As we all know, the whitetail is the most sought-after game in the United States, and each fall hunters nearly nationwide venture into the woods with dreams of affixing their tag to a monster buck. By now, we have no doubt that more than a few of our readers have already tagged a buck or two during the 2014 season.
Earlier this fall, with the launch of AmericanHunter.org's Whitetail Week, we took on the task of running down the nation's top whitetail states, beginning with No. 20. We're nearly to the finish line, now—we've reached the Top 10! Is your state still to come in the countdown? First, let's take a look at the road so far:
• 20. Louisiana
• 19. Alabama
• 18. Mississippi
• 17. Nebraska
• 16. South Carolina
• 15. Oklahoma
• 14. Indiana
• 13. Virginia
• 12. Pennsylvania
• 11. Maryland
With that in mind, let's get down to business.
Now we're getting serious—and it kicks off with Michigan. There are plenty of folks out there who will scoff at Michigan's presence on this list—let alone this high—but hear me out. No, you're probably not going to knock down a trophy deer in the Great Lakes State. But if you're looking to make sure you harvest a legal whitetail of some sort or another, this is as good a place as any to be. According to the QDMA, 222,640 antlered bucks 1½ years and older were harvested in Michigan in 2012. That's good enough for second in the nation, behind only Texas. Michigan was also fifth in the nation in the antlerless harvest. Yes, there are plenty of hunters in Michigan—but there are aw awful lot of deer, too. Don't' overlook it.
We stay in the Midwest region for No. 9 with Ohio. The state has long been associated with large bucks—and the Boone & Crockett records serve as proof of that. The whitetail population is favorable, too. Ohio's was fifth in its region in the QDMA's 2012 harvest report. One of the four states it trailed was Michigan—the other three are still to come in this countdown. Yes, hunter density can become something of an issue, but it's not quite in the same class as Wisconsin or Pennsylvania. Bowhunters will feel at home in the Buck—39 percent of the state's reported 2012 harvest came by bow, good enough for third in the country.
One of the Midwestern states that did top Ohio's 2012 numbers was Missouri, which takes the No. 8 spot in our countdown. 120,549 antlered bucks 1½ years and older were harvested in Missouri in 2012, good enough for third in the region. Like Ohio, it trails Michigan and another state that'll be coming up when we reach the Top 5. Missouri's surrounded by whitetail-rich states on all sides, and, like many of its neighbors, has produced more than a few B&C bucks over the years—it's among the nation's top 10 producing states over the past two decades. Coupled with relatively affordable out of state licenses, it's a safe bet.
The Bluegrass State has made itself known among the Boone & Crockett crowd in recent years, and is more than worth paying attention to. And given that the 67,212 antlered bucks 1½ years and older harvested in the state in 2012 were a significant spike from the 53,731 reported in 2011, it's safe to say that folks very much are keeping an eye on Kentucky. You should, too. The counties below Ohio are a great place to start if you're looking to hit it big.
When it comes to whitetail states, there's no shortage of ink in regards to Kansas. Each year, a new crop of giants are harvested in the Sunflower State, and it's one of the first states to come to mind when you ask folks where they'd love to have a chance to hunt. The QDMA's report proved to have some revealing numbers, too—of the antlered bucks reported to be harvested in Kansas in 2012, greater numbers tended to be from the 3½-year-old or better age class. Only a handful of other states can make the same claim. Never count out Kansas.
Come back next month for the conclusion of our countdown!