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10 Serious Whitetail Sleeper States

Check out these underrated deer hunting destinations for 2023.

10 Serious Whitetail Sleeper States

Some states are seriously underrated. (Honeycutt Creative photos)

Some states are hot-button talking points for deer hunters. It’s common for certain destinations to trigger thoughts of monster whitetails, especially midwestern destinations. Certain states are big-time sleepers for big whitetails, though, and most aren’t in the Midwest. Here are 10 of those, in no particular order.

Delaware

  • Deer Population: 31,000
  • Number of Deer Hunters: 20,000
  • Typical B&C Bucks: 19
  • Non-Typical B&C Bucks: 11

A northeastern state that frequently goes overlooked, Delaware is a phenomenal destination for whitetails. This small pocket of big-buck paradise should produce good deer hunting for the foreseeable future, especially given the mild winters and strong fawn crops.

Those who road trip to this destination should know that most of the bigger deer come from Sussex, New Castle, and Kent counties. These are suburban areas that are largely bowhunting only. If private land isn’t an option, find a public hunting area that looks good to you.

Georgia

  • Deer Population: 1 million
  • Number of Deer Hunters: 300,000
  • Typical B&C Bucks: 192
  • Non-Typical B&C Bucks: 60

The Georgia DNR continues to make policy changes that lead to improvements in the statewide deer herd. As a result, it offers a better deer hunting program than even the recent past. Buck age structure is great, and in certain areas, offers significantly better antler production.

Peach State public land is getting better, too. It’s even possible to find decent odds of encountering 2 ½- and 3 ½-year-old bucks on open-to-all ground. Find a great place via the available tools.

Idaho

  • Deer Population: 200,000
  • Number of Deer Hunters: 23,000
  • Typical B&C Bucks: 52
  • Non-Typical B&C Bucks: 45

One of the most overlooked states — especially in the western half of the country — is the grand state of Idaho. While it doesn’t offer great whitetail hunting statewide, the northern counties offer great odds of success. Despite moderate to high predator populations, bucks are finding a way to reach older age classes.

There’s an abundance of public land, too. Idaho is 70% public land, meaning there is a lot of opportunity here for the DIY deer hunter. For those willing to put in necessary effort, the Clearwater and Panhandle regions are excellent locations.

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When traveling, don’t pass up a good representation of what the area has to offer.

Maryland

  • Deer Population: 200,000
  • Number of Deer Hunters: 90,000
  • Typical B&C Bucks: 79
  • Non-Typical B&C Bucks: 45

Perhaps the most underrated state in the Northeast is Maryland, because it’s a very merry land for whitetails. It’s had several mild winters, offers a great mix of habitat types with quality, and certain pockets offer incredible odds of success. Allegany, Carrol, Frederick, and Washington counties are especially notable.

While the state is quite small, public-land opportunities are impressively abundant, especially for the size of its borders. While the state properties are great, some federal ground is open for hunting, too.




Mississippi

  • Deer Population: 1.5 million
  • Number of Deer Hunters: 160,000
  • Typical B&C Bucks: 119
  • Non-Typical B&C Bucks: 73

Mississippi is known for its ducks, but the deer hunting is great, too. According to the National Deer Association, it routinely ranks for the highest percentage of 3 ½-plus-year-old deer in the harvest.

According to Boone and Crockett records, it’s put a respectable number of top-end deer in the books, too. It even has a decent volume (2 million acres) of public land. Overall, it’s a great destination, and goes quite overlooked.

New Hampshire

  • Deer Population: 100,000
  • Number of Deer Hunters: 50,000
  • Typical B&C Bucks: 55
  • Non-Typical B&C Bucks: 9

Much like Maryland, New Hampshire is a northeastern state that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s certainly on the rise, though, especially thanks to mild to manageable winters and good crops of acorns, apples, and other key food sources for the region.

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For such a small state, it surprisingly offers about 750,000 acres of public land to hunt. Numerous public lands are open and available to the public. And don’t forget about paper and timber companies that work with hunters, too.

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Some states have much better whitetail opportunities than others.

North Carolina

  • Deer Population: 1.1 million
  • Number of Deer Hunters: 240,000
  • Typical B&C Bucks: 34
  • Non-Typical B&C Bucks: 7

Situated in the topmost corner of the Southeast region, North Carolina is cranking out a shocking number of mature whitetails. For an area that was surprisingly quiet for decades, the past few years have produced numerous record-class whitetails. Of course, there are a lot of deer in general, especially areas with quality habitat.

Being connected to the Appalachian range, it also offers about 2 million acres of public lands. Many of these properties are managed quite well, which doesn’t happen in every state. If you’re looking for the best odds at a mature deer, consider Ashe, Chatham, Durham, Forsythe, Granville, Guilford, Orange, Person, Rockingham, Stokes, and Wake counties. Find a public tract that works for you.

North Dakota

  • Deer Population: Unknown
  • Number of Deer Hunters: 48,000
  • Typical B&C Bucks: 89
  • Non-Typical B&C Bucks: 57

North Dakota is a state that doesn’t get the cred it’s due, too. It’s sometimes difficult to get a tag here (especially rifle opportunities), but even so —  bowhunters who get a tag have a lot going for them. Lower hunter numbers, quality deer herds, and promising trophy potential are all positive.

The state offers a variety of habitat types, region depending. Public land is getting more difficult to locate, but it’s possible to find small pockets of opportunity. Fortunately, open landscapes permit glassing from afar, especially in certain counties.

Oklahoma

  • Deer Population: 700,000
  • Number of Deer Hunters: 460,000
  • Typical B&C Bucks: 115
  • Non-Typical B&C Bucks: 155

A definite sleeper state, Oklahoma is incredibly overlooked. Licenses are affordable, habitat is diverse, and it doesn’t receive too much hunting pressure (in most areas). Overall, the deer herd is strong and buck age structure is quite good.

It also has about 1.7 million acres of public land. Most of the WMAs are in the eastern half of the state, though. Some western counties are strong, too. Find a few good tracts of public grounds that look promising and work hard to find the deer you’re after. Generally, the most Booners come out of Comanche, Hughes, Love, Osage, Pittsburg, Pushmataha, Rogers, and Woods counties.

West Virginia

  • Deer Population: 650,000
  • Number of Deer Hunters: 280,000
  • Typical B&C Bucks: 48
  • Non-Typical B&C Bucks: 18

Finally, don’t sleep on West Virginia. It offers plenty of reasons to give it a go, especially if it’s close enough to road trip to. It isn’t as good as Kentucky or Ohio, but it has a lot going for it and is worth a try.

It even has a great amount of public land. There are a lot of WMAs, and other forms of public. Use available resources to find some spots that appear to hold plenty of deer. Generally, Boone, Cabell, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Wayne, and Wyoming counties produce the best bucks.

All things considered, there might be better hunting in other states near you. But if you have no existing game plan, the above states and regions are solid destinations that still qualify as serious sleeper states, if only for a while longer. And of course, modern deer hunting is all about getting away from the crowd. Hopefully you can find room to roam in the lands mentioned here.

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