2017 State-By-State Deer Hunting Forecast
John Hafner

Deer Hunting Forecast 2017

A state-by-state breakdown of the upcoming deer season

Your arrow groups have been tightening for weeks. Annual food plots are poking up through the late-summer soil, and trail-camera images flood your phone daily. No doubt, deer season isn’t far off.

Of course, deer season has many meanings for the 10-plus million hunters who go afield every autumn. For many, it’s the subtle flick of a white tail or brief glimpse of antler in thick timber. For others, it’s a gray spot on a distant bluff or a hint of a tine poking up through cover. But whatever your mental image of deer hunting, constants remain: the shimmer of golden leaves shaking in October’s first cold wind, the heart-pounding thrill of hearing a soft grunt or footfall near your stand, or, if you’re lucky, the nervous anticipation of following a fresh blood trail.

Wherever you live or hunt, deer season awaits. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.

Scroll through, or use the links below to jump to your state:

Alabama

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 1.5 million

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: not yet available

Overall outlook: Chris Cook, deer studies project leader with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, reports that Alabama deer should enter hunting season in very good condition. "A relatively mild and wet summer provided optimal forage growing conditions during the spring and summer months," he says.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "As in basically every year, great deer hunting opportunities and quality deer can be found throughout the state," Cook said.

Quick tip: Cook said all Alabama hunters must report harvested deer online, via telephone or with the Outdoor Alabama app through the Game Check system. Also, he encouraged them to be adaptable. "Instead of hunting where you want deer to be, hunt areas deer frequent during the times you hunt," he said.

Alaska

Sitka Blacktail Deer Afognak Island
A blacktail taken on Afognak Island.Tyler Freel

Species: Sitka blacktail deer

Estimated population: not available

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 23,056

Overall outlook: Sitka blacktails inhabit game-management units 1 through 6, and 8 in southern Alaska, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Actually, the deer are the most-pursued big-game species in that area. Not surprisingly, deer populations fluctuate considerably based on winter severity.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "Early-season hunting is concentrated in the alpine and subalpine areas," according to the department's website. "The largest portion of the harvest happens in November during the rut, when both sexes respond to a call resembling the bleat of a fawn. During late November and December, heavy snow sometimes concentrates deer at low elevations. This allows high harvest levels when local weather conditions are favorable."

Quick tip: Check out the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's "Annual Cycle of a Migratory Southeast Deer" web page to learn more about Sitka blacktail movements.

Arizona

Species: mule deer and Coues whitetails

Estimated populations: 110,000 mule deer; 90,000 Coues whitetails

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: mule deer (total harvest), 9,463 antlered and 488 antlerless by youth-only permit tags; Coues whitetail (total harvest), 7,623

Overall outlook: Populations of Coues whitetails, which primarily inhabit the state's southeastern mountains but range up to the Mogollon Rim and into the White Mountains, are stable to slightly increasing, according to Dustin Darveau, terrestrial specialist for game, with the Arizona Game and Fish Dept., Region VI. Mule deer, however, are seeing long-term population declines in most areas of the state, except in the northern game-management units area, where numbers are stable to slightly increasing.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "The areas commonly known as the Kaibab and the Arizona Strip in game-management units 12A/12B and 13A/13B, respectively, are holding true to the reputation of producing abundant and mature mule deer, as these areas are managed under an alternative management structure, as are game-management units 3A/3C, 17A and 45A/B/C," says Darveau. "Several other game-management units are also managed under an alternative structure for abundant and mature white-tailed deer, including units 6A, 23, 30B, 31 and 36C."

Quick tip: Darveau advised hunters to use the best optics they can afford, as glassing is one of the most critical aspects of successful deer hunting in Arizona. "Wear out the seat of your pants before the soles of your boots," he said.

Arkansas

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 900,000 to 1 million

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 202,070 (total harvest)

Overall outlook: The 2017-'18 season is shaping up to be a good one. "Arkansas is coming off of its fifth consecutive 200,000-plus harvest," says Ralph Meeker, deer program coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. "With a particularly mild 2016-2017 winter and wet 2017 spring and summer, vegetation has been abundant and of good quality. The hard mast production in 2016 was exceptional."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Meeker reports that the number of deer harvested per square mile in northern Arkansas continues to increase. "Many parts of southern and southeastern Arkansas witnessed a decrease in the 2016 deer harvest," he says. "But these areas are forecasted to have a rebound in harvest."

Quick tip: "Hunters should pre-season scout, know the hunting regulations for the areas they hunt (especially if hunting within the CWD Management Zone), and most important, hunters should enjoy themselves," says Meeker.

California

Species: Mule deer and blacktails

Estimated population: 532,621 total deer

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 27,078 bucks

Overall outlook/potential Fall 2017 hotspots: Stuart Itoga, deer program coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, reports that the outlook in zones X2 and X4 is good. However, tags have been reduced by 50 percent in zones X9a, X9b and X12.

Quick tip: "Scout your area ahead of time, and be aware of area closures from fires and washed-out roads," Itoga said.

Colorado

Brett Ross Colorado Muley
Brett Ross's giant Colorado muley.Outdoor Life

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: The 2016 post-hunt deer population estimate was about 419,000, of which whitetails comprised about 5 percent.

