of the year. That just goes to show you how high the bar is when you're hunting Iowa.
In many people's eyes, Kentucky has been a sleeper state for some of the best whitetail hunting in the U.S. But with a consistent track record for producing trophies over the last decade (Kentucky ranks No. 5, with around 415 B&C entries), it's hard to imagine the Bluegrass State staying under the radar for much longer.
With tons of room to roam and plenty of affordable opportunities, Kentucky is a great place to kill a trophy buck in 2013. Jason Tuttle found that out last year when he killed a 182-inch giant in the middle of the rut.
Missouri is another state that sometimes gets overlooked for trophy whitetail production — especially when talking about states like Iowa and Illinois — but it measures up rather nicely. Missouri ranks No. 6 in trophy production over the last 10 years, which is just behind Iowa and Illinois but just ahead of Kansas. If you're planning an out-of-state excursion, Missouri is still low-profile enough to avoid the headaches that come with other popular whitetail destinations.
If you have any doubts about Missouri's trophy potential, just talk to Ryan Smith, who killed a 202-inch monster in 2012.
Indiana might have flown under a lot of people's radar in years past, but everything changed after Tim Beck killed the No. 2 non-typical of all time
in 2012. Beck's 305-inch megabuck captured the attention of everyone around the country, and is only one example of the state's trophy potential.
Indiana ranks No. 7 in trophy production over the last decade, which is no small feat. There's quite a bit of public land, too, so there are plenty of opportunities to go around.
Kansas is certainly not a surprise on this list. If you're looking for a trophy, Kansas is one of the best places to start looking. The state has always had trophy pedigree, but in 2013 it became one of only six states to have a 300-inch deer on record
. It's also in the Top 10 for trophy production over the last 10 years.
Lucas Cochren's 2011 buck is only one example of Kansas' record-book status. His buck scored 238 4/8 B&C and typifies what comes out of Kansas every year.
Though some may not believe it, Minnesota has more to offer than famously stereotypical northern accents, ice hockey and freezing cold winters. Eleven percent of the land in Minnesota is publicly owned, which means there is a lot of great access for deer hunters. The state ranks 9th in B&C trophy production, averages about 200,000 deer kills a year and has a relatively low to moderate hunter density (5-8 hunters per sq. mile). There are about 1 million deer statewide, though a high number of licenses (800,000) and pressure during gun season are definitely setbacks.
If anything, Jeff Iverson's 2012 buck proved that Minnesota is as good as ever when it comes to trophy production. Iverson's buck scored near 230 inches, very close to the state record. All this means Minnesota is a great place to kill a trophy buck this year.
When you think of Texas, you think big — big belt buckles, big cowboy hats and big trucks. As with everything else, whitetail populations and harvest numbers are bigger in Texas, too. Harvest numbers are annually around 600,000 — no, that's not a typo — and there is a deer population of about 4 million statewide. Texas has also produced over 200 B&C trophy entries in the last decade (No. 10 overall) and it has a low hunter density (0-4 hunters per sq. mile). About 97 percent of Texas is privately owned, which means it's pretty much private or bust. Whitetail combo hunts are fairly cheap, however, and licenses plentiful (1.1 million licenses sold a year).
One of the best bucks to come out of Texas was A.J. Downs' megabuck, killed in 2012. His 256 4/8 B&C trophy typifies what Texas is all about — and what the future holds for those who venture into the Lone Star State for a trophy buck.
Ohio is a big time trophy-producing whitetail state with solid harvest numbers and lots of public land access. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of public land opportunities to choose from, a healthy whitetail population of about 750,000 and plenty of licenses to snatch up (about 420,000 annually). On top of that, Ohio is the No. 3 overall B&C trophy producer in the last decade with nearly 450 entries.
Stanley Suda killed an amazing trophy buck in 2012, which scored in the 230-inch range. His buck, which was killed in early October, typifies what Ohio is all about — churning out big bucks on a yearly basis. This makes it a perfect destination to kill a trophy buck this year.