Wall Hangers (continued)

A guide to the 20 best places in the country to hunt true trophy whitetails and muleys in 2003.

Field & Stream Online Editors

11-20

11. Wisconsin (Buffalo County)
Few areas have a more glowing reputation as a trophy whitetail destination than this single county in west-central Wisconsin bordering the Mississippi River. Starting with a base of mineral-rich soils, farm crops, steep draws, thick cover, and top-notch genetics, hunters have created a trophy deer paradise by shooting plenty of does and allowing bucks to mature.

The result: more bucks in the record books than any other county in the nation, including Wisconsin's No. 1 nontypical, a massive 245 whitetail with 27-inch main beams and a 27-inch outside spread. What is particularly intriguing is the fact that most of these record deer have been harvested in recent years, like a 200 nontypical bagged in 2000 and a 1784/8 typical in 2001.

Most of Buffalo County is private, but some land is available to hunt by paying an access fee or booking a guided hunt. Several wildlife areas also offer public hunting, including Whitman Dam, 2,173 acres; Big Swamp, 760 acres; and Tiffany, encompassing both sides of the Chippewa River, with 12,740 acres. Stand hunting near travel lanes or rutting sign is the method of choice, but drives are also productive.

Nonresident license: $135
608-266-2621; www.dnr.state.wi.us

** 12. Minnesota (Northern)**
"It was kind of amazing that I even kept those antlers," says Wayne Stewart of the rack from the buck he took as a teenager walking through brush on a deer drive in Kittson County back in 1961. "At that time people didn't pay much attention to horns. We knew they were big but didn't know anything about scoring or how they would rank."

Turns out those "horns" had 14 points, 26-inch main beams, and incredible mass-enough to rank ninth in the world record book today at 201 B&C;, and second in Minnesota. The state's top deer, John Breen's 202, came from Beltrami County, also in northern Minnesota.

Bucks in this wild north country grow big partly because of the lightly hunted, remote land, and partly due to a cold-climate adaptive mechanism (known as Bergmann's rule). St. Louis County, east of where Stewart bagged his massive typical, has produced more than 60 B&C; bucks. Recent records include a 1797/8 typical from Beltrami County in 2001 and a 2121/8 nontypical from Koochiching County in 2000. "The winters of 1995¿¿¿96 and '96¿¿¿97 were severe, but since then they have mostly been very mild," says research biologist Mark Lenarz. "The deer have recovered strongly, maybe too strongly. We might have trouble controlling them."

Lenarz estimates that 60 to 70 percent of northern Minnesota is open for public hunting-literally millions of acres. Much of it lies in Superior and Chippewa National Forests, but large state forests and timber-company lands offer thousands of additional acres. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area has true wilderness hunting, but be careful, says Lenarz: "You might canoe in and find your path frozen before you plan to paddle out."

Nonresident license: $126
651-296-6157; www.dnr.state.mn.us

** 13. Nebraska (Northwest)**
The I4-point Dawes County nontypical taken by 14-year-old Cole Emmett in 1998 netted 2012/8 and is only one of many northwestern Nebraska trophy whitetails. Both the Pine Ridge and the Sandhills units are good regions, with river systems such as the Niobrara, Snake, and White being particularly productive-and not just for whitetails. Sioux, Dawes, and Sheridan are among the best mule deer counties in the state as well. The No. 1 typical mule deer, a 1962/8 buck, came from Dawes County, and the top nontypical, a 2565/8, was killed by Art Thomsen near Chadron.

For whitetails, head to the Sandhills Unit. "Seventy percent of the harvest there is 21/2 years or older," says big-game program manager Karl Menzel. This region stretches 170 miles, with hills that ri up several hundred feet and mostly open terrain except for groves of cottonwoods along creekbottoms. For public-land hunting for both muleys and whitetails, try Oglala National Grassland and the Nebraska and Samuel R. McKelvie National Forests.

