50 Places Where Big Bucks Live (2022)

You’ve probably seen videos of massive-racked, mature bucks swagger along golf course fairways and strut through subdivisions like they own the place. They do this because nobody can touch them. There’s available food, water, does and cover—and there’s not hunting pressure.

There are many places where wild whitetails grow old simply because no (or few) hunters can get to them. They live out their days in solitude miles from the nearest civilization, or maybe right next door to a nail salon. But the common denominator remains — they are unhunted. But what if you could hunt these deer? And if so, where would you go to do so?

Here are 50 of the places where savvy old bucks survive. Some of these places you can gain access to. Others you can’t. But first, let’s analyze the pre-requisites these areas must satisfy.

What an Old Buck Needs

Every whitetail has three basic needs: food, water, and cover. Quality food and water are relatively easy to find throughout much of the whitetail’s range.

What’s rarer is seclusion. Most deer are pressured animals. They see, hear, and feel the effects of hunting. Most bucks that reach older age classes don’t do so by accident. Rather, they find a way to avoid hunting pressure. Here’s where they commonly go.

Places You Can’t Hunt

The following are off limits to hunting. I don’t care if you’re the big boss or are the greatest door knocker of all time, you aren’t legally accessing any of these spots for hunting.

1. Interstate and Parkway Medians. Not many deer live in medians. But some old bucks do live within wider ones that offer an abundance of cover and the ability to exit them without crossing traffic.

2. Interstate and Parkway On-Ramps. As with the former, the area between on-ramps and the interstate or parkway itself can hold deer, especially if it has thick cover, food sources, and water nearby.

3. Interstate and Parkway Property Lines. A lot of big whitetails live along the boundaries between interstates, parkways, and their neighboring lands. This is especially true for blocks of cover that butt up to these public rights-of-way. Of course, if the deer is bedding on the private land (which they generally do), you can technically hunt these deer with permission.

4. National Parks. Large national parks provide an oasis for whitetails. The habitat isn’t always great, but deer still grow old on these vast pieces of public land that hunters can’t touch.

5. School Yards. With a firm understanding that these areas are off limits to hunters, whitetails commonly frequent pockets of cover on and around school yards.

6. College Campuses. Some colleges sprawl out over vast areas. Those that have intermittent timber and other forms of cover (especially around farmland) commonly hold whitetails, and big ones at that.

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7. Wildlife Preserves. Areas specifically dedicated to holding and fostering wildlife are ripe with giant bucks. These areas are some of the best wildlife strongholds in the nation. Most of these are not open to hunting.

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Places That Might Allow Hunting

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Some of the following spots might be open to hunting opportunities. If so, go scout them. If not, see about asking permission from those in charge. You’ll likely get a “no,” but you also might receive a “yes.”

8. City Lakes. Cities and townships require a water source, and those that get theirs from lakes sometimes have sizable acreages under management. Some of these allow hunting, while others do not.

9. City Parks. Most city-owned parks don’t allow hunting. However, some do offer quota hunts. These tend to hold some great bucks.

10. State Parks. Not all state parks permit hunting, but some do. Find those that hold good deer population numbers and age structures.

11. Timber Companies. A lot of timber companies own vast acreages. At times, these are open to public access. Other times, these are leased. Still, with the right connections, you might gain permission.

12. Power Companies. As with timber companies, power companies also own large swaths of ground. This is especially true for coal and electric companies that have reclaimed coal mine ground. These areas tend to offer incredible habitat and an abundance of deer.

13. Land-Locked Areas. Any quality habitat that’s landlocked has the potential to present solid deer hunting opportunities. Sometimes it’s private, and you can gain access. Other times it’s public, and you need private-land trespass permission to reach it.

14. Unmarked Public. Interestingly, not all public land is marked by hunting apps and wildlife agency websites. Some small pockets of public land remain overlooked due to minimal to no coverage of it. Newly designated public lands often take time to appear on maps and apps.

15. Water-Locked Areas. Any ground that’s surrounded by water, or enough of it to deter or decrease access, has the potential to hold big whitetails.

Places You Might Get Permission to Hunt

Most of the following areas are controlled by individuals or entities. It won’t be easy to gain permission from those that own or run them, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Still, it usually takes a significant “in” with someone to score such a spot.

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16: City Limit Landowners. Those who own land inside the city limits might be holding some big bucks. It might only be two or three acres, but if it has cover, food, and water are nearby, there might just be a giant living there.

17. Corporate Properties. Large companies tend to own a significant amount of land. Many times, these lands have stands of timber, water retention areas, and unused ground. Deer live here.

18. Detention Centers. It’s rumored that the Pennsylvania state record was bagged close to a prison. Oftentimes, these areas hold deer that largely go unhunted.

