Which counties offer you the best chance to bag that big buck this year?
Michigan can be a rough place to hunt whitetails. Over 600,000 hunters take to the woods looking for whitetail deer here each year. In 2013, they harvested some 329,000 deer.
Michigan isn’t really known for being a big buck state, but the big bucks are here if you know where to find them. So what are some of the best counties to bag a big buck here? We’ve compiled a list based on personal experience and Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM) records.
These counties consistently produce trophies year after year and are places to go to if you are looking for a Michigan monster this year!
This county is a bit of a sleeper pick for this list. It’s likely that neighboring big buck factory Jackson County takes some of Calhoun’s thunder. Those who live nearby, however, know the big bucks that regularly come from here.
Of particular note is Tim Tackett’s 2007 buck, a 215 1/8 inch non-typical monster. A negative aspect about Calhoun County is a lack of public land. It will likely take some effort to gain access to private land here. Pictured above is a 121-inch buck skull found in Calhoun County in the Kalamazoo River.
9. Grand Traverse
When it comes to lower Northern Michigan, few counties can top Grand Traverse. It’s one of the top counties for number of Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM) entries at the top of the “mitten.” It was home to the state record archery buck for years, Mitch Rompola’s 181 7/8 inch 12 pointer taken in 1985.
It’s also the county where Rompola allegedly shot a 215-inch typical that was never entered in any record book back in 1998. That is, if you believe the now-legendary story that is still hotly debated in Michigan hunting camps to this day. Grand Traverse also has quite a bit of state forest land for anyone looking for a public land monster.
While the Upper Peninsula deer herd has struggled in recent years due to harsh winters, no one can argue Marquette’s history of big bucks. It’s one of the only counties that can come close to matching Delta’s number of CBM-qualifying bucks.
The county is full of state and commercial forest land that makes public access fairly easy for anyone looking to have a North Woods adventure.
7. Van Buren
I’ll admit to being a little biased in this pick. My own family has been extremely successful here, bagging multiple CBM-qualifying bucks over the years.
We aren’t alone, though; bucks scoring in the 150s, 160s, and 170s fall here with regularity each season. Much like at an old dive bar, you’ll hear plenty of tales of the ones that got away. Van Buren is limited in public land access, but it is home to Michigan’s blackpowder record, a 190 6/16 monster taken by Tom Britenfeld in 2007.
Delta is another Upper Peninsula county that easily makes this list. The county is sparse in human population, but high in big bucks.
Not only is it one of the top-producing counties for qualifying bucks for Commemorative Bucks of Michigan, but it has lots of public hunting opportunities. Hiawatha National Forest covers a large portion of the county and provides plenty of hunting opportunities for hunters willing to work for a North Woods trophy.
This county is becoming better known in recent years for being a big buck factory. There’s no doubt that Aaron Davis’ 225 7/8, non-typical bow buck in 2004, helped turn some people’s heads.
The county is sparsely populated for a southern Michigan county, and its ample farmlands help bucks grow big antlers. The unfortunate thing about Hillsdale is access. There are few areas of state land available, which means public hunting opportunities are limited.
4. Livingston County
Not a season goes by where I don’t hear about at least one Livingston County monster here on the other side of the state. The county has seen numerous bucks over the 170-inch Boone and Crockett minimum for both typical and non-typical.
The county has a high human population, but it also has more public land opportunities than many other southern Michigan counties. If you’re looking to take a public land monster, Livingston might be a good option.
If you’re looking to get away from it all in your pursuit of an Upper Peninsula monster, look no further than Iron County. The population is sparse and public land opportunities abound as the Ottawa National Forest takes up a significant portion of the western part of the county.
Oh, and they have some monster bucks here, too. Carl Mattson’s 218 1/8 inch monster taken way back in 1945 is still the state record non-typical by handgun to this day.
No other county in Michigan has produced more Boone and Crockett class bucks than Washtenaw has. It also runs pretty close with Jackson County for numbers of Commemorative Bucks of Michigan qualifying contenders.
The county has produced multiple non-typicals over 200 inches and typicals over 170. The county does have a high population of people and public land options are limited, but one can’t argue with the past successes of hunters in Washtenaw.
This county is the unquestioned number one spot on this list. It almost never fails that when I hear about a monster buck taken in Southern Michigan, it seems like nine times out of ten, it turns out it was in Jackson County.
There aren’t a ton of public hunting options in Jackson. However, searching for private land access might be worth it, especially when you consider the number of monsters taken there. Plus, it is home to the state record typical, a 198 inch monster shot by Troy Stephens in 1996.
So, where do you plan to target your Michigan buck? These counties would be good places start.