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 28,769 bucks, 8,055 antlerless (36,824 total)

Overall outlook: "Almost all deer hunting in Colorado is by limited license," says Andy Holland, big-game manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "For those hunters with a license, the 2017 season should be excellent, because we are carrying a lot of bucks in Colorado right now."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "The herd-management plan sex-ratio objectives for deer herd statewide is 30 bucks to 100 does," says Holland. "During the post-hunt inventories in 2016, Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff classified 76,000 deer from helicopters and observed an average post-hunt sex ratio of 35 bucks to 100 does. Due to a series of warm falls, which lowered hunting success, and mild winters, resulting in higher survival, Colorado has as high or higher buck-to-doe ratios than we've ever had. The notable exception is the Gunnison Basin, which experienced a severe winter of 2016 and 2017. However, licenses were reduced accordingly."

Quick tip: "Even with extremely high buck-to-doe ratios, hunters need to have realistic expectations," says Holland. "Mature bucks are always hard to hunt, so you'll have to put in significant effort and hope for a little snow and cold weather to trigger deer migration to lower elevations."

Connecticut

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 10,570 total harvest

Overall outlook: Howard Kilpatrick, supervising wildlife biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, expects the deer harvest to increase in 2017, especially after two consecutive mild winters with an abundant acorn crop.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Southwestern Connecticut has the state's highest deer densities, according to Kilpatrick.

Quick tip: "If acorns are abundant, hunt oak ridges," says Kilpatrick. "Otherwise, focus more on green fields and other green openings."

Delaware

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 35,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 14,793 total harvest

Overall outlook: Delaware deer hunters should expect a good season, according to Emily Boyd, deer and furbearer biologist for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

“We expect to continue our trend of higher levels of deer harvested through management objectives, which include recent lengthening of seasons and more deer permitted to be taken by hunters on a seasonal basis,” she said. “Sunday deer hunting was also allowed in the state for the first time during the 2016-’17 hunting season, with five Sundays open for harvesting deer in Delaware, and Sunday hunting dates are again posted for the 2017-’18 season.”

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Deer-management zones 7, 11 and 16 typically have the highest harvest numbers, Boyd said.

Quick tip: "If you're looking for a new place to hunt, consider reaching out to a local farmer who could use assistance in reducing crop damage," says Boyd.

Florida

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: not available

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 57,403 bucks, 32,024 does (89,427 total harvest)

Overall outlook: Cory Morea, deer-management program coordinator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, reports that 2017-'18 will be the third season with stricter antler regulations, which are intended to protect 1.5-year-old bucks in zones A, B and D, and during the fourth season in Zone D. "As such, we expect to see an increase in the number of bucks harvested statewide," he says.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "We expect to see similar trends continue in that some areas of the state have better soil and habitat and produce more deer and greater body and antler development," says Morea. "Other areas with less-productive habitat should produce well but not as well as areas with better habitat."

Quick tip: "With Florida's highly variable rut, hunters need to learn when the rut takes place in the area they hunt and try to hunt as much as possible during this time to increase the chances of seeing and harvesting a Florida buck," says Morea.

Georgia

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 1 million

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 134,465 bucks and 181,998 does (316,463 total)

Overall outlook: After substantially reducing the antlerless harvest for two years, Georgia hunters should have an excellent season, according to Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "The Piedmont and Upper Coastal Plain regions of the state should have excellent hunting, while the northern Georgia mountains have the lowest population of deer in the state," says Killmaster.

Quick tip: Killmaster advised hunters to pay close attention to the either-sex days map and reminded them that every harvested deer must be reported to Georgia Game Check within 72 hours.

Idaho

Idaho muley bucks
Idaho muley bucks.Miles High Outfitters

Species: Whitetail and mule deer

Estimated population: 200,000 whitetails and 310,000 mule deer

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 27,905 whitetails and 39,018 mule deer

Overall outlook: Craig White, Magic Valley regional supervisor for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, says the harsh winter of 2016-'17 took a toll on mule deer fawns. Despite a massive feeding effort in an effort to provide relief for up to 13,000 deer and 12,000 elk, the average statewide survival rate for muley fawns was 30 percent, the second lowest recorded since monitoring began 19 years ago. As a result, hunters will find fewer yearling bucks this fall.

“The mule deer harvest in 2011, which followed the lowest winter fawn survival since monitoring started in 1998, was 4,557 fewer deer than the previous year, or a drop of 18 percent,” says White. “However, Idaho also had three of the mildest winters and highest fawn survival prior to this past winter, which has resulted in some of the highest deer populations in years. Since adult does survived fairly well, we anticipate there are plenty of older bucks (2-year-olds and greater) out there.”

Northern Idaho, where most of Idaho’s whitetails live, did not have an extreme winter, and White says the outlook for whitetail hunting was bright.

“Idaho’s whitetail deer have been about as reliable as you can ask for in a big-game animal,” he says. “Over the last five years, the whitetail harvest varied by only about 10,000 animals, which included an all-time record of 30,578 whitetails harvested in 2015. The whitetail harvest dropped about 2,700 animals in 2016, but it was still in the top 10 all-time, and hunters can expect to see similar numbers, or more, of whitetails this year. Whitetail hunters have lengthy seasons and lots of either-sex hunting opportunities, and hunters will see a good mix of age classes and plenty of mature bucks.”