19. Factory Lands. Like corporate properties, factories routinely hold buffers of land around their perimeters. These regularly grow up and turn into fine deer habitat.

20. Golf Courses. Despite being so close to human activity, mature whitetails understand they aren’t being hunted here. Rather, it’s a sanctuary well away from the humans who are trying to turn them into venison. Often, a few select hunters will get access.

21. Under Large Bridges. It’s quite common for big whitetails to live under or close to large bridges, such as those along interstates, parkways, and other major roadways. If it has habitat, deer will be there, and at least travel underneath them. Sometimes, these are privately owned. Other times, they aren’t.

22. Large Cemeteries. Deer live in large cemeteries, especially those with pockets of cover. Deer don’t mind the people who come and go, and these grounds are often quiet.

23. Railways and Railyards. Older bucks might not like the noise that a railyard emits, but they do like the lack of hunting. Many of these aren’t tended well and thicken up with early successional habitat.

24. Rock Quarries. Exploding rocks might sound like gunfire, but old deer know better. Rarely are rock quarries hunted, and gaining access to these can make for a great hunt.

25. Suburban Properties. Many of today’s biggest whitetails are bagged in the suburbs. Because most landowners don’t allow hunting, and deer go overlooked, they reach older age classes.

26. Trap and Skeet Clubs. You might think the constant shooting runs deer off, but it doesn’t. Deer understand the difference between noise and hunting pressure. Rarely does hunting take place at trap and skeet clubs, and bucks understand this.

27. Water Company Land. Water companies require a good bit of land to operate. This routinely leads to pockets of bedding cover where deer hide.

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28. Orchards and Vineyards. These are often large to mid-sized properties that are, of course, privately owned. You’ll have to get permission, but if you do, you’re in for an excellent hunt.

Terrain Features That Monster Bucks Love

OK, by now you’re probably bummed out because you don’t have access to any of the spots listed above. You’re freaking out because you know you’ll never shoot a monster buck now. But don’t lose hope just yet. The spots listed above make up a very small percentage of America’s deer habitat. Furthermore, they likely make up an even smaller percentage of big buck harvests. Lucky for you, there are many other places to find big deer. Here’s the type of terrain features that big bucks like to frequent.

29. Brushy Benches. These are especially good when located halfway to ¾ of the way up the hill.

30. Brush Piles. While most deer and deer hunters ignore these, mature bucks recognize that and move in.

31. Blow Downs Areas. Pileups of downed trees and other forest debris create strongholds that deer can hide within.

32. Cutover Timber. Logged areas lead to a lot of treetops and limbs that culminate into a phenomenal buffet of food and plethora of bedding cover.

33. Dilapidated Structures. Believe it or not, deer sometimes bed down within or against old structures that have been abandoned by humans.

34. Ditches and Drainages. Out-of-the-way places that deer hunters rarely pay attention to, ditches and drainages sometimes hold overlooked deer.

35. Hubs. Best described as where several ridges taper down into one location, hubs allow deer to smell danger from multiple directions.

36. Islands. These spots don’t get hunted as much as hunters often believe. Big bucks flock to islands that provide bedding, food, and internal water sources.

37. Oxbows. Due to the security created by the water, bucks commonly bed down in oxbows. With water to their rear, and a good wind, it’s a great system.

38. Open Prairies. With no trees in sight and a great difficulty for hunters to close within range of them, big whitetails live out their days on the prairie. Here’s how to hunt whitetails in open country.

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50 Places Where Big Bucks Live (2)

39. Plateaus. I’ve watched numerous mature whitetails come up out of the flats, walk up hills, and bed down on the plateaus up top. Deer like bedding on, or just below, the high ground.

40. Leeward Ridges. Best described as the downwind side of a ridge line, leeward ridges allow bucks to smell from two directions — the prevailing winds coming over the top and the thermals drifting upward from below.

41. Ridge Lines. Deer love ridges. They bed, feed, and travel along these lines of movement.

42. Ridge Endings. The end of a ridge line, ridge endings support bedding areas, feeding destinations, and staging areas for food sources down below.

43. Low Flats. Flat ground within heavy cover is an excellent location to find and harvest a mature deer. These spots offer visual, audible, and winding advantages.

44. Marsh Islands. Bucks seek out the high ground within the interiors of marshes. These elevated bedding areas provide the benefits of water around them, which most hunters and predators won’t cross or navigate.

45. Swamp Interiors. Like with marshes, swamps sometimes offer reprieve from hunting pressure. Locating swamps that go unhunted can lead to a phenomenal hunt.

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46. Small Woodlots. Big whitetails find the spots where hunters don’t go, and these are oftentimes small woodlots where most hunters walk right passed.

