Ohio One of Top 3 Hottest Deer Destinations for the Next 5 Years
Looking to Tag a Trophy Whitetail? Look No Further Than Our Fab Five!
America is blessed with an abundance of big-game animals for bowhunters to pursue, but it’s no secret whitetail deer are No. 1 on the list. Thanks to their relative abundance and wide geographic distribution, whitetails draw more bowhunters afield each year than any other species — by a wide margin.
The quality of America’s whitetail hunting has increased dramatically over the past several decades, thanks largely to a tremendous rise in the adoption of quality deer management principles by state wildlife agencies and private landowners alike. As a result, there are now many states that regularly produce the kind of world-class trophies historically only associated with a handful of whitetail hotspots.
Given the whitetail’s tremendous popularity and the number of bowhunters who travel long distances each year in search of a trophy buck, we thought it would be fun to take a look across the nation and identify the top five deer-hunting destinations for the next five years.Although we didn’t want to limit our search too much, we felt that — in addition to great bowhunting — any state that made our list also had to offer good non-resident license availability (sorry, Iowa) and enough public land to make the whitetail resource accessible to blue-collar bowhunters (sorry, Texas).
Although we don’t claim our rankings are an exact science, they are based on a combination of research and input gleaned from an informal poll of 10 nationally recognized whitetail experts: Kip Adams, conservation director at the Quality Deer Management Association; Ralph Cianciarulo, co-owner of Archer’s Choice media; Eddie Claypool, DIY whitetail guru and BOWHUNTING field editor; Levi Morgan, world champion archer and co-host of Bow Life TV; Rick Mowery, communications manager of the Pope and Young Club; Dan Perez, chief executive officer of Whitetail Properties; Steve Scott, vice president of the Whitetail Institute; Jason Snavely, owner of Drop-Tine Wildlife Consulting and BOWHUNTING Whitetails columnist; Bill Winke, co-owner of Midwest Whitetail and BOWHUNTING field editor; and Dr. Grant Woods, renowned whitetail biologist and host of Growing Deer TV.
The experts certainly didn’t agree on everything, but when combined with a review of whitetail trophy data and other deer-hunting information, there were some clear trends involving states that kept popping up again and again. So, without further ado, here are our picks for America’s top five whitetail destinations for the next five years:
Ask the average bowhunter what species comes to mind when you mention Montana and the most common answer is likely to be elk, probably followed by mule deer, moose or even mountain lion. Therein lies the beauty of Montana as a whitetail-hunting destination, as this stunningly beautiful Western state harbors a whitetail resource far bigger than its reputation.
Similar to Montana, Oklahoma is a high-quality whitetail state that has largely flown under the radar on a national basis, at least until recent years. Long overshadowed by its neighbors to the south (Texas) and north (Kansas), Oklahoma isattracting growing attention from non-resident bowhunters.
Now we are breaking into our top three, and honestly, you won’t find any surprises here. Truth is, figuring out exactly what order to put our final three states in was a real chore, because an argument could easily be made for putting any one of them at the top of the list.
Ohio, for instance, takes a back seat to nowhere in monster whitetail production. The Pope and Young Club’s record book proves that — Ohio has produced the No. 3 (198 3⁄8) andNo. 6 (196 6⁄8) typical whitetails and the No. 1 (294 0⁄8) non-typical whitetail. And it’s not like these bucks were killed a long time ago. The No. 1 non-typical was taken in Greene County in 2000. The No. 3 typical was taken in Muskingum County in 2004, and the No. 6 typical was taken in Adams County in 2006. So, if you’re looking to kill a truly giant buck — especially if you’re an archer living in the nation’s heavily populated Northeast Corridor — Ohio has to be at or near the top of your list.
Another great thing about Ohio, especially when compared to other well-known whitetail destinations in the Midwest, is how friendly it is to visiting bowhunters. Non-resident archers can get guaranteed hunting licenses for $146.12, with an either-sex deer permit costing just $41.60 more. So, for less than $200, you can bowhunt the Buckeye State to your heart’s content during a lengthy season — roughly four months, from the end of September into February.
“Ohio has been awesome to me,” said Levi Morgan, world champion 3-D shooter and Bow Life TV co-host. Morgan grew up in North Carolina and currently resides in Pennsylvania, but his family owns a 200-acre farm in southern Ohio where, several years ago, he killed a giant buck that sported numerous drop tines totaling 26 inches of antler.
What makes the Buckeye State so good for whitetails, Morgan believes, is an almost perfect blend of rugged terrain covered in hardwood forest, along with plenty of agriculture to boost deer nutrition. With plenty of places to hide and plenty of places to eat, Ohio bucks are difficult for hunters to pinpoint, allowing many to reach full maturity and develop giant racks.
Ohio also doesn’t have a centerfire rifle deer season, restricting gun hunters to shotguns and muzzleloaders. Better still, from a bowhunter’s perspective, is that the firearms seasons are relatively short and don’t coincide with peak rut. “So,” Morgan said, “that saves a lot of big deer.”
There are plenty of outfitters and leasing opportunities in Ohio, but a quality, DIY hunt isn’t out of the question. In fact, Ohio offers access to public land throughout the state via Wildlife Management Areas and other properties owned by the Department of Natural Resources.
Over the last decade, Kentucky has gone from a sleeper state to one that is routinely mentioned among America’s most desirable whitetail destinations — and for good reason. Kentucky ranks No. 5 all-time in Boone and Crockett whitetail entries (ahead of both Ohio and Kansas). And if you look at just the past decade, Kentucky’s 418 B&C entries rank No. 3 nationally.
Many times, the best answer to a question is the most obvious one, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to selecting Kansas as the No. 1 state on our list. Outside of Iowa, which we eliminated from contention due to the difficulty of obtaining non-resident licenses, it is hard to imagine anywhere that rivals the Jayhawker State for producing big bucks.
This article originally posted by Christian Berg at Bowhunting Magazine