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "Mule deer fawns were hardest hit on the western side and southeastern side of the state from the winter weather," says White. "But certainly, some variation of impact to mule deer occurred in other areas of southern Idaho. The best bet is to get out early and do some scouting. Whitetail deer are predominately found north of the Salmon River, and plenty of opportunities exist."

Quick tip: "This year, it will be as important as ever to get out and do some scouting prior to the hunting season," says White.

Illinois

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Illinois biologists do not estimate the deer population.

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 144,303 total harvest

Overall outlook: Tom Micetich, deer project manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, reports that the state should experience a deer season similar to those of recent years. Archery harvest numbers have decreased slightly the past five years, from 59,805 in 2012 to 53,468 in 2016. Meanwhile, firearms harvest numbers have decreased somewhat during that time, from 99,546 in 2012 to 79,559 in 2016.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Micetich believes that some southern and west-central Illinois counties might be particularly promising in 2017, but northern counties with a history of chronic wasting disease management might be down somewhat.

Quick tip: "Success is generally higher for hunters who are not as selective in the type of deer they shoot — who view a quality deer as one standing broadside within range of the weapon used," says Micetich.

Indiana

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: No estimate.

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 119,477 (total harvest)

Overall outlook: Biologists expect another above-average harvest in 2017, according to Joe N. Caudell, state deer research biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. "Last year, the antlered deer harvest was 1 percent higher (51,783) than the previous year (51,176), making it the fifth highest antlered deer harvest since 1951," he says. "We expect a similar harvest this year."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: As always, southern Indiana should provide excellent hunting. The state also has several new deer reduction zones, which give hunters additional opportunities to shoot deer, including a second buck. "There are no areas that appear to have experienced a significant decline in deer populations," says Caudell. "Our indices indicate that populations have been relatively steady over the past five years or so. We have not had any significant outbreaks of EHD (epizootic hemorrhagic disease) this year, so local populations seem to be steady. However, as it is still early in the season for EHD, that could always change."

Quick tip: Caudell encouraged hunters to take a youngster afield. "In order to ensure proper deer management into the future, we need that next generation with as much passion for deer hunting and our natural resources as the current crop of hunters," he said.

Iowa

Mark Drury's 2016 Iowa buck
Mark Drury's 2016 Iowa buck.Outdoor Life

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 520,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 101,397 total harvest

Overall outlook: "Iowa's white-tailed deer populations have remained stable since 2013, sustaining an annual harvest of 100,000 to 120,000 deer," says Tyler Harms, wildlife research biometrician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. "Overall, hunters should experience similar deer numbers in 2017 as they did last year."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "Northeastern and south-central Iowa are the best areas of the state in terms of both numbers and quality of deer, and there is nothing to suggest this will be different for 2017," says Harms. "Hunters should also not forget about the Loess Hills and other areas of the state with a mix of forest and grass cover, as these areas can also lead to a quality hunt. Hunters can expect slightly lower numbers in southeastern and central Iowa. These areas are recovering from outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease the last few years."

Quick tip: Harms says folks considering hunting public land should check out the Iowa DNR's Hunting Atlas online for information on public hunting areas, including boundaries, habitat information and game species.

Kansas

Species: Whitetails and mule deer

Estimated population: 595,000 whitetails and 41,000 mule deer (2016 estimates)

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 84,025 whitetails, 2,115 mule deer

Overall outlook: The state's population indices and harvest estimates have been fairly steady for the past three to four years, and Levi Jaster, big-game coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, expects that 2017-'18 will be similar.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "The deer management units in the southeastern and north-central regions of Kansas have strong deer populations and have up to five whitetail antlerless-only permits valid in most deer management units," says Jaster. "The southwestern region of Kansas is down somewhat and has two deer management units where only one WAO permit is valid and one unit where no WAO permits are valid."

Quick tip: "One of the best investments toward your hunting for success is to make time," Jaster said. "Spending more time scouting and hunting increases your odds of being in the right place at the right time."

Kentucky

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 850,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 78,910 males and 60,540 females (139,450 total)

Overall outlook: Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, doesn't hold back when describing the deer hunting outlook for 2017. "Great—with a great mast year in 2016, mild winter and wet spring, summer and fall, the conditions have been optimal for excellent survival and excellent habitat and nutrition during fawning and antler production times."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Jenkins says the Bluegrass Western Coalfields regions are seeing great deer numbers. "Numbers will be down in southeastern Kentucky due to an ongoing EHD outbreak," he adds. "Prior to the outbreak, numbers were higher than ever in that region."

Quick tip: "Do your homework, and hunt the food source that the deer are focusing on during your hunt," says Jenkins.

Louisiana

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 500,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 138,800

Overall outlook: Johnathan Bordelon, deer program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, reports that the upcoming season looks promising.

“Harvest was down slightly in 2015-’16, but fawn production was up,” he says. “In addition, we have experienced a wet spring and summer, which has improved the quality and quantity of forage available for deer. We are expecting to see good growth and development from deer. Harvest was down 11 percent (in 2016-’17) after being up 12 percent the previous season.”

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "Hunters should see improvements across most of the state in 2017," Bordelon said. "We will be a year removed from catastrophic floods in southeastern Louisiana. The western and northwestern parts of the state will likely continue to lead the way in total harvest, while the Mississippi River parishes will likely lead the way in buck age structure."

Quick tip: "Pay close attention to lactation rates and fawn-to-doe ratios," Bordelon said. "Work those indices into your harvest-management strategy."

