Which State Has The Best Deer Hunters in America?

NY adirondacks 2018 3Hunters in the Southeastern region of the U.S. were the most successful in 2017, with 55% of hunters killing one or more deer, according to the Quality Deer Management Association’s 2019 Whitetail Report.

South Carolina was #1 in the nation, with 69% of hunters shooting at least one whitetail. Mississippi was a close second with 63% hunter success.

42% of hunters across the Midwest shot a deer. The deer-hunting in Michigan, with a 50% success rate, and Ohio (40% success) improved in recent years, while Indiana (35% success) and Iowa (30%) showed declines as compared to 5 years ago.

Not the least bit surprisingly to me, the Northeast remains the toughest place in America to kill a deer, with only 33% of hunters across the region tagging an animal in 2017.

Maine, with a hunter-success rate of only 13%, is the toughest place to kill a deer (much less a good buck) in the nation. That’s one reason I want to go back there and film another BIG DEER TV show.

Deer hunting is not supposed to be easy all the time. And it’s obviously not in beautiful and intriguing Maine, where I hope to be with a camera crew this November, slogging it out and trying to buck the odds to become one of the chosen few 13%.

Click here to download your free copy of the 2019 Whitetail Report, and scroll to page 23 for the hunter-success rate in your state.

qdma 2019 report

Top 10 Deer Bowhunting States

ohio gary nov 8 2018The QDMA’s 2019 Whitetail Report points out that bowhunting for whitetails has never been more popular. In 2002 only 15 percent of the total whitetail harvest in America was taken with archery tackle; that percentage rose to 23 percent in 2017.

Check out these numbers from 2019 report:

The 5 states with the most bowhunters are: 1) Pennsylvania (339,600 bowhunters); 2) Michigan (311,000); 3) Wisconsin (246,211); 4) New York (231,000); 5 Missouri (222,717).

The 6 states with the most bowhunters per square mile are: Pennsylvania (7.6 bowhunters PSM; 2) New Jersey (5.9); 3 Michigan (5.5); 4) New York (4.9): 5) Ohio (4.5); 6) Wisconsin (4.5).

The top 5 states with the highest percentage of annual deer harvest with archery tackle: 1) New Jersey (58% of total deer harvest in 2017); 2) Massachusetts (43%); 3) Ohio (43%); 4) Illinois (39%); 5) Kansas (37%).

I add that all the archery statistics above include both vertical bow (mostly compound) and crossbow. Love it or hate it, no doubt the modern crossbow has increased hunter numbers and the popularity of bowhunting, especially in the Northeast and Midwest.

 

 

 

 

Deer Hunting Tip: Benefits Of Winter Scouting

winter rubIf you’ve got a free day this weekend or next, and if there is no snow on the ground in your area, go back out to the stands you hunted last fall, walk out from them in an ever-widening circular pattern and look for old sign. You will learn a lot about how deer used the terrain, structure, cover and wind when traveling from bed to feed 3 or 4 months ago. You will find spots where bucks rubbed and scraped the most. You will learn if you need to move your stand 50 to 100 yards…or maybe you’re in a good spot and should stay put…or maybe you should pull out of the area all together. All this will double your chances of whacking a big deer when you come back to hunt in 8 or 9 months.

Trails

Cut deer trails near your stands and follow them. They will all lead, if in a roundabout way, to food sources and bedding sites. The freshest trails in the snow, mud or leaves come and go to winter food sources. But older, drier, fainter trails are more important. They lead to and from food sources that deer hit back in the fall and during the rut, when most of your hunting took place. If you missed those trails by 100 yards or so when you hung your stands last fall, move them closer before next season.

As you follow the trails, note how they hug brush, cut through low spots, curve around fence corners—all potential funneling spots for stands next season. Also, use a map, compass and your imagination to visualize how the deer on those trails worked into the predominant wind, especially the closer they got to food sources and bedding areas. The more you can nail down how deer use the common winds in your area, the more bucks you will see and shoot.

Rubs

Take note of every “signpost” you run across in the woods. A dominant buck blazed that monster rub last October or November. A cluster of rubs as thick as your calf is really what you want to find. It is sign that the rubber spent a lot of time in a core area close by. He or another mature buck will be back in there rubbing trees this fall.

I’ve noticed that in some parts of the country, notably the Midwest and Southeast, bucks show a preference for rubbing aromatic cedars or pines. Look for trends like that. For example, if you find that 70 percent of last fall’s rubs were on evergreens, you’re on to something. As you scout, veer over to investigate every green patch or strip, especially those near crop fields, oak flats and creeks. You’ll turn up more and more rubs in those spots. You’ll know where a lot of bucks will hang out and blaze new rubs this fall, and you’ll want to hang some stands there.

Look for a rub-location pattern, too. Suppose you find twice as many scarred trees on the tops of ridges than on the sides or in draws. Well, the resident bucks are “ridge toppers,” and it reveals a travel pattern that they’ll use from September through the late season. Work that into your plan and set most of your stands on ridges and hilltops.

Scrapes

In moderate climates and after the snowmelt up North, old scrapes are visible for months. Look for clusters of scrapes, which are hubs of deer traffic and good spots to hang stands this September. Try to find a scrape line and follow it. Put yourself in a buck’s hooves. Scan the woods ahead and visualize how he prowled for does. See how he worked the wind, hugged brush, cut around points, etc. You might find great new spots for stands…or get a better idea of where to watch for bucks coming and going out of your same stands next November.

