Best Big Buck States for 2014: Tennessee
October 31, 2014
The cold wind seemed to cut through every layer of clothing as the chilled hunter began to second guess his decision of hunting a few hours before heading to work. Minutes slowly ticked by as long-time deer hunter and old friend Granville Johnson kept testing his patience in hopes of a nice buck venturing close enough for an ethical shot while enduring near freezing temperatures on a Hickman County hunt.
Time was still creeping along on the frosty December morning when at around 8:30, Johnson felt stiff and had a sore backside from the prolonged wait in the stand. He figured it would not hurt anything to ease up and relieve his body of its numbness.
Not a deer had been spotted so far as he ever so cautiously began to rise to a standing position, immediately soothing his prior aching muscles. Just as he completed the move, the unmistaken sound of a deer snorting drew his attention. Johnson peered around the tree and noticed a large racked buck staring right at him only a few yards from the tree he had climbed.
The buck jumped and started to bolt as Johnson tried to gain his composure enough to raise his .308 into a good firing position. While the buck was trying to slip away, Johnson managed to find him in the scope, trying to ignore the magnificent set of antlers, and was able to get off a good shot that pierced the vitals. The buck fell immediately.
Johnson quickly climbed down in his Summit climber to observe what his patience helped him obtain. The magnificent 9 pointer was truly a great white-tailed buck, sporting long main beams with every antler point protruding high above the rack itself. The G2s were just shy of a foot at 11 inches and the outside spread was more than 20 inches. The buck grossed right at the 140-inch mark, which in most deer hunter's minds is a real trophy. Granville was able to harvest his buck after countless hours of scouting, hunting and passing on opportunities at smaller and younger aged bucks.
Tennessee has a good reputation of offering deer hunters the chance at a buck, but now the chances of taking home a really good buck are increasing every year. This has transpired because of the efforts of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency maintaining the three buck limit statewide, along with hunters across the state simply applying the same method as Johnson, opting to only harvest bucks that are mature and allowing the younger ones to grow older.
Many counties and WMAs across the state hold some excellent whitetail hunting for Volunteer State deer hunters. Of course, each of the four regions has certain counties that just seem to lead the pack in antlered deer harvests.
Tennessee offers whitetails and hunters alike a vast assortment of habitat and terrain. Each region is unique, from the Mississippi River lowlands of Region I in the west, the mountainous areas of eastern Tennessee in regions III and IV or the farms and woodlands of Region 2 that lies primarily in the middle of the state. Regions I and II have consistently been the frontrunners in terms of harvest numbers but the other two hold their own considering the vastly different features and rugged terrain that are present.
Where To Hunt
Leading the state in overall antlered harvest for the 2013-14 deer season was state harvest leader Giles County with 2,814 antlered whitetails harvested last year. Of that number 1,144 sported 7 to 8 points, 312 9 to 10 points, and 47 bucks were recorded as having 11 points or more. Giles has been a known whitetail haven for many years and produces several quality bucks each season.
The bad part is there are no public hunting areas located in the county, which means hunters have to gain permission, join a hunting club or obtain a lease in order to go after old mossy horns. Another Region II powerhouse, Lincoln County, holds the second spot in total antlered harvest, with 2,598 bucks taken.
A total of 1,208 had 7 to 8 points, another 307 sported 9- to 10-point racks and 73 bucks had 11 points or more. Fayette County holds the third spot with 2,426 antlered deer harvested in the 2013-14 season. Harvest records indicate that 859 7 to 8 pointers were bagged, 261 9 to 10 pointers and bucks that had 11 plus points totaled 64 for the Region I frontrunner.
In the fourth position is Henry County, with its total antlered harvest of 2,306. The 7- to 8-point buck harvest was 852, 9 to 10 pointers totaled 312 and 73 bucks with 11 or more points were taken there last season. Taking the number five overall spot is Hardeman County, another popular location for whitetails and hunters alike. It recorded 2,220 antlered deer bagged last year and of which 810 had 7 to 8 points.
The 9- to 10-point buck category totaled 218 and 38 bucks with 11 plus points were harvested. The sixth through ninth positions are held by Region II counties that have always been consistent with adequate harvest numbers, and the taking of quality whitetail bucks has become pretty common, too.
Maury County, with 2,063 antlered deer taken during the 2013-14 season, is sixth. The 7- to 8-point class amounted to 844, 9 to 10 pointers came to 263 and 53 bucks that sported racks of 11 points or more were taken. Montgomery holds the seventh spot with 1,947 bucks harvested, with 735 that had racks of 7 to 8 points, 301 sported 9 to 10 points and 66 bucks had antlers with 11 or more points.
Eighth position is held by Franklin County, which recorded an antlered harvest of 1,855. Bucks with 7- to 8-point racks totaled 687, 9 to 10 pointers amounted to 181 and 45 bucks with 11 plus point racks were taken there last season. The ninth spot is held by Hickman County, with its antlered harvest of 1,739.
Bucks with 7 to 8 points totaled 718, while final numbers show that 244 9 to 10 pointers were bagged and 48 bucks with 11 points or better were taken by hunters there last deer season. Rounding out the top 10 is Weakley County and its recorded buck harvest of 1,710. Bucks taken with 7- to 8-point racks amounted to 675 and the 9- to 10-point buck category finished with 176 for the year. The 11 plus point buck harvest was 30 for the Region I county that is a good destination to find a quality white-tailed buck.