Maine

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 23,512 total harvest.

Overall outlook: "It promises to be a very good season," said Bob Cordes, wildlife special projects coordinator with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "In most of the state, we have had three consecutive winters that were milder than usual, which means our deer herd is growing. Hunters should be seeing a good number of deer in that 1½- to 3½-year range, with an opportunity to take even larger deer as well."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "The central Maine area is Maine's best area for deer, and there are more deer there than in the past 10 years," says Cordes. "But the deer kill should be up in all wildlife-management districts throughout the state, as there are more deer on the landscape than we have seen in a while. We even issued any-deer permits in areas where we traditionally have not issued permits. Maine has relatively low hunting pressure, which keeps the quality of the hunt and herd up. We have a good age structure in the deer herd, which provides hunters an opportunity for a big buck."

Quick tip: "Even though the outlook for the fall hunt looks excellent, you still need to get out there and do your pre-season scouting," says Cordes. "You need to keep scouting now in order to be successful in the fall."

Maryland

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 214,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 85,193

Overall outlook: Maryland has a stable and healthy deer population, according to Brian Eyler, deer project leader for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The 2017 harvest should be similar to that of previous years.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "Maryland is fairly small and really not subject to annual climate effects on deer," says Eyler. "Likewise, we have not had any significant EHD or other disease morality, so we expect similar harvest patterns to previous years. The Eastern Shore and southern Maryland consistently produce high-quality whitetails."

Quick tip: Eyler urged hunters to not rely on bait to attract deer. "Learn deer behavior and the habitats that you are hunting, and place yourself in those areas that are likely to produce the deer you want," he says.

Massachusetts

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 100,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 7,043 bucks, 5,206 antlerless (12,249 total)

Overall outlook: David Stainbrook, deer and moose project leader for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, reports that the hunting outlook is good.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "Hunters can find quality deer anywhere in the state, and deer densities are for the most part well balanced with habitat where there is adequate hunting access," says Stainbrook. "There are always pockets of higher deer numbers where there are large properties closed to hunting or where hunter access is limited. Also, our adult male age structure is well-balanced, so quality mature bucks are taken across the state each year."

Quick tip: "Be flexible with your hunting spots, and target areas between seasonal food resources and bedding areas," Stainbrook says. "If you are willing to put in a little work in rural areas and trek more than three-quarters of a mile from a road or parking area, you will likely be rewarded with seeing more deer and fewer hunters. There are pockets of a lot of deer in suburban areas, but you have to be willing to knock on doors to get permission to hunt many of these."

Michigan

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 341,288 total

Overall outlook: Prospects vary depending on where you plan to hunt. "In the Lower Peninsula, our outlook remains optimistic that we will have similar or slightly higher harvest and success rate relative to last year," says Chad Stewart, deer, elk and moose management specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "We are expecting harvest in the Upper Peninsula to increase but continue to temper expectations. There are parts of the U.P. that have been seeing recovery over the past couple of years, but the overall deer population is still low despite two mild to moderate winters over the past two years."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Stewart says that the southern Lower Peninsula always has plentiful deer numbers and reasonable trophy expectations despite hunting pressure. "More deer are harvested in the southern third of Michigan than the rest of the state combined," he says. "There has been continued excitement surrounding 13 counties in the northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula currently under antler-point restrictions, where older age-class males have increased in our harvest over the past couple years. The U.P. continues to be at low levels. Though recovery has occurred in recent years, total numbers are still very low throughout much of that region."

Quick tip: Stewart reminded hunters that there's no substitute for pre-season scouting.

Minnesota

Minnesota record-buck
A Minnesota record-buck taken on public land in 2014.Outdoor Life

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 173, 213 total harvest

Overall outlook: Recent mild winters and conservative hunting regulations have helped deer numbers rebound across the state.

"Deer populations have responded well to favorable winter weather and our efforts to rebuild deer numbers, and we have been able to expand harvest opportunities in almost all areas of the state this fall," says Adam Murkowski, big-game program leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Prospects look good throughout the state. "Minnesota has an abundance of public lands and consists of forest, forest-prairie transition and prairie regions, offering a diversity of opportunities," says Murkowski.

Quick tip: "Deer populations are doing well, and hunters should utilize the interactive deer-permit-area map to get more detailed information on the areas they hunt or are considering hunting," says Murkowski.

Mississippi

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1.5 million

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 244,795 total harvest

Overall outlook: "Total deer harvest has exhibited a declining trend over the past several years, but this decrease has primarily been in antlered buck harvest," reports William T. McKinley, deer program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "Mississippi has a high percentage of older bucks in the population, with 77 percent of the buck harvest being 3.5-plus years old."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Sampling revealed that herd health in all areas was above average, probably because of a warm winter and heavy acorn crop.

Quick tip: McKinley encouraged hunters to make the effort to introduce someone to the sport.

Missouri

Missouri Giant Early Season Whitetail
Missouri's Gary Klossner and his giant early season whitetail.Outdoor Life

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1.2 million

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 128,119 bucks, 138,025 antlerless (266,144 total)

Overall outlook: Barbara Keller, cervid program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the 2017-'18 season should see similar if not higher harvest numbers than in 2016-'17.

