Peak breeding is long over in most states, but among Alabama’s 1.75 million whitetails, the New Year rings in the rut.

That an Alabama hunter can legally take nearly 200 deer per season is testament to the state’s dense whitetail population. “There are few good reasons why a reasonably skilled hunter shouldn’t be able to take a deer in Alabama,” says Chris Cook, wildlife biologist with the Alabama Game and Fish Division. “Moreover,” he says, “there’s a big advantage to hunting the late season. Even when mast and weather conditions are not ideal, you know the deer will be moving during the rut. If you’re willing to poke around the woods a bit, you’ll find bucks.”

Hotspots: Freelance hunters have a great shot at trophy bucks on public lands managed for quality deer. You can target Lowndes Wildlife Management Area in central Alabama; Freedom Hills and Lauderdale WMAs in the northwest; and especially Barbour and Covington WMAs in the southeast, both of which have been in the state’s Quality Deer Management program for five years.

The renowned Black Belt region in central and southern Alabama is largely private, yet offers the best combination of quantity and quality-and plenty of guides and outfitters to accommodate you. Top counties include Pickens, Greene, Marengo, Hale, Dallas, Perry, Macon, Bullock, and Montgomery. But the state’s biggest racks, Cook says, are currently coming from the northwest, in Lawrence, Walker, Franklin, and Lamar Counties.

Insider Tip: “During the rut, bucks are really up and moving,” says guide Bojie Beers of the Alabama River Lodge (334-874-4281; “So set up where you can see a long way, whether you’re overlooking a big field or open hardwoods. You’ll see more deer, and you’ll have more time to judge the animal and get your shot off. Just as important, sit for as long as you can stand it-preferably all day.”

Season dates: Firearm, Nov. 22¿¿¿Jan. 31; archery, Oct. 15¿¿¿Jan. 31; muzzleloader, Nov. 19¿¿¿21 and Jan. 9¿¿¿25.