Tim Herald – USA Guest Author
In today’s world of quality deer management, great food-plot mixes and a dozen other factors that help us grow and harvest great whitetails, it is still very difficult to harvest a really big whitetail buck. Picking the right hunt at the right time is the most important factor by far. For most of us a 150-inch whitetail is the deer of a lifetime and is a great buck anywhere in the world. So let’s use 150 as our baseline.
Though I have no idea if this is true, I once read a report from a wildlife biologist that said that only 1 in 10,000 whitetails ever grew a 150-inch rack. True or not, a 150 is hard to come by, and if you want to travel in search of a deer of this caliber or better, you should hedge your bets and plan your trip to a place that regularly produces such animals.
Over the years I have been very fortunate to travel all over pursuing big whitetails, and though there are a number of great areas to hunt big bucks, if I had to pick my top three locales, I would say Saskatchewan, Texas and Kansas. All of these places are famous for big whitetails, and deservedly so. Let’s take a quick look at each and see what they have to offer.
Twenty years ago Saskatchewan was all the rage as the world’s best location to hunt big deer. The guys at Realtree killed lots of monster bucks on film in Saskatchewan, and the Canadian province was the undisputed champ. Over the years a couple things happened that took a lot of the spotlight away from this whitetail destination.
First, deer management took a firm hold on many places in the U.S., and big deer were being harvested in much higher numbers in the Lower 48. Secondly, with the popularity of Saskatchewan, a lot of outfitters popped up and in many situations it became a quantity instead of quality situation. Much of this has been resolved as those outfitters looking for easy money have fallen by the wayside, and the high-quality operations have sustained and continue to produce big deer for their clients.
If you hunt Saskatchewan, you must go into the trip prepared-with gear and mentally. You will need to be ready to sit daylight until dark, and for some of us that is the toughest thing to overcome. Deer populations aren’t super high, so don’t expect to see huge numbers of deer, and you must stay alert at all times. I have taken two deer in the mid to high 170s the past two season with Safari River Outdoors (www.huntcanada.com), and one was at exactly noon, and the other was with a full two and a half hours of daylight remaining. The big boys can show up any time, and you must be ready.
You must also be ready for extremely cold temperatures if you go in November, and that is when your best chances are to take a big mature trophy buck. Temperatures can be well below zero, so taking quality layering systems like Under Armour cold gear and Ridge Runner outerwear is a great way to start. I highly recommend the Heater Body Suits for extreme cold days because if you are comfortable, you can stay on stand, and if you stay on stand, your chances of scoring are much higher.
Good outfitters in Saskatchewan produce lots of big deer, so do your research. Barry Samson and his Safari River Outdoors usually have a 95 percent success rate, and his bucks generally average in the low to mid 150s with lots of hunters having opportunities at 160- and 170-class or bigger bucks. You really can’t ask for much better than that.
Down in the States, Kansas and Texas are both top destinations. I believe Iowa is just as good, but drawing a tag can take one to three years depending on the zone and season for which you apply. Texas has over-the-counter licenses, and these days as long as you apply by the deadline, you will receive a Kansas tag.
Texas is great from the Panhandle, through the Hill Country and down into the southern Brush Country. If you are on a well-managed ranch, you will see multiple bucks a day, and be able to take a good mature deer. To kill a really big buck, especially free range, you need to research the specific property and region and make sure they have a history of producing the kind of deer you are looking for.
Cal Ferguson of 4F Outfitters (www.4foutfitters.com) is based in the Panhandle, and his hunters average bucks in the low 150s with much larger bucks roaming his properties. Mike Stroff runs SOE Hunts (www.soehunts.com) and I took a low 150s buck with him on the Canyon Ranch last year, and one of the Primo’s crew took a 180-class buck from the same property. My group saw numerous bucks in the 150 to 160 class.
Last but not least is Kansas. From northeast to southwest, huge bucks are harvested each year. Muzzleloader hunting in late September can net huge bucks still on late-summer feeding patterns. After that, the November rut period is the best bet for bow hunters. The entire month can provide very hot action for archers as the pre rut and peak rut will run during this month. Finally, the December rifle season can be good if weather is cold and big bucks need to feed heavily to build back up from the rut and get ready for the coming winter.
Good outfitters can put you on quality deer during any of these time periods. Two outfitters that don’t take a lot of hunters, but provide high quality hunts focusing on big bucks are Born Outfitters (www.bornoutfittersofks.com) and Back Rhoads Outfitters (www.backrhoads.com).
You have to hunt where big bucks live to kill one, so do your research with diligence and now more than any other time, you should have a real chance at that trophy of a lifetime. After 30 years of traveling to hunt whitetails, I have found these destinations as top producers for monster bucks. I am putting my money where my mouth is, and have hunts planned to all three locales. Now is “the good old days” of trophy buck hunting, so get out there and pursue your dream.