“Deer populations have been recovering the past few years from the severe hemorrhagic disease outbreak of 2012,” she said. “Reduced harvest of the doe segment of the population should have facilitated this recovery. As of late August, there is very little HD activity occurring this year that might impact harvest, although outbreaks are still possible until the first frost of the year. The buck segment of the population seems to have largely recovered last year, as evidenced through the large increase in antlered buck harvest in counties with an antler-point restriction during 2016 and 2017. Harvest success in central and southern Missouri can vary based on acorn production, with success increasing during times of acorn mast failure and decreasing when acorn production is high.”

Potential 2017-’18 hotspots: Keller said northeastern Missouri counties with antler-point restrictions might offer the greatest opportunity to harvest quality bucks. “Southern Missouri as a whole has exhibited slowly increasing deer populations over the past 10 years, coupled with conservative harvest regulations,” she says, “and in many cases, your chance of harvest success is better in some southern Missouri counties than in northern Missouri.”

Quick tip: Keller said the Department of Conservation's private lands deer biologist and private lands conservationists specialize in helping landowners better manage habitat for deer and can provide cost-share incentives in many cases to help with land management.

Montana

Species: Whitetails and mule deer

Estimated population: whitetails, 220,740; mule deer, 282,769

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: whitetails, 31,444 bucks and 18,579 antlerless (50,023 total); mule deer, 45,559 bucks and 9,717 antlerless (55,276 total)

Overall outlook: Populations of each species are doing well and on the upswing in much of the state, according to John Vore, game-management bureau chief with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Northwestern Montana (Region 1) might be the exception to the statewide upward trend, as Vore said extreme winter weather there affected deer survival.

Quick tip: "Read and know the regulations, and get permission to hunt on private land," says Vore. "Then enjoy, and be safe."

Nebraska

Species: Whitetails and mule deer

Estimated population: about 110,000 mule deer and 270,000 whitetails

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 9,257 mule deer bucks, 27,239 whitetail bucks

Overall outlook: Kit Hams, big-game program manager for Nebraska Game and Parks, reports that whitetail and muley populations are at desired levels in most areas, with modest growth projected for each.

“We expect hunters to harvest about 9,500 mule deer bucks and 28,000 whitetail bucks,” says Hams.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "Traditional buck-harvest density ranges from one buck to 13 bucks per 100 square miles," says Hams. "Areas with timber hold the most whitetails (rivers). Areas with rough terrain and few roads hold the most mule deer. County buck-harvest density is shown for whitetails and mule deer on Page 35 of the 2017 Nebraska Big Game Guide."

Quick tip: "Opening-day pressure pushes deer to areas with secure cover, where you should be waiting and glassing," says Hams.

Nevada

Species: mule deer

Estimated population: 92,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 7,885 total

Overall outlook: Deer numbers in western Nevada have declined recently because of severe drought and major wildfires, but Cody Schroeder, mule deer staff specialist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, reports that those populations are beginning to rebound after increased precipitation in 2016 and 2017. Meanwhile, populations in eastern and central Nevada have remained mostly stable for the past three to five years.

“The outlook for the Fall 2017 hunting season is excellent for both the number of young bucks and antler development of mature bucks,” says Schroeder.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "Hunt units in White Pine and Lincoln counties (units 131 through 134, 111 through 114, 222 and 223, 231, and 241 and 242) have been doing excellent for trophy quality and will continue to be for Fall 2017," says Schroeder. "Some units in northern Washoe County, such as 033, 011 through 013, and 014, are down for both survey numbers and hunter success rates."

Quick tip: "The trick to hunting Nevada is to invest in high-quality optics and spend most of your time glassing high elevations (early seasons) and lower elevations (late seasons) for mule deer bucks," says Schroeder.

New Hampshire

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 100,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 10,675 total

Overall outlook: New Hampshire hunters have good reason to be optimistic.

"Deer numbers throughout the state have been up the past several years due in large part to a series of mild winters," reports Dan Bergeron, deer project leader with New Hampshire Fish and Game. "Last winter's severity was average to below average through most of the state, and deer went into winter in good physical condition, so productivity and recruitment should be up this year."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Bergeron said southeastern New Hampshire has relatively high deer densities and offers the most hunting opportunity. The Connecticut River valley is also usually good.

Quick tip: "Being the Granite State, New Hampshire is not the most productive place, so locate the good food sources to increase your chances for success," says Bergeron.

New Jersey

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: The huntable portion of the state's herd is estimated at about 112,126 deer. This is not an estimate of the state's entire population.

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 49,246 total harvest

Overall outlook: Prospects look good, according to Carole Stanko, chief of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife's Bureau of Wildlife Management.

“New Jersey’s deer herd, although stabilized, is still very high in agricultural and suburban areas,” says Stanko.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Deer-management zones in regulation sets 6, 7 and 8 have the highest deer populations.

Quick tip: "Hunters should make the effort to get to know landowners and gain access to private properties," says Stanko. "Landowners and farmers need relief from deer in many places throughout New Jersey, and 80 percent of the state is in private-land ownership."

New Mexico

Species: Mule deer (desert and Rocky Mountain subspecies) and whitetails deer (Texas and Coues subspecies)

Estimated population: 80,000 to 100,000 total deer

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 10,756 bucks and 142 does (10,898 total), combined mule deer and whitetails

Overall outlook: "Long-term droughts beginning in the early 2000s contributed to lower mule deer populations compared to historic numbers, especially in the southern half of New Mexico," reports Orrin Duvuvuei, deer and pronghorn biologist for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. "Abundant precipitation in recent years and continuing through 2017 has been good for mule deer throughout the state of New Mexico. The precipitation, coupled with recent, beneficial wildfires, has improved habitat conditions in these areas. In response, local populations are showing signs of rapid growth."