47. Solar Bedding. Most accurately defined as bedding areas that receive direct sunlight, solar bedding is generally found along southern-facing slopes.

48. Thermal Bedding. Most described as dense stands of conifers, such as cedars and spruce, thermal bedding holds in additional heat.

49. Massive Private Lands and Co-Ops. Landowners who have large tracts of managed property or those who join co-ops with their neighbors tend to find more success in the big buck department.

50: Anything Overlooked. The above places aside, never forget to check any other overlooked pockets of early successional habitat. Old bucks sometimes live in weird places. Deer are edge animals, and that’s the type of cover they love. Find such spots, and it just might be home to a monster buck.

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The Real Takeaway

Perhaps 99 percent of deer hunters won’t ever get an opportunity to hunt spots No. 1-28. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These spots create sanctuaries where deer get old. And you can still take advantage of these properties without ever stepping foot on them. The true takeaway from this list isn’t to gain access to those spots. That’s a long shot in the dark. No, the real takeaway is purchasing, leasing, or gaining permission to the private properties that borders them. Do that, and you might just get a chance at the buck of a lifetime.

FAQs

What state has the most big bucks? ›

1. Wisconsin. According to Boone and Crockett, Wisconsin is the number one largest big buck state with 1,822 total entries. This state has six counties in the top 20 United States counties.

What county has the biggest bucks? ›

The current P&Y World's Record was taken by Michael Beatty from Green County, Ohio, in 2000 and scores 294 points. The second largest on record is a deer taken in 1962 in Nebraska by Del Austin with a score of 279-7/8 points.

What time of day are most big bucks killed? ›

Mid-Morning

Most of them are specifically between 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning, to be exact. It's a proven time, and it could have a lot to do with the common perception among deer hunters that things slow down once early morning is through.

Do big bucks come out at night? ›

This is especially true for mature bucks. Matt Ross with the National Deer Association explained it this way: “…you can count on two things when talking about mature bucks: they move most at dawn and dusk and during the rut. It's in their DNA.” But this doesn't mean deer aren't at all active during shooting hours.

Where do big bucks like to bed down? ›

A southwest-facing slope provides two key elements a buck will look for in a bedding area: headwind and sunshine. This allows them to smell danger long before they see it and seek out a little warmth in the colder months. Mature bucks will typically lay down with a thick stand of trees at their backs.

Where can I find large mature whitetail bucks? ›

Mature bucks know where and how to find does during the rut. That's why you'll commonly find bucks cruising through doe bedding areas, leeward ridges, field edges, pinch-points, saddles, etc. Focus on traditional rut stand locations to target bucks during the rut.

Where do big bucks hide during the day? ›

They find both around the edges of marshes. They love to bed down in areas where marshes meet hardwoods and other forms of standing timber. These areas often receive less hunting pressure and aren't frequented as much by the rest of the deer herd.

What state is the hardest to deer hunt? ›

Massachusetts

While the number and quality of bucks harvested in Massachusetts (and all over the Northeast) have been steadily increasing, only 20 percent of hunters reported a harvest. In the end, there's no way around that.

What state kills the most deer? ›

Delaware increased its buck harvest by the greatest percentage of any state with 57%, and Delaware also took over the top spot in buck harvest per square mile, at 3.9. Mississippi killed the most bucks per 100 hunters at 74.

Where do deer get the biggest? ›

After looking at the data, it seems as though most of the big deer are in the midwest. Many states from the midwest are repeat contenders on our lists we had above. So you really cannot go wrong with hunting in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, or the state that was constantly at the top of our lists, Wisconson.

What state has the best deer? ›

Far and away, Wisconsin is the highest producer of B&C-ranked whitetails. The deer reach massive sizes, and with an abundance of federal and state-owned land, any hunter who is willing to research, walk and put in the work has a chance to score a great deer.

What state has biggest deer antlers? ›

Wisconsin

Wisconsin offers giant-bodied northern bucks and arguably the best big-antler growing genetics in the world.

Will a buck come back after seeing you? ›

Spooked deer will return to their bedding area, but when they return depends on how much the intrusion frightened them. If they can't pinpoint the threat, they'll likely return sooner than if they saw or smelled you. You can evaluate your impact on a deer by studying its body language.

Should you hunt all day during the rut? ›

The rut only comes once a year. If you have the opportunity to get out and hunt all day it's simply a must this time of year. Pack some food, water, a book, anything that will help you stick it out. Get in a habit of scanning the area once every few minutes because it's easy to lose focus after long hours on stand.

