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Deer List: F&S Lists The Top Whitetail States, Part I

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January 31, 2011

Deer List: F&S Lists The Top Whitetail States, Part I

By Dave Hurteau

What’s the number one state for tagging a trophy whitetail? Where’s the best place to take any deer, buck or doe? How about the prime destination for a big public-land buck? The answers are on this map, found on pages 48 and 49 of the February 2011 issue of Field & Stream. Part of our “Deer Crazy” cover story, it reveals the nation’s Top 10 Trophy Whitetail States, Top 10 Any-Whitetail States, Top 5 Public-Land Whitetail States, and more. That said, we figured you might also like to know where your state ranks, even if it’s not in the top ten. Maybe you’d like to see the stats behind our rankings. So, in a series of blog posts here on Whitetail 365, we’re going to lay out the complete state rankings and explain how we arrived at them.

On the cover-story map, we led with the Top 10 Trophy Whitetail States (shocker right?). But to create that list, we actually had to first determine something far more fundamental: the best whitetail states--as in any whitetail, buck or doe, big or small. We also realize of course that many of you are more concerned with filling the freezer and having fun than with adorning your walls with giant antlers. So let’s start there.

What follows is a list of the best states in the nation in which to take a whitetail--any whitetail. To rank each state, we divided it’s deer harvest by its number of deer hunters, based on the most recent 10-year-average statistics. The result show approximately how many whitetails the average hunter takes in a given state. In top-ranking Alabama, for example, deer hunters average an incredible 2-plus whitetails each. In Maine, a paltry 0.16. (Don’t hang your head, Mainers: Yours is one of the few states left where you can track a buck through miles of wilderness without seeing a posted sign or another hunter.)

Because these are whitetail rankings, we discounted states whose harvest includes significant numbers of mulies and/or blacktails. (Sorry western guys; but we’ll have something for you in an upcoming post.)

So here you go, The Best Any-Whitetail States In America:
[1] AL (2.05 deer per hunter)
[2] GA (1.50)
[3] MS (1.49)
[4] SC (1.27)
[5] VA (0.96)
[6] LA (0.91)
[7] MD (0.90)
[8] ND (0.88)
[9] DE (0.84)
[10] WI (0.794)
[11] FL (0.792)*
[12] IL (0.786)
[13] NJ (0.784)**
[14] MO (0.75)
[15] IA (0.7322)
[16] TX (0.7318)
[17] WV (0.715)
[18] OH (0.672)
[19] MI (0.667)
[20] IN (0.58)
[21] AR (0.57)
[22] MN (0.54)
[23] NC (0.50)
[24] KS (0.49)
[25] KY (0.45)
[26] OK (0.43)
[27] PA (0.42)
[28] SD (0.41)
[29] NY (0.40)
[30] NE (0.39)
[31] TN (0.32)
[32] RI (0.31)
[33] CT (0.27)
[34] MA (0.213)
[35] NH (0.211)
[36] VT (0.19)
[37] ME (0.16)

*Florida’s harvest statistics are not as recent as the others.
**This, sorry to say, reveals a mistake in the original map, in which we erroneously ranked New Jersey above Wisconsin, Florida and Illinois.

Comments (28)

Top Rated
All Comments
from buckhunter wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

It would be interesting to know the average days in the field per hunter and length of season for each state to correlate with those numbers.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I would be interested in seeing which states rank where in terms of "method of harvest", such as archery, modern firearm or ML. Granted that not all states allow the same methods, but it would still be handy to know if you were trying to plan an out-of-state trip.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from finnyk wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Agreed - both with ckRich and buckhunter. The details mentioned would certainly be interesting to know, whether planning an out-of-state trip or just for curiosity. But, for the purpose of this story, I think it is interesting to see where some of the states fall. Some are surprising, actually.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jakenbake wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I don't know the capabilities of the website (limited, I would assume) but at the end of this series it would be awesome if we could all have access to the database you created to do this. Then, rather than say "Hey Dave, what about X" we could play with it all to our hearts' content. Or, I guess, one of us could try to do the same and post it for the general edification. Either way, playing with numbers is always more fun now than when it was in school.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

These deer per hunter numbers are inflating my ego.

Good ol' Vermont. That's why I love hunting there.

I can't believe how low Ohio is. In 2/3rds of the state you can fall over and kill a deer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fruguy101 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I would have to say that the majority of deer taken here in MS are taken with a firearm, be it muzzleloader or rifle. Archery is a big season here also, but the early archery season is so hot that you have to be a dedicated hunter to go out there in 70 to 80 degree weather and hunt, with the mosquitoes threatening to fly off with you because of their numbers. I'm not sure about the late archery season.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Seeings as I average two deer a year and sometimes three, looking at Michigans 19th ranking at 0.667 I appear to be above average!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MidnightBanjo wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I was taken back just a bit when I was OK at less than %50. Then I got to thinking about my hunting here in Oklahoma. Going back to 2006 I've taken 4 deer - two of them this year - so I guess that number is just about right. The two guys that I hunt with got nothing this year. Both show at deer but missed, I missed a good one myself during ML season. So 4 deer in 4 years - guess I'm "above average" too Mr. Smith!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Quinton Schmelz... wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