Whitetail prospects also look good.

“Coues populations are growing in size, and they continue to expand into new areas of the southwestern portion of the state,” says Duvuvuei. “Some large-antlered Coues deer are taken each year out of the far southwestern corner of the state. Texas white-tailed deer are found in the eastern portion of the state. Overall numbers of Texas white-tailed deer are also increasing.”

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Mule deer populations in northern New Mexico are growing steadily in response to optimal moisture conditions and recent wildfires, which created good habitat.

“The mule deer herds in the Jemez Mountains and the Pecos area of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are showing signs of rapid growth in recent years, and some big bucks have been harvested in these areas,” says Duvuvuei. “The Sand Hills country in east-central New Mexico has a healthy mule deer population, and it consistently produces larger-than-average bucks each year. Boone and Crockett-class bucks are killed each year in GMUs 2B, 2C and 4. Mule deer populations in these units are migratory, spending their summers in the high country in Colorado and wintering in the lower elevations in New Mexico.”

Populations in portions of southern New Mexico are down somewhat because of long-term drought. However, increased moisture in 2017 should help those numbers start to rebound.

Quick tip: "To have an enjoyable deer hunt with a higher chance of success, hunters should hike at least a half-mile (preferably farther) from the nearest road and glass recent burns and the edges of openings," says Duvuvuei.

New York

Long Island Whitetail Hunting
A great buck taken off Long Island.Outdoor Life

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 107,006 bucks, 106,055 antlerless deer (213,061 total)

Overall outlook: The New York Department of Environmental Conservation biologists expect the 2017-'18 harvest to be similar or slightly higher than the 2016 take. Also, there will likely be a minor increase in the antlerless harvest. After two consecutive mild winters, the department increased the number of deer-management permits (antlerless tags) statewide 16 percent from 2016.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: The department has liberalized opportunities to harvest antlerless deer in many wildlife management units, including a broad stretch along Interstate 90 in central and western New York.

Quick tip: Many New York hunters are voluntarily passing young, small-antlered bucks, the forecast said. As a result, about 50 percent of bucks killed in the state are older than 1.5 years.

North Carolina

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 1 million

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 149,811 total

Overall outlook: Jonathan Shaw, state deer biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, reports that weather and long-term population trends point toward an optimistic outlook.

“We’ve had a fairly wet spring and mild summer, so conditions for forbs and soft mast are favorable, which we expect equates to deer that are in better than average condition,” he says. “Hot, dry weather is rough on deer in the Southeast, and it not only impacts deer food, it also correlated with outbreaks of hemorrhagic disease. As of now, I’m not aware of any severe HD outbreaks in North Carolina this year, and typically, we start getting lots of reports this time of year during outbreak events. Based on that, I would say the statewide outlook is good.”

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Shaw says state biologists have seen increasing long-term harvest trends in the mountains but declining harvests on the coast.

“I expect those trends may continue next year,” says Shaw. “We are working on developing regulations that would be effective for the 2018 season that may help reverse the declining trend in some areas.”

Quick tip: Hunters can voice their opinions at public hearings on a multi-year deer-season frameworks evaluation that included a scientific survey of deer hunters and a biological evaluation of the herd, Shaw said. The department is developing science-based regulations to improve hunter satisfaction and the condition of the deer herd.

North Dakota

Species: Whitetails and mule deer

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 24,870 whitetails and 4,431 mule deer (or about 29,300 total deer)

Overall outlook: Bill Jensen, big-game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, reports that deer numbers are stable across the state.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Areas south and west of the Missouri River might be promising in 2017, but spots in north-central North Dakota might be down somewhat, Jensen said.

Quick tip: "Park the truck and walk," Jensen said. "You will see a lot more deer."

Ohio

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 78,132 bucks and 104,037 antlerless (182,169 total)

Overall outlook: Mike Tonkovich, deer program administrator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, says indications point toward an increased 2017 deer harvest.

“Conservative antlerless harvests the past two seasons have encouraged population growth in much of the state,” says Tonkovich. “That, coupled with the fact that we increased bag limits in a number of our large deer counties this fall, should mean a larger buck and total deer harvest this fall. I would anticipate a harvest in excess of 200,000 deer this fall. However, a significant EHD event could have a pronounced impact on this year’s harvest. We have confirmed EHD in Lorain County, and results are pending from other counties across the state. Pennsylvania has confirmed EHD, and Kentucky has confirmed it in a number of counties and may be positioned for a significant EHD event this year.”

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Barring EHD losses, most areas of Ohio should see a harvest uptick in 2017, says Tonkovich. "This will be particularly true in the southeast, which works out nicely for public-land hunters, as this region of the state is home to a vast majority of our public lands," he said.

Quick tip: "Get involved in deer management by completing every survey you receive from your DNR," says Tonkovich. "Change begins and ends with you."

