Is this the year you set your sights beyond your own home hunting boundaries and go after that faraway buck with true record book potential? Or maybe your local hunt houses a monster with record potential and you're wondering if you should just focus on things right there? North American Whitetail has taken a look at Boone & Crockett's Trophy Search, showing which ones offer a realistic choice at a true B&C trophy this season. Despite concerns about the drought that slammed much of the country, as well as disease outbreaks that can have a huge impact on trophy potential, this year has the chance to be a monster-producing year. Here are our picks for the top eight states to kill a giant buck in 2012.
Last year Illinois was a perennial whitetail record producer, partially as a courtesy to the famed Pike County and partially due to every other awesome acre of agriculture in the state. The Land of Lincoln didn't produce the most B&C bucks last year at 27, but it did produce the most among the top 50 typicals and non-typicals with a total of 15 on both lists. Of the top 15, eight were typicals and seven were non-typicals, including Travis Cockburn's gnarly 30-point Williamson County buck, which scored 247 2/8 inches to earn a spot as the second largest whitetail killed in North America last season. Some biologists fear record drought across much of country and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), both of which are hammering Illinois herds right now. This could sharply impact not only the number of deer hunters in the field, but the size of the bucks as well.
"A lot of bucks are going to have difficulty reaching their full antler potential this year due to the drought," says whitetail biologist and Growing Deer TV host Dr. Grant Woods. That being said, they aren't going to disappear, either. A big buck last year may not leap up in size like he would with optimal feed and water, but it's doubtful he's going to shrink much either.
Where EHD is concerned, Illinois' last big outbreaks were in 2007 and before that in 1998. How many bucks did the state put in the Top 50 Typical and Non-typical lists those years? A total of 32, which indicates that despite years where deer herds suffer EHD outbreaks, the odds for taking a record buck remain as high there as they do elsewhere.
While Pike County still gets the ink, a growing number of hunters are starting to believe the odds of a hunter scoring one are beginning to get played out. Hunts here can run you top dollar and because lease rates are so high, outfitters are forced to run herds of hunters through the season. If you can swing it with a top outfitter there, go for it; but if not, look elsewhere in the state, particularly toward the Indiana line, which is producing ample beasts itself. Of the 27 Illinois bucks to make the records last year, two hailed from Pike.
Speaking of Indiana, the Land of Lincoln's eastern neighbor, the hunting there has gone off the hook in recent years, though the state still blissfully dodges much of the big buck ink that is spilled in magazines each year. If things keep going as they have, that could be coming to an end, though the drought and an EHD outbreak there are both working to keep Hoosier hunter expectations tempered. The state ranked fourth overall in record bucks last year with 24, but took the number two spot of top 50 placements with four typicals and nine non-typicals. Female hunter Audrey Sharp also posted the number one buck shot last year with a Posey County monster that scored 249 1/8. The entries come scattered from across the state, but the northern counties seem to put up more entries with multiple B&C bucks biting the bullet last year in Newton, La Porte, LaGrange and DeKalb counties. Tags are over-the-counter and when compared to what a non-resident will spend in many big buck states, that's still a bargain.
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