Public Lands & Waters photo

James Collins Wildlife Management Area
: southeast Oklahoma
Size: 20,913 acres
ZIP: 74561

Age, nutrition and genetics are the three things that drive antler growth, and deer at James Collins enjoy all three. Located in a fairly hilly part of Oklahoma, this WMA sits atop richer soil than Pushmataha, yet still offers enough steep terrain to give bucks plenty of places to hide from hunters. Controlled draw-only hunting during the firearms season reduces pressure, too, but bow hunters face no restrictions from October through December, with an antlerless-only hunt Jan. 1-15. The acorn drop is key here, and regular burning keeps green browse plentiful. “The area has good genetics, and it has shown it can grow some pretty good deer,” Shaw says. “A pretty good handful of James Collins deer have ended up in the Cy Curtis book, too.”

Kaw Wildlife Management Area
: north-central Oklahoma
Size: 16,254 acres
ZIP: 74647

Deer thrive in the rich soils and native tallgrass prairie in this flatland WMA on the Kansas border, showing good numbers and good size. You don’t have to get drawn to enjoy the firearms season-“Basically, if you have a hunting license and gas money you can hunt Kaw,” says Shaw-so the hunting pressure is higher and the age structure of the herd skews younger than at Pushmataha and James Collins. Good nutrition helps make up for that: Kaw has some of the most extensive food plots of any Oklahoma public hunting area, and thousands of acres of farm lands border the WMA. Riparian areas along the creeks and drainages nurture stands of oak, a good starting point when patterning deer.