Oklahoma

Trail Camera Footage Kansas/Oklahoma
Bucks on trail camera along the Kansas/Oklahoma border.Outdoor Life

Species: Whitetails and mule deer

Estimated population: 600,000 whitetails

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 99,023 total harvest

Overall outlook: Oklahoma deer populations are booming, according to Emily Clark, big-game technician with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "The majority are whitetail deer, but we have a small and healthy population of mule deer in the far western portion of the state," she says. "Whitetails are doing great. We've had good population reports statewide and some large mature bucks harvested over the past few years from all over."

Pot Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "No one region looks better than another right now, with the weather we've had at just the right time over the past few years," says Clark.

Quick tip: "Hunt into the wind, stay out during lunch and take a doe if (you're) meat hunting," says Clark. "They taste better and are generally easier to find all throughout the season."

Oregon

Species: Mule deer and blacktails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 43,799 total deer

Overall outlook: Don Whitaker, ungulate coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, says the outlook for mule deer in eastern Oregon is average to below average. The forecast for blacktails in western Oregon is average to good.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "Baker County and northern Malheur and Harney counties will be down as a result of harsh winter conditions in those areas," says Whitaker.

Quick tip: "Don't expect to see a lot of yearling mule deer bucks this year," Whitaker adds. "Winter 2016-'17 had a heavy impact on mule deer fawn survival in some areas."

Pennsylvania

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 149,460 bucks and 183,794 antlerless (333,254 total harvest)

Overall outlook: Hunting in 2017 should be very good and similar to previous years, according to Christopher S. Rosenberry, of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "The population trend is stable in 18 wildlife management units and increasing in five WMUs," says Rosenberry.

Quick tip: "Hunt as much as possible, and stay out during lunch," Rosenberry said.

Rhode Island

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 18,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 1,936 total harvest.

Overall outlook: Leland Mello, supervising wildlife biologist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife, says hunters should be in for a good season. "The overall outlook for the 2017 deer season remains promising given the presence of high deer densities within some areas, particularly in Zone 1 and developed areas, although the occurrence of gypsy moth damage throughout portions of the state may impact mast production and therefore potentially affect deer distribution, feeding and movement patterns in such areas," he says. "Rhode Island provides ample opportunity for deer hunting, with over 55,000 acres of state lands and numerous hunting cooperative properties being available to hunters."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Mello said harvest trends have remained stable in zones 1 and 4, where deer densities are relatively high or constant. Conversely, harvest trends suggest a slight decline in portions of Zone 2.

Quick tip: "Concentrating efforts in areas with mast production, particularly within Zone 1, should produce results," says Mello.

South Carolina

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 730,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 99,678 bucks and 72,637 does (172,315 total deer)

Overall outlook: Weather events the past two years might actually lead to a harvest increase in 2017, says Charles Ruth, big-game program coordinator with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

“The deer harvest was down in both 2015 and 2016 due in large part to the 1,000-year flood and Hurricane Matthew, which hampered hunter access in many parts of the state,” he says. “Provided that hunting conditions are more normal, the deer harvest for 2017 is expected to increase, because many deer that would normally have been harvested the last two years were not and should have been carried over to some degree.”

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Ruth says Anderson and Spartanburg counties in the piedmont region and Hampton and Orangeburg counties in the coastal plain area have high deer numbers. Anderson, Aiken and Orangeburg counties are perennial leaders on the state's antler-record list.

Quick tip: "2017 marks the first year that all harvested deer must be tagged, and hunters should consult the annual Hunting and Fishing Regulation Guide for details at dnr.sc.gov," says Ruth.

South Dakota

Species: Whitetails and mule deer

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: whitetails: about 28,000 bucks, 18,900 does (46,900 total); muleys: about 5,300 bucks, 1,200 does (6,500 total)

Overall outlook: Andy Lindbloom, senior big-game biologist with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, reports that state mule deer numbers are increasing slowly. "Growth rates have been low, and in some areas, mule deer herds are stable to slightly decreasing," he said.

Meanwhile, whitetail numbers are increasing at a faster pace.

“Still, some areas have been set back by severe winter weather and epizootic hemorrhagic disease outbreaks,” says Lindbloom.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "The highest herd growth rates (12 to 20 percent increases) documented for whitetail deer last year were in the Upper James River, Prairie Coteau, Lower Missouri River and Lower James River deer analysis units," says Lindbloom. "If fawn recruitment and adult survival are similar this year, we expect deer populations to continue to increase in these areas. Mule deer growth rates were much lower, with the highest growth rate (5 percent increase) documented in the White River DAU."

Quick tip: Lindbloom reminded hunters that deer populations can fluctuate greatly from year to year because of severe winters and EHD. "So if you are hunting private land, contact the landowner well in advance to discuss deer densities and hunting opportunities," he says. "If you are hunting public land, some pre-season scouting is always good advice."

Tennessee

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 157,694 total harvest

Overall outlook: Tim White, wildlife division biologist with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, says hunters can expect a 2017 season similar to that of 2016. However, he cautioned that the state is experiencing an EHD outbreak, and the effects on local deer populations remain unknown.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "The usual counties that harvest the most deer and counties that harvest a lot of big deer should remain consistent from years past," says White.

Quick tip: "Get off the beaten path," he adds. "Deer (especially big bucks) are sensitive to hunting pressure. I advise hunters to move to different areas, and don't hunt the same spot or stand for too many days in a row."