Nonresident license: $189
402-471-0641; www.ngpc.state.ne.us

14. Kansas (Southern)
Kansas hunters have taken hundreds of B&C; deer, but regular production of whitetails in the 130 to 160 class, particularly in the southern part of the state, makes it a standout destination. Try the Flint Hills in the central region with its tall-grass prairies and cottonwood-lined streams, the eastern corner where oak forests are interspersed with farms, and the southwest's huge agricultural spreads.

"Kansas has many of the ingredients to produce large deer," says Lloyd Fox, big-game program coordinator. "The state is blessed with vast areas of fertile soils. The mixture of crops such as corn, alfalfa, and soybeans, in close proximity to riparian woodlands and Conservation Reserve Program areas, provides high nutrition and escape cover."

Recent trophies, all taken in 2001, include a 2257/8 nontypical from Linn County, a 216 nontypical from Kiowa County, and a 1736/8 typical from Comanche County.

It's difficult to obtain tags for some regions, but transferable tags are distributed to landowners, so booking through an outfitter or rancher can guarantee you a chance to hunt even if you don't get selected in the draw. Some public lands are available near reservoirs and on walk-in hunting areas where the state leases foot access to private land.

Nonresident license: $276
620-672-5911; www.kdwp.state.ks.us

** 15. Texas (South, Brush Country)**
Superb genetics and the willingness of hunters to allow bucks to grow (51/2 years or older) is one key to this region's premier status as a trophy deer hotspot. Another is that this 20-million-acre ecological zone stretching from just below San Antonio to the Mexican border is carpeted with high-protein brush and thick cover. But it's mainly the management system that allows bucks to reach full maturity before they are harvested that produces such outstanding results.

Recent proof: Last year Jerry Wascom killed an 81/2-year-old buck that gross-scored 214 points and netted 209. That deer was particularly noteworthy, but literally hundreds of whitetails scoring from 150 to 200 are shot in south Texas every year. Counties such as Dimmit, Webb, LaSalle, and Frio dominate the record books. Webb and Dimmit together have yielded 90 B&C; bucks.

On a typical Brush Country hunt you'll see 10 to 20 mature bucks a day ranging from 120 to 160-plus. Tactics include watching senderos (cleared trails through the brush) from a mobile elevated blind, manning a tripod over a food plot, still-hunting, and rattling during the mid-December rut.

Nonresident license: $250
512-389-4800; www.tpwd.state.tx.us

16. Colorado (Eastern Plains)
The western mountains of Colorado still offer good mule deer hunting. But the good news doesn't end there. Big-game coordinator John Ellenberger says, "Some of the units with the highest percentage of trophy bucks and best buck-to-doe ratios are on the eastern plains." This region of farms, prairies, and rugged canyons is especially intriguing because it offers excellent potential for both whitetail and muley trophies. Whitetails thrive along river systems such as the Republican, Platte, and Arkansas. In recent years some very impressive bucks have come out of this area, including a 2282/8 nontypical taken by Aaron Eggemeyer in 2001 and a 1863/8 typical 8x8 killed by David McCracken in 1996. Deer in the 130 to 150 class are common due to a good age structure.

Mule deer thrive in rougher country such as breaks, canyons, and draws, as well as on the open prairie. This region produced my biggest buck ever, a 178 B&C; 10-point.

Most of the plains units are private, but you can pay an access fee or book a guided hunt. Public lands include the Comanche and Pawnee National Grasslands, Bureau of Land Management tracts, and a few state management areas.

Nonresident license: $293.25
303-297-1192; www.wildlife.state.co.us

** 17. Wyoming (West-Central)**
The demise of the mule deer has been greatly exaggerated. For evidence, go to Wyoming-biologist Harry Harju says the state has half a million.

"All regions have older bucks these days," says Harju, "and lots of them." For some of the biggest, head to west-central Wyoming, where massive bucks with deep forks are available to hunters who are willing to climb or ride high into the backcountry. "Populations are at their objectives in both the Sublette and Wyoming Range herds." Three counties dominate the record books-Lincoln, Sublette, and Teton. Typical heads are most common, such as Randy Mixon's 195, taken in Lincoln County in 2001.

