The whitetail deer is the embodiment of hunting, and a symbol of the outdoors. This is an ideal that is shown in many ways, from ancient cave paintings depicting deer hunting scenes from around the world to the buck heads that adorn the walls of thousands of houses throughout the country. Today, deer hunters range from public land fanatics to participants of annual deer drives and everything in between. The necessity of deer to daily life is no longer as severe as it was at the time of those cave paintings, but the obsession over them has not lost its vigor. No matter the county or method of harvest, the whitetail deer is cherished for both its meat and the tradition that surrounds it.
Where To Hunt Whitetail Deer
The whitetail is an extremely robust species that does not require any single kind of habitat. This is cause for them to be spread throughout most of the United States and southern Canada, excluding parts of California, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. This incredible adaptability and tolerance for change allows them to thrive in a multitude of conditions and environments. Because of this, they are capable of impressive growth on public land, which offers hunters opportunities at a once-in-a-lifetime deer without the cost of an expensive deer lease.
The key ingredients for growing massive bucks are genetics and nutrition, and nowhere provides these ingredients better than the Midwest. Midwestern states like Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois are full of agricultural fields growing crops like soy beans and corn. These seemingly unlimited food sources are nutrient rich and frequently in rural areas, both factors that help produce big deer. On top of this, these states have superior genetics that, when coupled with the nutrients, allow for extensive antler growth. Looking to the south, states like Texas and Missouri also have strong genetics and food sources that help produce plenty of giants every year. To the north, Saskatchewan and Alberta grow their fair share of bruisers as well.
Whitetail Deer Hunting Techniques
There are about as many ways to hunt a whitetail as there are whitetail hunters. The most common technique is to sit in some type of blind or tree stand overlooking a high traffic area, such as a food source, water source, or travel route. Successful hunters typically rely more on scouting and preparation than time in the tree stand, as mature whitetails quickly adapt to pressure. This is very different than the western spot-and-stalk style of hunting, as whitetail hunters typically operate on much smaller plots of land and target individual animals.
Whitetails can be hunted with bows, shotguns, muzzleloaders, and rifles. They are not extremely tough like an elk or bear, so most hunting calibers and arrow set ups are sufficient. However, if hit poorly, they can cover long distances quickly, making recovery very difficult.
Whitetail Deer Tags And Regulations
Due to the abundance of deer in the United States, many areas require population management through hunting. Overall populations are often controlled through the management of doe numbers, while buck quality is managed with antler restrictions. On top of this, certain states, like Michigan, have weapons requirements designed to handicap hunters and reduce harvest numbers. These rules are often county or zone specific, so be sure to check the local regulations before heading into the woods.
The process of obtaining tags and the number of tags allotted per license is state specific. Some states, like Iowa, operate on limited drawings for non-residents. Others, like Indiana, are simply over the counter. Some, like Florida, do not require tags at all and rely on hunters reporting their harvests. Regardless of where you are hunting, tags and licenses for deer are relatively inexpensive when compared to other big game species and provide an affordable avenue to chase game and fill the freezer.