Curious about worst places for deer hunting in the U.S.? Read on to learn all about the 7 worst places for deer hunting that “do it yourself” hunters might want to consider avoiding.
The United States is home to over 30 million whitetail, blacktail, and mule deer, and millions of hunters hit the woods each year in pursuit of them. While there are populations of deer in all 50 states, the quality of deer hunting can vary quite a bit from state to state and even within individual states.
Theoretically, it is possible to successfully bag a deer virtually any place where deer live. However, some places are clearly better or worse than others. Lots of ink has been spilled about the best places to hunt deer over the years, but not nearly as much attention has been paid to the worst places for deer hunting in the United States.
What areas constitute the “best” or “worst” places for deer hunting varies depending on the individual hunter. There are always a few hunters who really know what they are doing and can be successful even when hunting in an area that might be considered one of the worst places for hunting deer. By the same token, there are also more than a few people who could go home empty handed after a hunting trip in a place known for having some of the best deer hunting around.
That being said, this article aims to identify some of the worst places for deer hunting in the United States for average hunters. Specifically, this is referring to “do it yourself” (DIY) hunters who hunt deer without the assistance of an outfitter or on a deer lease. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with going on a guided deer hunt or hunting on a lease, many deer hunters cannot afford it or just prefer not to.
With this constraint in mind, the conventional wisdom regarding many of the best places for deer hunting in the United States is often turned on its head. Indeed, many areas have very high populations of deer with lots of trophy bucks, but may be tough or even impossible for the average hunter to access.
Because of this, some of the spots on this list of the worst places for deer hunting go against conventional wisdom. This is because drawing a non-resident deer tag there is extremely difficult or because it may be virtually impossible to hunt there without the assistance of a guide.
Scroll down to learn all about the worst places for deer hunting in the USA and why they aren’t great choices for average hunters.
It’s true that Wisconsin as a whole has some of the most outstanding deer hunting in the country. Southern and central Wisconsin still remain premier deer hunting destinations. However, the woods of northern Wisconsin have really been hit hard by harsh winters and wolves during the last few years. There are still deer up there, but they are under significant pressure and populations, along with the number of deer killed during hunting season, have been steadily dropping over the last decade.
To top it off, wolf numbers have been steadily climbing, but a federal court re-listed the wolf as an endangered species in the western Great Lakes region in December 2014, so Wisconsin was recently forced to close the wolf hunting season. Unfortunately, this means that the deer hunting in northern Wisconsin will likely get worse before it gets better.
Don’t get me wrong, lots of deer hunters successfully tag deer in southern Florida each year. However, that part of the state is not known as a deer hunting paradise for good reason. Bergman’s Rule states that animals living in warmer climates generally have smaller bodies than animals in colder climates. This seems to hold true in warm and sunny Florida, where the average buck in the southern part of the state averages 130 pounds or so. Many deer in the state are even smaller, like the tiny Key Deer, which only weigh 50-75 pounds.
Access to good public hunting land in Florida can also be pretty tough and there is lots of competition and hunting pressure in most of the WMAs. Additionally, the swampy conditions in parts of Florida also make certain hunting areas very difficult to reach without a boat. For all of these reasons, it should not be surprising that there are very few deer from southern Florida represented in the Boone & Crockett or Pope & Young record books.
The State of Illinois has a reputation for being a great state for hunting whitetails. To a certain extent, that is true and many Pope & Young and Boone & Crockett deer have been taken in the state over the years. So why is southern Illinois on this list then?
Part of the problem is the fact that since the state has a reputation for producing monster whitetails, lots of non-resident hunters have started traveling to Illinois in search of trophy deer. Because of this, competition for space on the good pieces of public hunting land in the southern part of state, like the Shawnee National Forest, is really starting to increase. There are always exceptions to the rule, but some of the best hunting in the state these days is on private property.
Not only is it getting tougher to find good public land, but Illinois is not a cheap state to hunt either. It’s one of the most expensive states for a non-resident hunter to hunt deer in and you should expect to dish out several hundred dollars just for licenses and tags.
So, southern Illinois is not really a bad place to hunt. Instead, it’s more of a place that is overrated and may not be worth the money for a traveling hunter to visit.
Even though the deer population in some parts of the city is so high that the government has to pay sharpshooters to cull the herd, there is currently no legal deer hunting in Washington D.C. for the average hunter. Because of this, Washington D.C. is one of the worst places for deer hunting in the United States even though the city actually has great potential for archery hunters.
Hawaii has a substantial population of Axis deer and a small population of blacktail deer. Most of the Axis deer live on private land on the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. Blacktail deer are only found on the island of Kauai. It is possible to take both species of deer on public land in Hawaii on a DIY hunt, but doing so is incredibly difficult.
For this reason, most of the deer harvested in Hawaii are hunted with the assistance of an outfitter or by local hunters who really know what they are doing. As a tourist visiting Hawaii, you’re probably better off sticking to the beaches or fishing if you don’t want to hunt with an outfitter or if you aren’t friends with a local hunter who can help you out.
Kleberg and Kenedy Counties, Texas
I know it is almost sacrilegious, but I’ll say it anyway: Kleberg and Kenedy Counties, home of Kingsville, the King Ranch, and located right in the heart of an almost sacred area for deer hunting in Texas, are actually among the worst places for deer hunting in the United States. Why? Though there are tons of trophy whitetail deer down in that part of Texas, you’ll have a tough time hunting them without paying to hunt on the King Ranch or on a deer lease in the area.
Prices to hunt on the King Ranch (which, by the way, is not high fenced), while not exactly cheap, are not unreasonable either, especially considering the quality of the hunting that they offer. Even so, a DIY hunter is better off deer hunting somewhere else unless they have an “in” at the King Ranch, know someone who owns land in the area, or is active, reserve, or retired military and therefore eligible to hunt on Naval Air Station Kingsville, which is the only public land to speak of in the area.
Utah’s Henry Mountains
How can one of the best areas in the world for bagging a trophy mule deer be on this list of the worst places for deer hunting in the United States? Well, that’s because drawing a premium limited entry tag to hunt in the Henry Mountains is extremely difficult. In 2015, nearly 15,000 hunters applied for 43 resident and 5 non-resident tags (.3% of all applicants were drawn).
By all means, if you are lucky enough to draw a permit or wealthy enough to purchase a governor’s tag, go and hunt the Henry Mountains. 200″ mule deer aren’t on every hill there, but there are still an above average number of trophy bucks (like this 241″ monster) in the area.
Bonus: Wherever [Insert Name Of Unlucky Hunter Here] is Hunting
Everyone knows someone that, for whatever reason, never can connect with a nice deer (maybe you are that person). Everyone else on the hunt might be covered up with trophy bucks, but this hunter always seems to be the odd person out. Maybe they are just really unlucky. Maybe they are just a bad hunter. Regardless, wherever that person is hunting seems like the worst place in the world to hunt deer.