Ground Zero: Hottest Spots for Trophy Bucks in Your State

Ground Zero: Hottest Spots for Trophy Bucks in Your State

Here’s a state-by-state look at where the best hunting grounds are locate across the country.

With the help of Boone & Crockett Club data, Game & Fish sought to pinpoint the best hunting areas in the country to harvest a trophy buck — perhaps even a record.

Click on the links below for more great inside information in your state or region.

Ground Zero: Alabama’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Start talking about big bucks in Alabama, and the conversation turns to the Black Belt; this region is well known for producing trophy whitetails. Although land use patterns have changed somewhat over the years, the Black Belt still yields more than its share of bruiser bucks every year.

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Ground Zero: Arkansas’ Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

You can kill a monster whitetail anywhere in Arkansas, but the counties in the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain — The Delta — produce the overwhelming majority of the bucks that qualify for recognition by the Boone and Crockett Club. According to B&C records, most of our best bucks since 2013 were killed in the lower drainages of our major rivers, specifically the Arkansas, White, Cache and St. Francis rivers.


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Ground Zero: California’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Name a place to tag a record-book white-tailed deer. That’s easy: Kansas, Montana, Alberta, Illinois, Texas and almost anywhere east of the Mississippi River.The same is true for mule deer. A long list of states — Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and more — boot out bucks nearly every year that are entered in the ranks of the Boone & Crockett Club’s annual awards book.

Turn your attention to putting a Boone & Crockett caliber black-tailed deer on the wall, however, and things get much more limited and difficult. For starters, the range of Columbian blacktails is much smaller than that of whitetails or muleys. To compound the challenge, trophy distribution isn’t equal throughout the blacktail’s range. Instead, trophy-deer production is regional; some counties consistently produce record-book bucks, while right next door another county might produce good numbers of shooter bucks but few, if any, record-book animals.

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Ground Zero: Florida’s Record Bucks

TrophyBucks

Florida is not where one travels for Boone & Crockett (B&C) bucks. This doesn’t mean that one doesn’t pop up every twenty years or so, but the Top-10 list of best bets for trophy bucks won’t include this state. Still, each year in certain areas, hunters clobber a few bucks that are within smelling distance of the record books.

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ABOUT BOONE & CROCKETT

Boone & Crockett Club is North America’s oldest conservation organization, founded in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell. Since its creation, B&C has helped implement countless pieces of crucial conservation legislation, champion some of the first national parks, and spawn and support many key wildlife conservation organizations.


It’s also responsible for creating the Fair Chase code of hunting ethics and a scoring and data-collection system for North American big-game species. While used to objectively measure big game, the scoring and data-collection system also helps gauge species and population health and habitat quality.

Data for this article came from an analysis from B&C, but you can also access record information about North America’s big-game species through the organization’s Trophy Search feature on their website. You can filter results with a wide variety of search tools to find exactly what you’re looking for. Check it out at boone-crockett.org.

Drew Warden, State Editor

Ground Zero: Georgia’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

In terms of quantity, some of Georgia’s best deer-producing counties barely make the cut. In 2017, the combined total of deer taken from Dooly, Crisp and Worth counties — set in a north-south line along the Flint River — didn’t even come close to matching the state’s top single county, but the deer taken were big. For quality, these three counties can’t be beat. Some of the state’s most recent Booners — two non-typicals topping 192 and 195, respectively, and a 166 5/8 typical — have come from this wallhanger hotbed.

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Ground Zero: Great Plains Record Bucks

TrophyBucks

America’s Heartland is known for producing most of the country’s monster whitetails carrying outrageous headgear. States like Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas typically account for a major portion of the biggest bucks listed in the Boone & Crockett Club’s annual awards book.

“Book” white-tailed bucks are taken almost anywhere in these states, but two areas in the Great Plains consistently produce an inordinate number of giant whitetails. The corridor in eastern Kansas extends from Marshall and Nemaha counties in the north to Marion, Chase and Lyon on the south, with a bull’s-eye on Clay, Riley and Pottawatomie counties. These 12 counties produced a whopping 48 B&C whitetail bucks between 2013 and 2017.

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Ground Zero: Illinois’ Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Illinois has long been synonymous with Boone-&-Crockett-caliber whitetails. A prime destination for big-buck hunting, the Land of Lincoln has garnered much attention from resident and non-resident hunters with goals for tagging a trophy whitetail. The Golden Triangle of Illinois — Pike, Brown, and Adams county, collectively nestled between the Mississippi and Illinois River — has long been the primary destination for this caliber of whitetail bucks. However, new data shows a different area might be key to harvesting a record book whitetail.

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Ground Zero: Illinois’ Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Southeastern Indiana is home to giant whitetails. It’s proved by the the river counties that border the Ohio river and other nearby counties. With outstanding genetics, excellent deer management, and the nutrients available in this farming region, it should be no surprise that the land here has produced more than 20 percent of the state’s best bucks over the past five seasons.