Region I counties are usually at or near the top in the overall harvest and antlered harvest each and every year. For the 2013-14 season, it was Fayette County leading its region with 2,426 bucks taken. At least four bucks that were harvested in Fayette County last season made the Tennessee Deer Registry. Next was Henry County with its harvest of 2,306 bucks and Hardeman followed close with an antlered deer harvest of 2,220. Weakley and Madison counties finished out the top five in the region with 1,710 and 1,681 antlered deer taken.
Region II was dominated by statewide leader Giles County and its harvest of 2,814 whitetails with antlers. Lincoln County ranked second in the region with 2,598 recorded bucks. It was also second overall in the state antlered harvest as stated earlier in the rundown. Maury County's harvest of 2,063 antlered deer took the third spot, and with 1,947 Montgomery County held the number four slot. The region's fifth position went to Franklin County, which amassed 1,855 white-tailed bucks.
The counties of Region III may not produce the same numbers as those in regions I and II, but the deer hunting there is still above average and the chance of bagging a big buck is not out of the question. Roane County hunters led the region with its antlered harvest of 1,260, with Jackson a close second with 1,239 antlered deer taken during 2013-14. Up and coming Cumberland County with 1,071 bucks harvested took the number three spot and Hamilton, with 1,022 bucks, maintained its presence in the region rankings. Overton, with 890 antlered whitetails, rounded out the region's five top producers.
Moving eastward we enter Region IV that holds the state's most rugged habitat for both deer and deer hunter. Leading the pack was Hawkins that tallied 1,425 antlered whitetails last season, and next was Sullivan, which recorded 1,206 bucks. Third was Claiborne County with 1,014 total bucks taken by hunters there last year. The region's fourth and fifth place spots were filled by Scott and Carter counties, whose hunters managed to bag 846 and 783 antlered deer, respectively.
Many deer hunters across the state rely on areas that allow public hunting to be able to fill their buck tags each season. Tennessee is fortunate to have several WMAs and other properties that are accessible to properly licensed big-game hunters. Many of the areas do require a quota application in order to be selected, but others can be hunted during the statewide deer seasons. The chances of taking a trophy buck do exist on areas that allow public hunting and by doing your homework ahead of time you just might bag that public land bruiser buck.
The state leader for antlered deer harvests is once again the North and South Cherokee WMAs that stretch across many miles from extreme southeastern to northeastern parts of the state. It encompasses more than 250,000 acres of land that can be physically demanding, while trying to outsmart a wily old buck. Both areas combined had a total antlered harvest of 296 whitetails last season and of that figure 76 had 7- to 8 points, 25 sported 9- to 10-point racks and five bucks had 11 points or more.
Land Between the Lakes, or LBL as it's commonly referred to, holds the second position with 262 whitetails with antlers last season. Bucks that were harvested with 7 to 8 points totaled 89, while 44 with 9 to 10 points were bagged and six bucks with 11 points or better were taken on the more than 60,000 acres that are in the Tennessee portion.
Yanahli WMA located in Maury County is third with a total of 180 whitetail bucks harvested during the 2013-14 season. This WMA is a whitetail's paradise that consists of hardwood ridges, river bottom thickets and about every other type of habitat that comes to mind. Overall, this WMA has a lot to offer. It's conveniently located, which means hunters have easy accessibility, and it has a good whitetail population.
AEDC (Arnold Engineering and Development Center) in Franklin and Coffee counties holds the fourth spot with 167 antlered deer having been harvested. Out of that total 32 had 7 to 8 points and six of the bucks had 9- to 10-point racks. Zero bucks with 11 or more points were harvested there last year.
Taking the fifth place position is Catoosa WMA, in Cumberland and Morgan counties of Region 3. Hunters bagged 162 antlered whitetails last season, of which 101 sported 7- to 8-point racks, 28 had 9 to 10 points and five bucks were 11 pointers or larger.
We have to head west to find the sixth placed WMA in antlered harvest. The Natchez Trace WMA, which straddles Interstate 40 and consumes parts of Benton, Carroll and Henderson counties produced an antlered harvest of 155. Bucks with 7 to 8 points totaled 31, while six had racks with 9 to 10 points and two bucks sported antlers of 11 points or more.
Chuck Swan WMA with 129 antlered whitetails and North Cumberland WMA and its total of 115 bucks fill the seventh and eighth spots on the list. Ninth ranked Milan AAP (Army Ammunition Plant) in Gibson County produced 112 antlered deer for hunters last year and 34 of those bucks had racks with 7 to 8 points. Hunters were able to take 11 bucks with 9 to 10 points and three whitetails that had 11 points or more.
Finishing out the rankings in the 10th position is the Oak Ridge WMA. The area produced 108 antlered deer for hunters but only 18 had 7- to 8-point racks and three sported antlers with 9 to 10 points. No bucks with 11 or more points were recorded as being harvested there for the 2013-14 season.
Fortunately for deer hunters in the Volunteer State there are many great places located across the state that offer the chance at a quality whitetails.
Even if you are out in the deer woods just trying to fill the freezer, the thought of a big buck crosses every hunter's mind. Maybe this season is the one that offers you the chance at a buck of a lifetime and along the way enjoy every encounter you have while pursuing the addictive hobby we all share.