Gordon Whittington is the Editor in Chief of North American Whitetail magazine and charter team member and regular contributor to “North American Whitetail TV” on Sportsman Channel, Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET. He joins The Revolution this week with insight on whitetail hunting sleeper states that deserve to be on your radar.
If you’re looking at the top 5 or even top 10 listings of whitetail hunting states that are widely available on the internet, Oklahoma generally doesn’t make either. However, the Sooner State has public land in good supply, high rates of hunter success and a high percentage of bucks harvested that are 3 ½ years or older. It’s not that Oklahoma is unknown, but it certainly doesn’t have the high profile that Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and other Midwest states have. It’s one of those places that continues to get overlooked, Gordon says, even though there have been a tremendous number of really impressive deer taken. He highlights the number of 200 plus inch bucks that have been harvested in the last several years and says that those kinds of numbers should put Oklahoma on the radar of more whitetail hunters. Arkansas is another hidden gem and one of the reasons, Gordon says, is because of its tremendous agricultural base. Some will say that the South doesn’t have the soil fertility, the crops, or the genetics that the Midwest produces. However, Gordon says states like Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana have exceptional bottom land fertility and fertile soil grows big deer just like it grows high yielding crops. With those factors in its favor, Arkansas produces some really big deer, yet it flys largely under the radar of most deer hunters. The state has plenty of publicly accessible land, high success rates and nearly 75% of the bucks harvested are over the age of 3 ½. Gordon says Arkansas isn’t a state that has become an overnight hotspot, if you look back in the old Boone and Crockett record books it shows that Arkansas has always been a solid whitetail hub with true world class whitetail potential.
Hunters are willing to travel long distances to hunt. People from the Eastern half of the country will pack up and drive west through the plains for the opportunity to hunt species like pronghorn, elk, mule deer or others that they haven’t hunted before or don’t have populations of in their own states. These hunters are often so focused on getting to their final destination, that they fail to realize they are cruising through prime whitetail states like the Dakotas. Gordon says the Dakotas happen to be great states for whitetail hunting, ranking high in an upcoming North American Whitetail DIY hotspot feature. There are a lot of really impressive bucks in those states and when coupled with little cover, compared to what many Eastern hunters are used to, the deer in the Dakotas are fairly easy to find. The open country and ability to more easily spot game creates a dynamic hunting situation, he says, and affords hunters the opportunity to put themselves in a strategically good situation fairly quickly. That’s something that is far more difficult to do when you are hunting the giant wilderness areas of heavy timber in the East that make it more difficult for hunters to get a quick foothold.
Finally, Gordon talks big bucks with a throwback twenty years to the year 2000 in a really interesting situation where an almost 270-inch buck was bested at the last minute and never truly got its moment in the spotlight. The world record Pope & Young non-typical entry set by the Del Austin buck in 1962 with a score of 279 ⅞ inches stood unchallenged for nearly forty years. Then in the year 2000, a hunter named Randy Simonitch tagged an non-typical whitetail in Pike County, Missouri, not fully understanding how impressive this buck was. After driving to see the buck himself, Gordon says he knew right away that it was a world class animal. Randy’s buck scored 269 ⅞ and was seemingly on its way to taking the 2nd place world record spot. However, about five weeks after the Simonitch buck was harvested, a hunter named Michael Beatty tagged a monster of a 294-inch whitetail that ended up beating the current world record and sliding the Simonitch buck into 3rd place before it ever really received any attention. It’s a good problem to have, Gordon says, and also interesting how the circumstances allowed such an enormous deer to fly under the radar. You can find the full story of Randy Simonitch’s Missouri Non-Typical Buck at North American Whitetail online.
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