Public Lands & Waters photo

Bayou Meto
: southeast Arkansas
Size: 33,832 acres
ZIP: 72160

“When you say Bayou Meto, most people think ducks,” Gray says, “but we’ve had some very good quality deer come off it.” Fall flooding for waterfowl can make getting around tough, but if you can pick your way across the many channels and canals while fighting mosquitoes, snakes and gators, you might tag one of the 140- to 150-class whitetails that this bayou has produced in the past. Dense cane patches and honeysuckle thickets provide bedding cover, and elevated ridges become key travel routes when the water rises. “Deer numbers aren’t as high as Choctaw, so advantage goes to those who scout hard, find a good area and stick with it,” Gray says. Firearms hunts are by draw only, with about 2 to 1 odds of getting drawn, but archery hunts are open to all from October to February.

Big Timber Wildlife Management Area
: south Arkansas
Size: 37,742 acres
ZIP: 71923

South-central Arkansas is covered with pine forests like Big Timber, where small clear-cuts and large blocks of young pine provide the kind of thick understory habitat that sends deer numbers soaring. “We call it the deer factory,” Gray says, “because there’s so much food and cover that it grows exceptional numbers of deer.” The land is leased for public access from International Paper and other private owners, and hunters will need a $20 Leased Land Permit. Otherwise, all firearms and archery seasons are open to all comers under statewide regulations. “It’s the kind of hunt where you can get away from hunting pressure,” Gray says, “and a guy might see 15 to 20 deer in a morning.”