You want to deer hunt where the giants roam, hopefully improving your odds at shooting a record book buck—and the time to start planning next season's trip is now. So where are your odds the best? While the next world record is apt to come from anywhere, there are 10 states and provinces that receive the most attention and tag a majority of the bucks that sit atop the Boone & Crockett Club’s all-time records.
Led by the famed Buffalo County, the county with the single largest number of record book entries since records have been kept at 86, the Cheesehead State also leads the way in overall number of record book bucks in the last 10 years with 712 entries. The state is aided to that position from its ridiculous number of typical whitetail records with 446, making it top on the typical list. Interestingly, Wisconsin ranks third on the nontypical list behind Illinois and Iowa respectively. In fact, Wisconsin’s number of typical entries far outpaces any other state or province by more than 140 entries in just the last 10 years, making this the most statistically likely state where Milo Hanson’s world-record typical whitetail buck—the Holy Grail of big game records—is apt to be dethroned.
Next up is Illinois with 568 total entries, and as the number one state to take a nontypical record, with 266 entries. For all the outfitters concentrated in Pike County, anywhere in the state can be a great place to hunt. In fact, Pike only has the second most record entries of any county in the state since records have been kept. Jo Daviess County in the far northwest corner of Illinois, and butting up against Wisconsin, has five more record entries at 31 than Pike with 26. Adams County, right next to Pike along the central western border of the state, also figures in prominently among the best counties to hunt in Illinois.
Ohio has been getting more and more attention from big buck hunters in recent years, but for some reason still doesn’t receive the attention that Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois or Kansas receive. Maybe that should change (don’t hate me Ohio hunters). The state ranks third overall with record-book bucks in the past 10 years with 401 total entries. As one of the eastern most states figuring so high on the B&C list and with over-the-counter tags, the Buckeye state makes for an easy road trip for nearly half of the U.S. population.
Iowa is so rife with giant bucks, famous hunters such as Lee and Tiffany Lakosky and brothers Dave and Barry Wenzel pulled up stakes and moved to the state in order to be able to hunt there every year as residents, who are guaranteed a tag. Nonresidents have to enter into a draw and can generally pull a tag about every three years, but it is that draw that helps keep the state rich with expansive cornfields and ribbons of easily hunted forest chock full of 150-plus inch deer.
The Bluegrass State may have taken a hit from hemorrhagic disease this past summer (a lot of states did), but it will do little to impact its status as a producer of record book bucks. The western half of the state, particularly the counties below Ohio, are where to focus for the best odds of hitting it big in Kentucky. Kentucky is also geographically closest to the East Coast’s population centers and makes for an easy road trip as well.
The Show Me State has long been regarded as one of the premier states to hunt wild turkeys, but if you look at the records, it also is a worthy destination for any serious big buck hunter as well. Missouri figures in sixth overall with 347 record book bucks and, is regarded as the ideal alternate location for hunters unlucky in drawing an Iowa tag. In fact, outfitters such as Aaron Volkmar and his Tails of the Hunt guide service run hunts in both southwestern Iowa and northeastern Missouri in order to easily accommodate hunters with either tag.
Indiana, like Ohio, seems to escape a lot of attention from the outdoor media and even some traveling hunters, but in modern times has certainly emerged as a big-buck destination. In fact, it doesn’t appear on the historical Top 10 state listing for whitetail records in either typical or nontypical bucks, but when factoring in just the last 10 years, appears on both lists with 196 typical and 125 nontypical listings for a total of 321 record book entries. In fact, this emergence puts it ahead of one of the most written about states when big buck potential is discussed—Kansas.
For all the ink it receives and reports of some of the giants killed each year (rumors of a new record typical hitting the ground occur almost every year), Kansas only hits the list at Number 8. It has a total of 310 record entries, just 11 behind Indiana, but less than half of Wisconsin. Still, it is better than 42 states so don’t be too shocked. This is still a top spot, but if you want to hunt it, remember you have to enter the draw each spring in order to obtain a tag.
For all of the big buck hype—huge racks and bigger bodies—that many western Canadian deer receive, Saskatchewan, home of the current world-record typical buck, finally makes the list at No. 9. Of course, it is fair to speculate that many locals, the only ones allowed to hunt the more fertile farmlands in the southern portion of the province near the U.S. border, don’t bother entering their bucks in the books, which might move the province up the list. Still, for hunters truly seeking a giant northwoods buck, Saskatchewan still offers nonresidents one of the best shots in its northernmost reaches.
Looking at the historical records, it would appear Minnesota has fallen off somewhat in trophy potential. It ranks third historically for nontypical buck entries, but falls to ninth when you look at the past decade’s worth of bucks entered. St. Louis County, by land the largest county in the state located along the Canadian border, boasts the second most record book entries of any county in the United States when going back to 1830, but when looking at the past 10 years, drops to 29th—still not too shabby when considering how many counties there are in the United States. With affordable over-the-counter tags, comparatively less expensive outfitted hunts and their big buck potential, Minnesota remains probably one of the best sleeper states for taking a true trophy.