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Trophy Whitetail Areas

A Deer Hunting Article

Written by T.R. Michels


If you are interested in a trophy whitetail buck you should start by researching the record books of individual states, and the Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett records. A few years ago I checked the record books prior to 1988. At that time there were 12 states and provinces that had produced more than 60 record book heads. Six of them had over 100 heads and Minnesota topped the list with over 200 entries. Not surprisingly the Midwest had seven of the top producers. The other states were Texas, Montana and the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Minnesota was far ahead of the other areas with 75 typical and 74 non-typical Boone and Crockett entries, and 36 typical and 42 non-typical Pope and Young entries, for a total of 227. Wisconsin came in second with 155 entries, Kansas with 114, Saskatchewan with 110, Iowa with 106 and Illinois with 95. During past years neither Iowa nor Kansas allowed hunting by non-residents, but they do now. Obviously all these areas should be considered if you are looking for a trophy hunt.

A more recent look at the Minnesota State Record book with heads registered up until 1990 shows a whopping total of 902 heads that meet the minimum requirements for the Pope and Young or Boone and Crockett record books. There were 420 Boone and Crockett heads alone. The difference in numbers from the state to national records can be attributed to the fact that many hunters never enter their state record heads into the national books.

Trophy Hot Spots

If you look at trophy numbers by area you will see that each of the states have "hotspots", a county or several adjacent counties, that produce high numbers of trophies. The southeast corner of Minnesota is probably the premiere trophy area of North America. Of the heads that score over 170 points from 1985-1990 in that area Winona county has 11, Houston 8, Fillmore 8, Goodhue 5, Mower 4, Freeborn 4, Steele 3, Wabasha 3, Rice 2, Dodge 2 and Olmstead 2. Outside of the southeast hotspot where Ottertail County 15, Beltrami 15, Itasca 14, Aitkin 11 and Lake Of The Woods 10. A total of 20 counties in Minnesota have over 5 Boone and Crockett heads.

Wisconsin has a similar "hotspot" in the north central portion of the state. Bayfield county has 8 heads, Rusk 7, Price 7, Vilas 6, Sawyer 5, Oneida 4 and Lincoln 2. Outside of Wisconsin's northern hotspot were Buffalo County with 15 and Marinette with 7. The trophy Kansas counties include McPherson, Lyon, Butler, Chase and Sumner with 5 each. Greenwood, Cowley and Marion each had 3. Iowa trophy counties are Wapello 5, Monroe, Johnson, Iowa and Monoma with 4 each and Jones, Linn and Dubuque with 3 each. Illinois counties were Adams, Rock Island and Peoria with 5. In recent years Pike County, Illinois, has produced numerous trophy heads.

Trophy Density

While all these numbers are impressive, any of the top states or provinces has the potential of producing a record book head. A determining factor in choosing an area to hunt should be the number of trophies per square mile in recent years. The hotspots of both Minnesota and Wisconsin are different in size but the trophy density per square mile in Minnesota is one for every 120 square miles. In Wisconsin it is one for every 280 square miles. The chances of taking a trophy buck are twice as good in Minnesota's hotspot as in Wisconsin’s.

Trophy Habitat

A look at a topographical map shows that each of the hotspots has something in common. They all contain river drainage systems, generally with hills and bluffs of hardwoods for cover, with agricultural lands along the river bottoms or at the tops of the hills and bluffs. Many of these river systems flow through limestone and sandstone giving the deer access to the minerals they need to grow larger racks on a year round basis. The woods and hillsides provide year round food, security cover, escape from storms and keep human intrusion low. The agricultural lands provide abundant food sources in season. This adds up to ideal whitetail habitat.

Northern Subspecies

When you also consider that, with the exception of Texas, all these states and provinces are in the northern portion of the whitetail's range it begins to make sense why they produce deer with large racks. The northern areas are home to the largest subspecies of whitetails: the ochrorus, borealis, dakotensis and machrorus. These larger bodied northern deer produce proportionately larger racks than their smaller cousins. If you are serious about taking a trophy whitetail choose one of the hotspots in the Midwest where oak covered hillsides and bluffs adjoin agricultural lands and river drainages flowing through mineral rich soil, and keep human intrusion low. The agricultural lands provide abundant food sources in season. This adds up to ideal whitetail habitat.