It would be interesting to see what it is for other species as well; like elk, mule deer, antelope...ect.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

MidnightBanjo- Its a good feeling isn't it!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from TheEasternShore... wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

MD should be higher. we are allowed to kill 12 deer 10 does and 2 bucks. in some regions, the antler less bag limil is unlimited.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

It is really apples and oranges since some states like NJ and Md have generous bag limits and some states do not.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nebraskahunter18 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

This is all the proof you need Nebraska= big sleeper state

http://www.flickr.com/groups/biggamegallery_ngpc/pool/show

these were all shot in nebraska

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nebraskahunter18 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

most of them were shot in nebraska save a couple.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Ohio's bow season is 4 1/2 months long but gun season is just a week plus a weekend. The stat tells me most hunters purchase a license for gun season then eat it if not filled.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tourneyking734 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

ill bet you if there was a list of the average weight of deer per state, the bottom three states would be up at the top. GO MAINE!!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Alagator wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

In Alabama our bow-only(including crossbow) season starts Oct 15 and runs until gun season-- after taht, you can still use a bow during gund season. ML season starts five days before gun, and after taht , you can continue throug regular gun if you prefer the smokepole. Gun season starts the Sat prior to Thanksgiving, and runs through Jan 31. During all this time, we have a total buck limit of three. On any day, we can take two deer, only one of which can be one of our three bucks. In most of the state, we can take a doe on a day we get a buck, and we can take two does any day we don't get a buck. So if we hunted every day from Oct 15 until Jan 31, we could theoretically harvest 3 bucks and 106 does each. Some hunters get lots of meat does, some trophy hunt, and some just mix it up and do a little of both.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bhalverson wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Hey, were still in the top 10, go Wisco!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from country road wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Alagator---What part of the state are you from? I hunt down in the southwest part, Clarke County.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisenbach wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

How do you tally Michigan, there are the second most whitetails in the state just behind texas, and there is no harvest reporting in Michigan... it is just a guess by the DNR as to how many whitetails are shot every year

any thoughts on that?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Metawampe wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

If it was easy to hunt deer, every fool out there would be doing it. Hunting in New Hampshire is hard. You're in the White Mountains, it snows, rains, you fight the terrain and the deer are smart. It's big country. It may not be the Rockies but try hunting it sometimes. It'll give you a run for your money. You never see any hunting shows in NH. You know why? Too tough for those guys that want to roll out of bed, climb a tree stand and shoot a monster buck and then go home. When we get a deer, we know we have worked for it. Teamwork. Six guys beating the forest to find the deer. No hunting lodge with hot chicks to serve you a big meal three times a day. New Hampshire is #1 in my book any day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Excellent points all.
To wisenbach,
We went with the DNR numbers, because that's all there is.
To all,
We realize, of course, that this can't be a perfect representation of the complete picture; a full-time research staff working day and night for months couldn't get that because, among other reasons, not all states compile the same data, or the same way. We set out to give you something you can't easily find elsewhere that's fun, interesting, and valuable as far as it goes. One thing's for sure, it makes for good debate.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Whackdaddy wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I would vote Oklahoma way down on the list. Much farther than it actually ranks. It's a terrible place, yep.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from slinder wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

So this just means that there are less hunters per state towards the top who are shooting more deer.

Show me the trophy states! Here we come upper Midwest(WI, IL, IA)!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Actually Slinder, Alabama has roughly the same number of hunters as Iowa but Alabamians kill well over twice as many deer.

But you are right, the Midwest will indeed dominate the trophy states--which I will post tomorrow.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

in some states you can take 5 or more deer and in others, only two. makes the ranking by numbers a little off.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Trapper Vic wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Notice the top ranked stats are in the south. This year Ohio's gun season was a bust due to weather. 1 good day the rest freezing rain or blowing snow. not many hunters moved and neither did the deer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I know I promised trophy states today, but I'm afraid I ran into a holdup. I'll have it for you all early next week.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from buckhunter wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

It would be interesting to know the average days in the field per hunter and length of season for each state to correlate with those numbers.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from tourneyking734 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

ill bet you if there was a list of the average weight of deer per state, the bottom three states would be up at the top. GO MAINE!!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I would be interested in seeing which states rank where in terms of "method of harvest", such as archery, modern firearm or ML. Granted that not all states allow the same methods, but it would still be handy to know if you were trying to plan an out-of-state trip.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from finnyk wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Agreed - both with ckRich and buckhunter. The details mentioned would certainly be interesting to know, whether planning an out-of-state trip or just for curiosity. But, for the purpose of this story, I think it is interesting to see where some of the states fall. Some are surprising, actually.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

These deer per hunter numbers are inflating my ego.

Good ol' Vermont. That's why I love hunting there.

