Winona County is a leader in Minnesota's big-buck record book. Located along the Mississippi River bluff lands in the state's famed southeastern corner, the county has the right combination of food, minerals and climate to support heavy-antlered deer. Even 21/2-year-old bucks carry respectable racks. A popular public area is the Whitewater Valley, where more than 30,000 acres are managed for wildlife. Additional tracts of state forest land are found in the county, too. Although Minnesota had a normal winter last year, the previous three were exceptionally mild. Statewide, even in the northern forest, the deer herd is in good shape. State forest wildlife coordinator Steve Merchant is anticipating this year's hunt to be similar to last year's, when hunters took close to 210,000 whitetails, placing the 2000 take among Minnesota's all-time top five harvests. Antlerless deer permits will be available in nearly every deer management unit at levels similar to last year's.