Superior genetics, limestone-laced soil, intense farming of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa-plus over a million acres of public land available in the George Washington National Forest-make this 200-mile-long valley a prime destination for hunters after old, gnarly-racked bucks.

“These national forest lands have actually seen a decline in hunters,” according to deer program supervisor Matt Knox. That has allowed even more bucks to reach old age.

Nontypicals scoring 211 and 2493/8 were taken from Rockingham County in the Shenandoah Valley. The current state No. 1 typical, a massive 1886/8 net 10-pointer, was shot by Gene Wilson in Shenandoah County in 1985. A buck that claimed the spot as the No. 1 nontypical in the world for blackpowder was shot by James Smith in 1992 on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge-one of the two mountain chains that form the Shenandoah Valley. With a 30-inch spread and 30 points, it scored a whopping 2574/8.

Lots of deer in this region feed in the valley on crops, then head up to the cover and inaccessibility of the forest during the day. Setting up a stand along these travel routes from the low farmland to the mountain ridges is a great way to intercept a buck. Best bets: Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Page, and Warren Counties.

Nonresident license: $140