I can't believe how low Ohio is. In 2/3rds of the state you can fall over and kill a deer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Seeings as I average two deer a year and sometimes three, looking at Michigans 19th ranking at 0.667 I appear to be above average!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Ohio's bow season is 4 1/2 months long but gun season is just a week plus a weekend. The stat tells me most hunters purchase a license for gun season then eat it if not filled.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Alagator wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

In Alabama our bow-only(including crossbow) season starts Oct 15 and runs until gun season-- after taht, you can still use a bow during gund season. ML season starts five days before gun, and after taht , you can continue throug regular gun if you prefer the smokepole. Gun season starts the Sat prior to Thanksgiving, and runs through Jan 31. During all this time, we have a total buck limit of three. On any day, we can take two deer, only one of which can be one of our three bucks. In most of the state, we can take a doe on a day we get a buck, and we can take two does any day we don't get a buck. So if we hunted every day from Oct 15 until Jan 31, we could theoretically harvest 3 bucks and 106 does each. Some hunters get lots of meat does, some trophy hunt, and some just mix it up and do a little of both.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jakenbake wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I don't know the capabilities of the website (limited, I would assume) but at the end of this series it would be awesome if we could all have access to the database you created to do this. Then, rather than say "Hey Dave, what about X" we could play with it all to our hearts' content. Or, I guess, one of us could try to do the same and post it for the general edification. Either way, playing with numbers is always more fun now than when it was in school.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fruguy101 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I would have to say that the majority of deer taken here in MS are taken with a firearm, be it muzzleloader or rifle. Archery is a big season here also, but the early archery season is so hot that you have to be a dedicated hunter to go out there in 70 to 80 degree weather and hunt, with the mosquitoes threatening to fly off with you because of their numbers. I'm not sure about the late archery season.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MidnightBanjo wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I was taken back just a bit when I was OK at less than %50. Then I got to thinking about my hunting here in Oklahoma. Going back to 2006 I've taken 4 deer - two of them this year - so I guess that number is just about right. The two guys that I hunt with got nothing this year. Both show at deer but missed, I missed a good one myself during ML season. So 4 deer in 4 years - guess I'm "above average" too Mr. Smith!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Quinton Schmelz... wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

It would be interesting to see what it is for other species as well; like elk, mule deer, antelope...ect.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

MidnightBanjo- Its a good feeling isn't it!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from TheEasternShore... wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

MD should be higher. we are allowed to kill 12 deer 10 does and 2 bucks. in some regions, the antler less bag limil is unlimited.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

It is really apples and oranges since some states like NJ and Md have generous bag limits and some states do not.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nebraskahunter18 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

This is all the proof you need Nebraska= big sleeper state

http://www.flickr.com/groups/biggamegallery_ngpc/pool/show

these were all shot in nebraska

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nebraskahunter18 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

most of them were shot in nebraska save a couple.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bhalverson wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Hey, were still in the top 10, go Wisco!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from country road wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Alagator---What part of the state are you from? I hunt down in the southwest part, Clarke County.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisenbach wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

How do you tally Michigan, there are the second most whitetails in the state just behind texas, and there is no harvest reporting in Michigan... it is just a guess by the DNR as to how many whitetails are shot every year

any thoughts on that?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Metawampe wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

If it was easy to hunt deer, every fool out there would be doing it. Hunting in New Hampshire is hard. You're in the White Mountains, it snows, rains, you fight the terrain and the deer are smart. It's big country. It may not be the Rockies but try hunting it sometimes. It'll give you a run for your money. You never see any hunting shows in NH. You know why? Too tough for those guys that want to roll out of bed, climb a tree stand and shoot a monster buck and then go home. When we get a deer, we know we have worked for it. Teamwork. Six guys beating the forest to find the deer. No hunting lodge with hot chicks to serve you a big meal three times a day. New Hampshire is #1 in my book any day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Excellent points all.
To wisenbach,
We went with the DNR numbers, because that's all there is.
To all,
We realize, of course, that this can't be a perfect representation of the complete picture; a full-time research staff working day and night for months couldn't get that because, among other reasons, not all states compile the same data, or the same way. We set out to give you something you can't easily find elsewhere that's fun, interesting, and valuable as far as it goes. One thing's for sure, it makes for good debate.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Whackdaddy wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I would vote Oklahoma way down on the list. Much farther than it actually ranks. It's a terrible place, yep.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from slinder wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

So this just means that there are less hunters per state towards the top who are shooting more deer.

Show me the trophy states! Here we come upper Midwest(WI, IL, IA)!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Actually Slinder, Alabama has roughly the same number of hunters as Iowa but Alabamians kill well over twice as many deer.

But you are right, the Midwest will indeed dominate the trophy states--which I will post tomorrow.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

in some states you can take 5 or more deer and in others, only two. makes the ranking by numbers a little off.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Trapper Vic wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Notice the top ranked stats are in the south. This year Ohio's gun season was a bust due to weather. 1 good day the rest freezing rain or blowing snow. not many hunters moved and neither did the deer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I know I promised trophy states today, but I'm afraid I ran into a holdup. I'll have it for you all early next week.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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