Imagine an area comprised of 16 counties, starting at Dearborn County, working southwestward to Jackson County, south down to Washington, Crawford and Perry counties, gathering Spencer County and all the other counties northeastward along the Ohio River. It’s an area that has recorded 34 of the 160 Boone and Crockett Club entries in Indiana from 2013 to 2017.

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Ground Zero: Iowa’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

It’s no great secret that year in and year out, the state of Iowa produces some of the finest Boone and Crockett trophy whitetails entered into this club’s legendary book. And while it might seem, statistically, that a 160-inch-plus buck hides in every plum thicket and switch grass-lined swale between the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers — well, that’s not the case.

Truth be told, any of Iowa’s 99 counties holds the potential to produce another B&C deer. Still, there are regions of the Hawkeye State where the big buck spotlight shines brightest — take, for instance, the southern third.

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Ground Zero: Kentucky’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

It is definitely no big secret that Kentucky has great potential for producing trophy deer. In fact, it consistently ranks as one of the top states in the country for Boone and Crockett bucks. Although the potential for taking a trophy buck in the Bluegrass State has been good for many years, the past decade has really been an eye-opener for hunters not only in the state, but across the country. Kentucky has become one of the go-to locations for hunters seeking a big deer.

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Ground Zero: Louisiana’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Trophy bucks are harvested from all corners of the Bayou State. Some places, however, show up in the record books more often than others, making them ground zero for Louisiana trophy bucks.

In the southeast corner of the state near the border with Mississippi, West Feliciana, known for its prison and haunted plantations as much as it is for its deer, is one of these places. Over the last couple hunting seasons, several large impressive bucks have been harvested from the ridges and valleys of this ecologically unique region of the state. Many quality bucks have come from neighboring parishes to the west as well.

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Ground Zero: Michigan’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

There’s no question that our state’s southernmost counties, and more specifically seven counties in the southeast, produce the lion’s share of big antlered bucks every year. The reasons why are simple. Whitetails have quality habitat with an abundant variety of nutritious food over most of the year, and winters are generally mild. Bucks as young as 3 1/2 have grown enough antler to qualify for Boone and Crockett Records in this part of the state. Those that fall short of that mark usually still have impressive headgear.

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Ground Zero: Minnesota’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

In Minnesota, deer hunting is like a religion, and the opening of Minnesota’s deer season is like a holiday. In some locations around the state, stores close early, kids are excused from school, and just about every café and bakery is loaded with orange-clad hunters and huntresses. Every deer hunter in the state is after the same thing: the big one. But, if you choose to bypass tradition at grandpa’s hunting shack with the rest of the crew and want to chase down a true “Booner,” where would you go and how would you go about it?

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Ground Zero: Mississippi’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Deer hunters in the Magnolia State are blessed with the very best deer hunting in the nation. According to the Quality Deer Management Association’s 2018 Whitetail Report, Mississippi deer hunters harvested a higher percentage of mature whitetail bucks than any state that collects such data. In the report, Mississippi took the top spot with an incredible 78 percent of the bucks harvested during the 2016-17 season being 3 1/2 years old or older. In a healthy deer population, older bucks equate to bigger racks and better chances of harvesting a trophy.

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Ground Zero: Missouri’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

There are about 500 trophy whitetails entered into the Boone and Crockett record book each year. Although that might sound like a lot, consider that there are about 10 million deer hunters in any given year too. That puts your odds of bagging a Boone and Crockett class buck at around 1 in 20,000. Research has shown that counties along the Missouri River corridor are trending as some of the top counties in the Show-Me State for trophy-class bucks over the past five years. Further research shows that these counties are also historically some of the top trophy producers in Missouri.

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Ground Zero: New England’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Theories about where to find a state’s biggest whitetails invariably include deep discussions about habitat, genetics, the rut and a variety of associated truths, but in the end the numbers don’t lie. When it comes to deer hunting in New England, the best place to go for Boone and Crockett-quality bucks is Oxford County, Maine, which is in the southwestern portion of the state bordering New Hampshire and Massachusetts’ famed Berkshire Mountains.

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Ground Zero: New York’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

The deer experts at Game & Fish have studied Boone and Crockett harvests in New York over the past five years and have found the best place to find a giant Empire State whitetail in 2019. Deer researchers at Game & Fish Magazine have determined that when it comes to trophy buck hunting trends in New York, the best place to go for Boone and Crockett-quality bucks is the Finger Lakes region in western New York.

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Ground Zero: North Carolina’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

North Carolina has some terrific whitetail hunting make no mistake about it. But just like anywhere else, there are “sweet spots” nestled across the state, ones you should have on your radar if looking to score a monster. In the last five years, hunters have taken more bucks with antlers scoring high enough to make the Boone and Crockett Club’s record book in Caswell, Rockingham and Stokes counties than in other counties. While many counties along the Virginia border yield outstanding bucks, Caswell Rockingham and Stokes counties have produced more “Booners” than any others in the past five years.

