Planning Out of State Whitetail Hunts
I love my home state of Georgia, and every now and then someone will harvest a trophy buck, but to be honest, most of the bucks are not giants. So I tend to also hunt out of state every year. For over 10 years I had gone to Kentucky to hunt bigger whitetail with my dad, and nowadays I go to Michigan to hunt with a buddy of mine. The reason is simple, to kill big deer, you have to go where big deer are.
The biggest deer tend to be farther north. This is partly because of the habitat management efforts, but it has a lot to do with sheer science. The farther away from the equator you get, the larger mammals get. This is because the cold weather makes it difficult for scrawny animals to survive. This is known as Bergmann’s rule.
Picking the Right State
When it comes to picking which state to hunt it, there are plenty of factors to consider. The first thing I would think about is if you have any friends or family hunting in a particular state. If you have buddies hunting in Ohio, I would check with them before I booked a trip to Indiana. It just makes it a whole lot easier if you are hunting with people you know and trust. Going across the country hunting can be a dangerous trip alone.
Other than your connections, you need to consider things like season dates and out-of-state hunter restrictions. Obviously, every state has a slightly different season, and in some of them out of state hunters are restricted from hunting at particular times. You just need to make sure that you are allowed to hunt during your time off.
It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the state’s hunting regulations as much as you can beforehand. Not everything will work the same way as it does in your home state. Going from Georgia to Michigan, I had to use a physical tag for the first time and make sure my concealed carry license was accepted before I went.
Where the Biggest Deer Come From
When we are looking for a good place to hunt, we obviously want to hunt where the biggest deer are. It is a little hard to figure out which state has the biggest deer on average because the score of any random buck is not a required statistic for hunters to report. Although if they want to be included in the Boone & Crockett club, they will report that score.
We can look at these scores and couple that with some other data to really break down where the biggest deer come from, and more importantly where the highest number of Boone & Crockett deer come from. Most of us know that the Midwest is where most of the trophies come from, but the midwest is still a big area, so let’s look at it on the state level.
As for the biggest deer of all time, it is the 337 inch giant above which was harvested in Virginia. Although just because it is the biggest buck recorded, does not mean Virginia has the most trophy bucks of any state. What we really what to know is where the highest number of big deer come from. So let’s look at the states with the most recorded Boone & Crockett bucks since 1887 (the start of Boone & Crockett). All of the data in this article was compiled on an Omega Outdoors post you can see here: Where Are the Biggest Whitetail Deer?
- Wisconsin - 1770
- Illinois - 1405
- Iowa - 1291
- Minnesota - 1168
- Kentucky - 1009
- Ohio - 977
- Missouri - 851
- Kansas - 828
- Indiana - 739
- Texas - 731
From this data, you may be tempted to click off this article and start booking a trip to Wisconsin. While that is not a horrible idea, things change if we only consider data from the last 10 years. Habitat management has changed for the better in recent decades and that can really make a difference when it comes to the production of Boonies.
States With the Most Boone & Crockett's in the Last 10 Years
If we want to account for the most recent habitat management strategies, we should look at data that is not from the 1800s. Instead, we will look at data from 2008 to 2017. This data is nearly 5 years old, but it is much more accurate than our previous data. Here are the top 10 states with the most Boone & Crockett bucks from 2008 to 2017.
- Wisconsin - 712
- Ohio - 457
- Kentucky - 418
- Indiana - 369
- Iowa - 354
- Illinois - 331
- Kansas - 322
- Missouri - 301
- Minnesota - 293
- Texas - 248
Maybe your instinct to run off to Wisconsin was not so bad after all. As the data shows, Wisconsin is doing a great job. Although if you pay close attention, you will also notice that Ohio jumped from the number 6 spot to number 2! While Illinois dropped from number 2 to number 6.
The deer habitat management industry has boomed in the past few decades and you can easily see that some states do it better than others. When we pick places to hunt, we tend to keep going back there. So if you are picking a place that you think you may want to hunt for the next five to ten years, you want to hunt the states with the best habitat management, and also add to the effort once you get there.
The Least Pressured States
These mid-west states that are always growing Boone & Crockett bucks are typically covered up with hunters. So you may want to hunt a state that does not have as much competition. Plus, a state lower in the former rankings could have more booner bucks, but with fewer hunters, it may not look that way.
Another way to think about this is to imagine you are in a field looking for a small item. The item could be anywhere. Sure, if you spent hours searching the field you may find it, but if you had 10 helpers, it would be found much faster. Now imagine there are one thousand people looking for it in the same field. They would find it much faster, and if there were more items to be found they would find more of them than the smaller group would.
So let’s take a look at Boone & Crockett’s harvest compared to the number of licenses sold that year. This should give us the chance that any random hunter has of harvesting a Boone & Crockett buck. Obviously, this is not going to be the same odds for everyone. The guys that hunt their highly managed deer oasis are going to kill bigger deer than the random Joe walking on public land.
Value times 0.00001
- Indiana - 8.03
- Kentucky - 7.1
- Kansas - 6.5
- Ohio - 5.3
- Iowa - 4.8
- Oklahoma - 3.2
- Nebraska - 2.42
- Wisconsin - 2.4
- Illinois - 2.27
- Mississippi - 2.04
As you can see from this data and the former data, Wisconsin is great, but it is covered up with hunters. It went from the top of the list all the way down to number 8! Plus we got quite a few new additions to the list.
So your best chance to randomly run into a Boone & Crockett buck is Indiana, which is just a 0.0000803% chance. For reference, your chance of randomly being struck by lightning is 0.00006%. We all know that it often takes more than dumb luck to kill a Boonie, but this data does tell us which states are more competitive.
Finding a Spot to Hunt Once You Find a State
After you decide on a state to hunt, you have to find a spot to hunt in it. For years I have hunted a lease in Kentucky (which we no longer have). It was great to have our own area to hunt, but as soon as someone else was willing to pay more for it, we lost it. Don’t get me wrong, leases are great but I would not expect to hold them forever.
Public land is also an option when you are going out of state. This is much harder to hunt because there will be a ton of hunters there that live in the area so they have an immediate advantage over you. With that being said, it is not impossible and plenty of people hunt on public lands out of state.
Your next option is to get in on a hunting club. These can be hard to find and hard to get into if you do not already know someone. Although it can be a great way to familiarize yourself with the area quickly. In smaller hunting clubs, everyone is going to help each other. This means you can get some tips and solid information about the area you will actually be hunting and not just blanket advice about a state.
Lastly, you can book a guided hunt. Guided hunts are really fun and relatively easy from the hunter’s side. The guide will do all of the hard work and you just have to be in the stand to pull a trigger. Guided hunts get extremely expensive, and it may not be a viable option year after year. Personally, I like to do most of the work myself. Doing it myself makes the trophy that much sweeter, but if I were presented with an affordable guided hunt I would not turn it down.
So to wrap it all up, you can really pick about any state in the mid-west. If I had to make a top 3 list, It would look something like Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Although any state mentioned in this post has a promising chance of having big deer. You just have to pick the one that aligns with what you want. If you are going at it alone, I suggest trying a lease or guide in the upper mid-west.
Written by Patrick Long of Omega Outdoors