Record Book Whitetails and Why You Should Be Hunting Out West

I'm the first to admit that there is really no better place in North America to shoot a giant whitetail than the Midwest, southern Great Plains, or western Canada. Without question, these locations have produced more giant whitetails than most other regions combined. Strong deer numbers, exceptional food sources, genetics, and good management of private and public resources have been the significant factors to whitetail success in those areas. Luckily, I’ve had the privilege to hunt in these locations over the years and have seen the deer they produce.

On the other hand, living in the Rocky Mountain region has provided me ample opportunities to chase whitetails out West, and I can attest to the trophy potential there, as well. Admittedly, it doesn't rival that of the previously mentioned locations; however, when you consider the complete whitetail package, the West has proven it is an excellent and rewarding place to kill a record-book buck. Below is the current state by state rankings in the Pope & Young and Boone & Crockett record books across the Western region:

Pope & Young Records

                       Typ #s         Current Typ Record         Non-Typ #s        Current Non-Typ Record   

1. Montana 542 176 4/8 30 210 7/8
2. Colorado 229 194 0/8 19 230 6/8
3. Washington 155 175 1/8 18 224 3/8
4. Wyoming 155 170 3/8 6 182 5/8
5. Idaho 105 168 2/8 4 197 7/8
6. Oregon 6 143 5/8 3 203 0/8

Boone & Crockett Records

                       Typ #s         Current Typ Record         Non-Typ #s        Current Non-Typ Record  

1. Montana 91 199 3/8 54 252 1/8
2. Idaho 48 186 7/8 44 267 4/8
3. Colorado 37 192 1/8 22 258 2/8
4. Washington 23 200 3/8 39 242 4/8
5. Wyoming 14 191 5/8 24 261 5/8
6. Oregon 6 178 2/8 1 189 0/8

Besides the potential record-book opportunities found out West, there are other reasons to venture there. First of all, for the public-land hunter it’s hard to beat the access in the region. Countless acres of national forests, state lands, and timber-company lands are a great place to start, as well as the many walk-in private-land access programs states offer. Add to this the limited hunting pressure, and you have a great location to hunt North America’s most-popular big-game animal on public ground. Frankly, there is no better feeling in the woods than killing a record buck on public dirt.

As private-land hunting goes, I would argue that there is no location in the Lower 48 that offers the sheer number of whitetails as the West, with its irrigated hay and alfalfa fields. There’s something unique about seeing 50-plus whitetails pour into a single field as the evening shadows lengthen, and only the West can offer that.

Secondly, it’s really hard to beat the scenery and the adventure of chasing Western whitetails. Whether you’re sitting in a treestand along the riparian habitat of a river bottom in Montana, Wyoming, or Colorado, or climbing deep into elk country in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, both provide a unique experience for hunters seeking challenge and solitude.

Lastly, hunting Western whitetails is extremely rewarding. As a friend of mine who recently moved to the Northwest told me, “I have killed three good whitetail bucks in five seasons up here, and although it’s often tough big-woods hunting in cold conditions, especially during the late season, it’s the most rewarding experience when it all comes together.”