Most of the prime territory lies in public areas such as the Bridger-Teton National Forest and BLM lands. Try the Salt River and Wind River ranges. (In designated wilderness areas, you'll need a guide.) The farther in you go, the rougher the country, with steep canyons and cover-infested coulees, and the more likely you'll find that elusive trophy.

Nonresident license: $220 or $320
307-777-4600; gf.state.wy.us

**18. Montana (Northwest) **
deer hunters know Montana for its muleys, but the state has a rich whitetail population, especially along the Yellowstone and Musselshell riverbottoms, in the Badlands, and in the northeast. For the largest trophy bucks, though, head to the northwest. Counties such as Flathead, Lincoln, Mineral, and Missoula dominate the record book, turning out the state's top two typicals, including Thomas Dellwo's 1993/8 from Missoula, and the third best nontypical, a 2417/8 from Flathead County.

Mule deer are common in the higher country of this region as well. Some of the state's biggest fork-antlered deer have come from Flathead and Sanders Counties.

Hunt during the rut in November and get away from the roads. There's plenty of room to roam in the Lolo, Lewis & Clark, Flathead, and Kootenai National Forests.

Nonresident license: $328 ($775 for an outfitter-sponsored license)
406-444-2535; www.fwp.state.mt.us

19. Arizona (Northern)
This region of canyons, plateaus, mesas, and thickly forested mountains is famous for its wide-racked mule deer. Great genetics, rugged and thick habitat, remoteness, and limited firearms permits allow muleys to thrive. Bucks with 30- to 40-inch spreads are taken every year, and Coconino County alone has popen prairie. This region produced my biggest buck ever, a 178 B&C; 10-point.

Most of the plains units are private, but you can pay an access fee or book a guided hunt. Public lands include the Comanche and Pawnee National Grasslands, Bureau of Land Management tracts, and a few state management areas.

Nonresident license: $293.25
303-297-1192; www.wildlife.state.co.us

** 17. Wyoming (West-Central)**
The demise of the mule deer has been greatly exaggerated. For evidence, go to Wyoming-biologist Harry Harju says the state has half a million.

"All regions have older bucks these days," says Harju, "and lots of them." For some of the biggest, head to west-central Wyoming, where massive bucks with deep forks are available to hunters who are willing to climb or ride high into the backcountry. "Populations are at their objectives in both the Sublette and Wyoming Range herds." Three counties dominate the record books-Lincoln, Sublette, and Teton. Typical heads are most common, such as Randy Mixon's 195, taken in Lincoln County in 2001.

Most of the prime territory lies in public areas such as the Bridger-Teton National Forest and BLM lands. Try the Salt River and Wind River ranges. (In designated wilderness areas, you'll need a guide.) The farther in you go, the rougher the country, with steep canyons and cover-infested coulees, and the more likely you'll find that elusive trophy.

Nonresident license: $220 or $320
307-777-4600; gf.state.wy.us

**18. Montana (Northwest) **
deer hunters know Montana for its muleys, but the state has a rich whitetail population, especially along the Yellowstone and Musselshell riverbottoms, in the Badlands, and in the northeast. For the largest trophy bucks, though, head to the northwest. Counties such as Flathead, Lincoln, Mineral, and Missoula dominate the record book, turning out the state's top two typicals, including Thomas Dellwo's 1993/8 from Missoula, and the third best nontypical, a 2417/8 from Flathead County.

Mule deer are common in the higher country of this region as well. Some of the state's biggest fork-antlered deer have come from Flathead and Sanders Counties.

Hunt during the rut in November and get away from the roads. There's plenty of room to roam in the Lolo, Lewis & Clark, Flathead, and Kootenai National Forests.

Nonresident license: $328 ($775 for an outfitter-sponsored license)
406-444-2535; www.fwp.state.mt.us

19. Arizona (Northern)
This region of canyons, plateaus, mesas, and thickly forested mountains is famous for its wide-racked mule deer. Great genetics, rugged and thick habitat, remoteness, and limited firearms permits allow muleys to thrive. Bucks with 30- to 40-inch spreads are taken every year, and Coconino County alone has p