Public Lands & Waters photo

Mulberry Fork Wildlife Management Area
: central Alabama
Size: 35,520 acres
ZIP: 35579

Quantity is finally catching up with quality at Mulberry. Since the state first leased this private land in 1995, good bucks have been the rule-mostly because deer numbers were so low. But as herd numbers have strengthened, buck quality hasn’t slipped a bit. This hilly pine plantation features hardwood remnants on the steeper, harder to log sections, and the cover gets thick. “It’s not as pretty to look at as a bottomland hardwoods area,” Cook says, “but it holds a lot more deer and some of them are pretty good bucks.”

Sam R. Murphy Wildlife Management Area
: northwest Alabama
Size: 20,040 acres
ZIP: 35563

Try this leased pine plantation if your goal is to fill the freezer, but be prepared to tag a buck you can hang on the wall. Either sex hunts and no antler restrictions combined with healthy harvest numbers make this the most “wide open” of the state’s high-quality WMAs, Cook says. Yet like Barbour and Mulberry, Murphy consistently ranks not only among the top 10 state lands for buck harvest, but also in the top third for trophy quality. “A lot of yearling bucks get killed at Sam Murphy each year,” Cook notes, “but those that make it to 3 or 4 years-old are really good deer.”