How far do bucks move in a day? ›

One dispersal, or long-distance journey, of an adult white-tailed deer stood out for its length, duration and age of the deer. The buck traveled close to 200 miles over 22 days by moving an average of almost 8 1/2 miles per day.

How far do bucks usually bed from food? ›

They have to get up to hydrate themselves, eat, and use the bathroom. However, once mature bucks feed when the sun is up, it is typically only within 100 to 150 yards from the bedding area. With that being said, if you can locate a solid food source to a bedding area, you are almost guaranteed to spot a buck.

When should you rattle for big bucks? ›

Successfully Rattling in Bucks

The optimal time for using rattling as a deer call is at the end of pre-rut and up to the peak breeding period of the rut in your area. Once a mature whitetail pairs with a hot doe, he will stay with her for several days and deer calls like rattling will be unlikely to draw him away.

What time of day are bucks most active? ›

Regardless of moon phase, bucks move most at dawn and dusk.

One project, contrary to popular belief, even found that deer were more active and moved earlier during the day following a full moon.

What food can deer not resist? ›

Not only is deer corn highly consumed and well received by whitetails in almost every habitat across the continent, but it's also one of the cheapest options for hunters. Corn contains several of these essential nutrients for whitetails that improve their health and ability to survive leading into winter.

What call attracts bucks the best? ›

GRUNT CALL

Using a grunt call is a great way attract the attention of mature bucks. You should look to only grunt periodically, every 15 minutes to 20 minutes. 'Blind calling' can work but it is best to make the calls subtle and sparingly because you don't know how close a deer might be to you.

Do big bucks rub on big trees? ›

Deer hunters often debate whether a buck's antlers and body size correlate to the diameter of trees it rubs. However, researchers and hunters regularly report big bucks rubbing saplings and small bucks rubbing large trees.

What time do bucks usually bed? ›

Deer tend to sleep during the day, roughly between the hours of 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm. A night scope for AR15 will definitely come in handy during these hours. Deer are highly active during the hours just before dark.

How do you identify a Bucks core area? ›

You know you're inside a buck's core area when you get numerous daylight trail camera photos, or you see the deer on the hoof while hunting. Once this happens, you've got as good a chance as ever to tag that buck.

Do deer bed in the same spot every night? ›

Deer are creatures of habit and may bed in the same location repeatedly. One exception is during periods of the rut when bucks are on the move searching for estrus does and defending their hierarchy.

What do big bucks do during the day? ›

Mature bucks are most often checking doe bedding areas during the day, as that's when does are most often there. They also tend to be running just off the ridgetops and benches during the day, checking both bedded does and their trails.

What is the biggest rack on a buck? ›

The biggest rack ever measured was 333 ⅞ on a deer in Missouri, but that was a pickup, or found deer, not one shot by a hunter.

Why do big bucks disappear? ›

Hunting Pressure

One of the more common reasons bucks disappear is because hunters spend too much time in their core area. Bucks are very loyal to their primary beds, even after being bumped from them. But they'll only tolerate so much, especially if you keep alerting them to human presence.

Where do big bucks go after the rut? ›

Major Trails, Close to Bedding Areas

As a matter of fact, a post rut buck is going to look for every opportunity they can to find a secure bedding area that is typically close to a food source such a grain fields or turnip plot.

Where are the bucks hiding? ›

Pine thickets are a first choice for hunters to investigate, but, Reaves says, don't overlook small wood lots or patches of thick brush. Swamps and creek drainages are also spots bucks will use to hide out. These do not have to be large. An acre or two can be enough for a buck to hide.

Where do bucks go during the day? ›

Even though deer are active during the daytime because they are a prey species they also like to hide during the day. They are known to sleep or bed in their bedding area during the day in thick vegetation, thickets, and tall grasses.

Will a big buck return after being spooked? ›

Spooked deer will return to their bedding area, but when they return depends on how much the intrusion frightened them. If they can't pinpoint the threat, they'll likely return sooner than if they saw or smelled you. You can evaluate your impact on a deer by studying its body language.

Will a big buck come back after being shot at? ›

Yes, a mature buck will come back to the area where he was wounded,” says Kip Adams of the Quality Deer Management Association. “Depending on where it occurred, maybe in an open food plot or field, a buck might not move in during daylight hours for a while, but he's not leaving his home range.

Do big bucks move at noon? ›

The biggest bucks commonly move around noon, because they know that's when hunters tend to be out of the woods. But they rarely stray far from cover or go great distances. Even rut-crazed bruisers stay close to the timber on a midday stroll.

Where do bucks bed down during the day? ›

The quick answer is, “anywhere they want.” Deer sleep anywhere they bed and may do so singly or in groups. However, during daylight it's far more common for deer to sleep in heavy cover where they feel secure.

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