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Ground Zero: Ohio’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

If you think targeting trophy bucks to hunt here in Ohio means targeting private land, think again. We worked with Boone & Crockett (B&C) to scour their records books and identify the Buckeye States’ top counties for relinquishing whitetails with record-book qualifying racks over the past half- decade. You know what? The top three all offer multiple hunting destinations that are both open to the public and prime for surrendering a bragging-size buck.

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Ground Zero: Oklahoma’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Remote, wild, richly productive, inaccessible — the south-central portion of Oklahoma’s Cross Timbers region has everything a growing white-tailed buck might need, and it has manifested itself in a lineup of Boone & Crockett bucks of late. Game & Fish editors worked with Boone & Crockett to research the top locations in Oklahoma where hunters should look if they want to kill a record-book buck, and the counties of Pontotoc — which leads the charge in terms of B&C record-book bucks — Hughes, Seminole and Coal topped the list. Canadian, Oklahoma and Logan counties made a showing as well.

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Ground Zero: Pennsylvania’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Pennsylvania has long been known in the world of whitetail hunting as a great place to hunt — but not such a good place to see top end bucks, the great bucks that land in the Boone & Crockett records. But with deer hunting having taken a new direction in the 21st Century, more and more Pennsylvania deer hunters are taking a deeper look at the much-improved potential for collecting a trophy buck.

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Ground Zero: Rocky Mountain’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Let’s be honest. There’s not a Western hunter around who doesn’t dream about wrapping their tag around a Boone & Crockett buck. Even those from the “can’t eat the horns” crowd secretly relish the idea of stumbling across a heavy-racked buck.

“Booner” bucks don’t live in every Western basin, and more times than not, if you choose to match wits with these monarchs of the West, you’ll go home with only the memories of the hunt. But you have to start somewhere, and if there is one way to zero-in on locations that seem to spit out Booner bucks, look no farther than the record books. Among the Rocky Mountain states, Colorado is always at the top of the list, but don’t discount Idaho and Arizona. When you add to this the ample supply of public hunting land these locations offer, finding an opportunity to begin your quest for a B&C buck is a real possibility.

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Ground Zero: South Carolina’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Habitat is a key factor in both the number of deer that an area can support, and in the upper size limit that those deer might attain. The simple fact is some areas have better habitat than others for growing larger deer. Historical data exists on antler scoring from the South Carolina White-tailed Deer Antler Records Program. As part of this program, antlers are measured and scored by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) staff at sites throughout the state. The program began in 1974 and provides a broad, long-term view of where the biggest bucks have been killed.

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Ground Zero: Tennessee’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

If you have recently read anything about deer, there is little doubt north-central Tennessee has had more than a mention. The recent buck killed in Sumner County called the Tucker Buck and the increase in Boone & Crockett entries are all pointing to this area as a region of the Volunteer State where there may be some good opportunities to harvest a trophy deer.

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Ground Zero: Texas Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Years ago, the late writer Horace Greeley coined a phrase that told citizens of a young America to “Go West, young man.”While that advice may have helped westward expansion across our great land, the same advice doesn’t hold true for deer hunters looking for big bucks in the Lone Star State. In fact, when it comes to giant Boone and Crockett Club-sized whitetails here in Texas, you might want to point the pickup truck or Suburban to the south down Interstate 35!

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Ground Zero: Virginia’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

While Virginia has many counties where a real wall hanger can be taken, one area stands out in the state and it may come as a surprise to readers where it is located. Editors at Virginia Game & Fish researched and found that a total of four Boone and Crockett bucks were taken in Rappahannock, Madison and Culpeper Counties in the past five years.

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Ground Zero: Washington and Oregon Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Look at the strip of the continent where the Pacific laps at the shore and go inland a hundred miles or thereabouts to the crest of the Cascades. From southeast Alaska to central California, this is the domain of the Columbia blacktail (and the Sitka blacktail, up north). A record-book buck could come from anywhere in this region, but some of the best habitat for these secretive animals can be found in the Interstate 5 corridor between the Coast Range and the Cascades.

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Ground Zero: West Virginia’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

West Virginia is known as the Mountain State for good reason. Go to almost any part of the state to deer hunt and you will see what I mean. Gentle terrain is not what the hunter is confronted with. Fayette and Kanawha counties, located in the south-central part of the state are no exceptions. These counties have areas that will test the mettle of any hunter, but they also hold some big whitetail bucks.

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Ground Zero: Wisconsin’s Record Bucks

“TrophyBucks”

Wisconsin offers some of the best opportunities in the world for harvesting a record-book buck. Inclusion in this exclusive register requires more than hunting savvy, dedication and luck to bring home “big bone” in the land of cheese — with precious few exceptions, it takes big money or “favorite son” status to tag a “Booner.” If tall tines are an undeniable vision quest, the first step is accepting the monster of the marsh gets a vote in any fateful encounter. They seldom make mistakes, even in full-blown rut. Even with meticulous effort toward becoming a scent-free ghost of the timber, with optimum wind and environmental conditions, odds of success are slim at best — even if no human has come within 100 yards of a stand placed in late summer. Click here to read more

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