Whitetail Hunting photo

Rut Reporter Eric Bruce has been writing about hunting and fishing for newspapers and magazines for 25 years and hunts deer all over the South, including near his Georgia home. States covered: AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, FL.

Florida has the earliest deer season in the country, starting July 30 in the extreme southern portion of the state. That region is better known for beaches, everglades, and palm trees, but deer hunters are out now pursing whitetails. The state is divided into four zones with the entire state getting in on the hunting action by late October.

With sandy soils and sparse agriculture, the Sunshine state is not exactly a hotbed for Boone & Crocketts, but it does produce some handsome trophies. Every year Florida hunters bag bucks scoring over 130 inches all the way up to 170.

The Florida Buck Registry keeps track of the biggest bucks taken in Florida each season. In the 2010-11 season, there were 48 bucks taken that scored over 130 inches, with five scoring over 150.

The largest buck taken was a 170 6/8 incher from Alachua county by Robert Partin on November 25. The second biggest, and an archery kill at that, was a 167 5/8-inch buck from Jackson county that was arrowed by Brandon Alday on October 23. Both were non-typical racks.

Not surprisingly, 33 of the 130+ club were taken by rifle. Four were taken by a muzzleloader and three by shotgun. Seven, including the second, sixth, and ninth largest scoring racks, were bagged by bow and arrow.

Now where does a Florida hunter go if he wants a trophy buck? Suwannee county led all others with five entries scoring over 130. Calhoun and Jackson county were close behind at five, with Jackson claiming the top scoring entry.

Other counties with multiple entries in the Florida Buck Registry scoring 130+ are Bay with four and Alachua, Madison, and Jefferson with three each. Florida state biologist Corey Morea recommends Jackson, Leon, Madison, and Marion as top counties for big whitetail bucks.