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Best Deer Hunting States in the Southwest

Best Deer Hunting States in the Southwest
Colorado consistently ranks high in the percentage of record books bucks in the overall harvest. The plains of eastern Colorado contain the most deer and the hunting there is a spot-and-stalk mecca. Rich Coles' gorgeous buck is an example of the average deer found on the plains.

The thirsty land in the southwestern part of the country, particularly in Texas, has been the beneficiary of abundant rain. This is good news for the state's deer population and for Southwestern bucks to grow big racks. So far, most of this area has avoided any significant disease outbreaks, so the populations are healthy and bucks are readily available.


The overwhelming majority of the whitetails shot in Colorado are taken in the eastern third of the state. Most of these are taken by spot-and-stalk tactics in the open plains, though some stand hunting does occur along the riverbottoms east of Denver.

The state ranks high in the number of record book bucks as a ratio to the overall harvest because of this. Hunters can choose which deer they plan to hunt as they look them over through optics from a distance.

Naturally, most hunters choose to pursue the largest bucks they see that day.

While the opportunity to hunt bucks this way isn't for everyone, most hunters would like to add this type of a hunt to their bucket list because of the unique challenge and habitat in which these deer live - all against the backdrop of the Rockies.

You will see some really nice bucks and see why Colorado is a consistent producer not of numbers of whitetails but of a high percentage of mature bucks in the overall harvest.


Darron McDougal Oklahoma Buck
This great buck was taken on public land in Northern Oklahoma by nonresident bowhunter, Darron McDougal.

Recent rains in Oklahoma and Texas offer hope that the hunting in this area will improve. An important part of growing big racks is the ability to consume the minerals needed. Green plants with plenty of moisture really help the bucks accomplish that, so look for an improved year for Oklahoma.

The Southeast portion of the state, with its mountainous area, is most well-known as a producer of deer, but the creek and river bottoms also produce nice bucks where habitat is suitable. Irrigated crop fields throughout the state offer food for whitetails and you will find them in out-of-the-way places as long as there is water, cover and food nearby.


Darwin Barringer Texas Buck
The giant whitetail Darwin Barringer shot on his leased land shows just how good hunting can be if properties are managed well and the smaller bucks are passed up until they mature. This 212-inch buck is just one of several he has shot that will make the record book.

Abundant rain during the summer of 2015 raised the water level in reservoirs, flooded dry washes and turned the parched, brown countryside to green. Several years of drought were washed away and that is great news for the state's deer hunters.

The Lone Star State has a long history of great deer hunting and the number of bragging sized bucks produced each year places this state high on the list of places whitetail enthusiasts would like to go for a hunt. The downside in Texas is the lack of availability of hunting land for the person who does not own or lease land. Public land available for hunting is relatively small and it tends to be heavily pressured during all deer seasons. Most of us will have to save up our money and go with an outfitter if we are going to hunt this Texas, but the opportunity to shoot a whopper is as good as anywhere in the US.

How the Ratings Work

In determining which are the best states to hunt in each region, I looked at nine factors that influence the quality and availability of deer hunting. Of these nine categories, I felt that some factors were more important than others, so I ranked four of them (license cost, license acquisition, deer population, and intangibles/reputation) on a scale of one to three.

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 criteria.

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, however, most were 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 taken 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 in 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, Kentucky, Kansas, Colorado, Iowa and Indiana allrank higher than Wisconsin..

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 such as Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado offer huge volumes of public land, most of the land there is more suitable to elk and mule deer than whitetails.

Since whitetails are mostly found on private farmland along the riparian areas in 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 deer hunting in the western states also has an appeal because of the unique experience and the difference in scenery found there. Very few nonresident licenses are sold in the southern states, which is another indicator of the intangibles.

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