Texas

Species: Whitetail and mule deer

Estimated population: 4.3 million whitetails

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 722,044 whitetails

Overall outlook: "It should be a good, average year for deer hunters in Texas," says Alan Cain, whitetail deer program leader with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "Antler quality will be good throughout the state, and harvest is expected to be good this year."

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: The Edwards Plateau, commonly called the Texas Hill Country, supports the highest deer population in Texas, with a 2016 estimate of 2.6 million deer, or 130 deer per 1,000 acres, according to Texas White-Tailed Deer Hunting Forecast 2017 Season, authored by Cain. The Cross Timbers region in north-central Texas has the next-highest deer population, with the 2016 estimate of 739,200 deer, or 60.5 deer per 1,000 acres.

Quick tip: "Hunting deer feeders or other food sources should be productive this season, especially in the early part of the general firearms season," says Cain.

Utah

Species: Mule deer

Estimated population: 375,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: about 32,000 total harvest

Overall outlook: "Populations declined slightly from last year, but are at 25-year highs," says Justin Shannon, big-game program coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Shannon says the Central, Southern and Southeast units are in great shape. However, some units in northern Utah — such as Cache, Box Elder and South Slope — will be down somewhat because of a severe winter in 2016-'17.

Quick tip: Hunters should check out the Utah Hunt Planner to better prepare for big-game hunts, says Shannon. Wildlife.utah.gov/huntplanner

Vermont

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 157,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 9,995 bucks and 6,225 antlerless deer (16,220 total harvest)

Overall outlook: Deer numbers should be up statewide thanks to a second consecutive mild winter, according to Nick Fortin, deer project leader with Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "As usual, the highest deer densities can be found west of the Green Mountains, particularly the northwestern and southwestern corners of the state," says Fortin. "No areas are expected to be down, but the northeastern part of the state should see less of an increase since last winter was closer to normal there."

Quick tip: "Scout multiple areas so you have some options," says Fortin. "It looks like natural foods will be abundant this year, which means deer will be more spread out and more difficult to locate."

Virginia

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 900,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 102,360 males and 78,301 females (180,661 total harvest)

Overall outlook: W. Matt Knox, deer project coordinator with Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, describes the 2017 deer hunting outlook as "average," which, he pointed out, is pretty good.

“The deer kill has been down the past several years, but Virginia’s deer hunters still have one of the highest success rates in the United States (higher than 60 percent),” he says.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Western and southwestern Virginia look especially good. "Deer populations are down primarily on private lands in the eastern one-half of Virginia," he said.

Quick tip: Pretty simple: Be safe, Knox said.

Washington

Species: Mule deer, blacktails, whitetails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 31,306 (total harvest)

Overall outlook: Harvest estimates and monitoring efforts indicate that Washington's deer numbers remain fairly steady, reports Sara Hansen, statewide deer specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "The northeastern area of the state (District 1) has some of our best opportunities for whitetail deer during the general season," says Hansen. "Though winter conditions were severe in many areas of the state this past year, we anticipate a fairly average hunting season for each species this fall."

Quick tip: "This summer has been pretty smoky, and the fire danger remains high in many areas of the state, so be sure to check for any changes to access and burn restrictions in the areas you intend to hunt before you head afield," says Hansen.

West Virginia

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 550,000

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 112,384 total harvest

Overall outlook: Christopher Ryan, supervisor of game-management services with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, reports that 2017 hunting prospects look good.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "The statewide outlook is very good and should be steady across all regions," says Ryan. "(There are) no particular spots (that) will be lower than normal."

Quick tip: "Look for white oaks that produced good acorn crops this year," says Ryan. "The mast conditions are good across the state, and deer hunters need to do some scouting to locate the best food sources"

Wisconsin

Monster Buck Wisconsin Deer of the Year 2015
A Deer of the Year winner from Wisconsin.Outdoor Life

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 48,272 archery, 39,776 crossbow, 228,726 firearms (316,774 total)

Overall outlook: "With another mild winter, a very wet summer and reports of increased sightings, deer collisions and other measurable data throughout the state, all indicators point towards high expectations for an excellent deer hunting season in 2017," according to the 2017 Wisconsin Deer Status Report.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: Counties along the Mississippi River — such as Buffalo, Trempealeau, Crawford, Vernon and La Crosse — are well-known for producing large-antlered bucks, and 2017 reports from the region look good. The Wisconsin Deer Status Report said reports from Buffalo and Trempealeau counties indicate " … landowners are reporting high numbers of does with multiple fawns, a lot of daytime deer activity, and trail camera photos showing buck with good antler growth, including many bragging-sized bucks."

Quick tip: Wisconsin has more than 5 million acres of public land, from the big woods of state and national forests to smaller wildlife and fisheries properties sprinkled throughout the state. Scout early to locate out-of-the-way areas other hunters might overlook.

Wyoming

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 409,100 mule deer and 84,600 whitetails

Fall 2016-'17 harvest: 31,237 mule deer and 17,614 whitetails (total harvest)

Overall outlook: Grant Frost, senior wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, has a mixed report for deer-hunting prospects in the state.

Potential 2017-'18 hotspots: "There should be good numbers of mature bucks this year east of the Continental Divide, while west of the Continental Divide, hunting will be tougher after a hard winter," says Frost.

Quick tip: Use Wyoming's online hunt planner to prepare a trip. https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Hunting/Hunt-Planner/Deer-Hunting