It will take some physical exertion to get to some of the biggest bucks on either side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But biologist Matt Knox says both rugged slopes offer tremendous opportunities for hunters willing to venture into the steep country. Loudon, Warren and Bedford counties near the Washington-Jefferson National Forest are among the best. “That’s a big area, but any Virginia deer hunter will tell you that’s the best place to go,” Knox says. “You have the habitat influence, a stocking history with the possibility of better genetics and remote areas where the deer can reach maturity. The pressure is lighter and the areas are more remote-even by Virginia’s standards-so you really have to want to get a deer there.” The national forest and other state-managed lands comprise about 2 million acres. A population of about 900,000 is decreased temporarily by an annual harvest of 180,000 to 200,000 deer. The highest densities are found in the northern part of the state in the national forest and along the West Virginia and Maryland borders. “We’ve been stable for about five or six years now,” Knox says. “The state implemented some liberal regulations for doe harvest in the late 1980s and early ’90s, and the stability has come from the doe harvest.”