The whitetail is the most sought-after game animal in the United States, and each fall hunters nearly nationwide venture into the woods with dreams of affixing their tag to a monster buck. There is certainly no shortage of whitetail hunters out there, nor shortage of locales where those hunters can put their skills to the test. But that begs a very important question: Just where is the best place to hunt whitetail?
To honor the launch of AmericanHunter.org's Whitetail Week, we're going to answer that question for you. In time, anyway. Beginning with No. 20, we'll be counting down the nation's top whitetail states, five locations at a time. You can get a look at the first five states in our countdown below, and stay tuned to future editions of Whitetail Week to catch the remainder of the Top 20.
The first three states on our list share a defining trait: They're located in the Deep South, so the game's a little different. Winters are milder, and growing seasons are longer. The folks down in Louisiana, though, have never had much trouble harvesting deer. HuntStats.com has routinely ranked Louisiana at the tail end of its Top 10 in terms of average season harvest. Though nailing a Boone & Crockett buck probably isn't likely, the whitetail are there. Bowhunters, too, will like that, in the western part of the state at least, there are counties where the archery season opens as early as mid-September.
Much like Louisiana, Alabama has one thing in abundance: opportunity. According to the 2014 report issued by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), Alabama has routinely placed among the top southeastern states in terms of antlered bucks harvested. Though the state didn't report its total in 2012, it finished third behind Texas and Georgia in 2011 and fourth behind the aforementioned pair and Mississippi in 2010. You're not going to have a hard time finding whitetail here. That said, like most of the states in this corner of the country, you'll be dealing with plenty of other hunters, too. Alabama is routinely among the Top 10 states in hunter density.
There are some folks out there who are going to be mighty upset we ranked the Magnolia State as low as No. 18. Mississippi offers lots of public land, lots of whitetail and a fair chance at a trophy. According to the QDMA's 2014 report, the only states in the southeastern region that harvested more antlered bucks in 2012 were Texas and Georgia. Mississippi took third with more than 127,000, but as noted above, Alabama didn't report in. Those numbers were good enough to get the state to No. 5 on the list of bucks harvested per square mile, at that. A potential detractor would be the sheer number of hunters in the state, and the typical cost of an out-of-state tag. If you already live in Mississippi, however, that matters little.
Despite its proximity to a number of heartland states that you'll be seeing later on in the countdown, Nebraska doesn't seem to get a lot of love. Though we're certainly not handing it Top 10 status, the Cornhusker State deserves some respect. It's home to a fairly strong whitetail population, and there's a reasonable chance of knocking down a buck with real trophy potential. Better, there's copious access to public lands and limited competition from fellow hunters. Don't sell this state short.
16. South Carolina
The only Carolina to make our list (spoiler alert!), South Carolina rounds out Part I of the countdown. Again, we have a state where whitetail are plentiful: The QDMA reported that 3.9 antlered bucks were harvested per square mile in 2012, tops in the nation. The state's Department of Natural Resources estimates that 750,000 whitetail call South Carolina home, and there are hunt-worthy populations in all 46 counties. Another perk? Long seasons. Play your calendar right—and have access to the right kind of land, of course—and you can chase bucks from Aug. 15 through Jan. 1, without interruption.
And so the countdown begins! Feel like we didn't do your home state justice? Let us know why in the comments section below.
Come back next month (beginning Sept. 22) for states No. 15 through 11!