Sheds

As you hike on the freshest, muddiest trails between winter feeding areas and bedding sites, look for just-cast antlers. Find a big chunk of 4- or 5-point bone (and both sides if you’re lucky) and you know one thing—a shooter that you saw last season (or maybe you didn’t see him) survived the hunting season, and if doesn’t get hit by a car over the summer, there’s a good chance he’ll be on your land next season.

This all gives you a lot to think about as you analyze the old sign you just found and work it into a fresh hunting plan for the fall of 2019.

Ultimate Guide To Hunting Shed Antlers

shedsGoogle shed hunting and up pops more than 1 million links to a mind-bogging array of antler info. There are shed-hunting clubs, a shed-antler record book and Facebook pages. Tens of thousands of articles and blogs have been published and posted on how and where to hunt for antlers. Television shows on antler hunting air on Sportsman Channel each year. I produced a shed episode for Big Deer TV a few years ago and it was one of the most popular shows of the year.

There is a good chance you are at least a semi-obsessed antler hunter, or that you will get into it very soon. Either way, here’s stuff you need to know.

When to Shed Hunt

When your hunting season ends in December or January, there is no rest for the weary. The second season of antler hunting commences immediately as the bone starts plunking off the bucks’ heads.

“Bucks lose their antlers anywhere from late December to March, and it’s primarily because of the increasing daylight hours in late winter and spring,” says Missouri biologist Grant Woods. “Inside that window, the health of bucks in an individual herd dictates when the antlers will drop. Grant says bucks that were malnourished, overly stressed or perhaps injured the previous fall will shed their antlers weeks earlier than healthy bucks that lived on private land with nutritious feed in fall and winter.

Monitor the bucks in your area as best as you can. From late December on, keep your trail cameras running at bait sites (if that is legal in your state). At the very least ride around and glass deer that feed in fields. The day you see bucks with one antler or, better yet, none, start looking.

Where and How to Find Sheds

Most people naturally look for antlers in the same areas where they hunt bucks in the fall. You might find some bone in those places, but you might not.

As a general rule, from January through March, 90 percent of the whitetails are congregated in 10% of the habitat that has the best available food sources. This is where you need to hunt.

“I find very few sheds in the same area I hunt, it’s just not the place where the deer spend the winter,” says South Dakota shed fanatic Kelly Kirsch, who picks up more than 100 antlers each year. “You need to branch out and find where the deer yard up and feed this time of year, what type of crops they are on. Out here winter wheat is great.”

Other prime food sources are standing soybeans, or a late-cut bean field with some pods still on the ground; alfalfa and clover; scrubby fields with green shrubs, berries and locust trees with pods. Standing corn is great anywhere, and corn stubble is good.

While feed is the number one place to look brushy, wooded staging areas within 100 yards or so of the beans or corn is a close second. From there, branch out a bit and look in winter bedding areas. Montana shed-hunting fanatic Dick Idol told me he finds 50 percent of his biggest sheds in thick covers where mature bucks hide in winter, and along trails that link those sanctuaries with nearby feed fields.

Now that you know where to look, and having gained permission to shed hunt as many of those fields and covers as you can, get out there and go. The best shed hunters cover 10, 15, up to 20 miles per day. Great exercise! Wear your best, comfortable hiking boots and carry plenty of water.

As you walk look close, real close. “Many people look right over sheds,” notes whitetail expert Terry Drury. “They look too far out in front of where they’re walking. Take it slow and look straight down at the ground, scan every square foot. Sometimes you’ll spot a whole antler, or maybe just a tine sticking up. Some sheds are white, others are brown and blend into the grass and leaves. You’ve got to look close.”

Go when you can, but consider that antlers are easiest to spot on an overcast day. If there’s light rain, great, bone will shine.  Antlers are hardest to pick out in full, harsh sunshine.

A few more tricks to up your shed count:

  • Pick up a deer trail that wends from a feed field and follow it a half-mile or more, until you come to a thick and obvious bedding area. In late winter that might be a brushy southern exposure that gets midday sunlight, or the east side of a grassy ridge or knoll where deer hunker out of a bitter northwest wind. You’ll find some bone in either type thicket, or along the trail that leads to and from it.
  • If you find a good number of sheds in a spot one year, you will probably find more there the next year if crops in the area remain the same.
  • Mark every spot where you find a big bone on a map and in your notes, and check those places first next winter, before another shed hunter beats you to it.

 

Indiana: 180-Inch Homestead Buck

IN ben andrew 2018Thanks to Ben Andrew for sharing his tremendous 2018 buck from central Indiana.

“Sentimental buck right here,” Ben said. “Shot off the homestead where I grew up, and where my dad taught me years ago with a muzzleloader. Place where I got my first buck 25 years ago.

“My father is my lifelong hunting buddy. He’s getting into his middle 70s, and still after it with me. Unfortunately the land around us is up for sale.”

How much longer Ben and his dad have to hunt the home place is unknown. Many of us face similar uncertainties these days, but we have to stay with it and hunt hard while we still can.

Tale of the tape on Ben’s massive buck: 6-inch bases, 20 inches wide, 14 points, 21 inches of mass on each side, and 11-inch brows. Green score lower 180s.

These are my favorite buck stories, bittersweet but straight from the heart. Great buck Ben, best of luck to you and your dad.