deer on a field during fall
John Hafner

Deer Hunting Forecast 2018

A state-by-state breakdown of what to expect this deer season

Late summer is full of distractions. Whether you’re grinding away at work or taking a day off at the beach, you’re probably going to end up daydreaming about a flash of antler coming through the woods and the soft footfalls of an incoming buck. Then you snap back to reality, realizing that deer season remains just out of reach. But it is coming — like that cruising buck in your dreams. Before you know it, archery and other early seasons will open across the country. Soon, images of dandy bucks and smiling hunters will overload your social media feeds, and you’ll feel that familiar tug pulling you into the autumn woods. Whether you spot and stalk high-racked muleys in the West or sit in a treestand waiting to ambush deep-woods Eastern whitetails, deer season adventure beckons. You’re ready, right? Here’s a quick guide to get you started.

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

Alabama

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1.25 million

Fall 2017-18 harvest: Not available, though hunters registered fewer deer via Game Check in 2017-18 than they did in 2016-17

Overall outlook: Chris Cook, deer program coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said annual deer harvests the past few years have declined somewhat throughout the state. However, most areas still produce plenty of deer for hunters, and the number of mature bucks taken each year seems to be increasing. Cook credited changing hunter attitudes and, in his opinion, a three-buck-per-season limit, implemented several years ago. "This year should be similar to most years in Alabama," he said. "If the weather cooperates and native food supplies aren't too abundant, hunters should have a great season hunting like so many do—watching food plots. If the acorn crop is above average and temperatures and conditions are mild, allowing native plants to continue growing during much of the season, those hunters will struggle. Hunters who understand they need to figure out how to hunt deer where the deer are instead of hoping deer come to where the hunter wants deer to be, should have good seasons."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Cook said every region of the state can produce large bucks.

Quick tip: "Most of Alabama's wildlife management areas are lightly hunted for deer, especially during archery season," Cook said. "Hunters willing to spend the time becoming very familiar with a couple of potential spots on most WMAs tend to have success year in and year out."

Alaska

Species: Sitka black-tailed deer

Estimated population: Not available. Deer populations fluctuate considerably based on winter severity.

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 14,952

Overall outlook: Sitka blacktails are native to the rain forests of southeastern Alaska. Because of transplants, the deer also inhabit Yakutat, Prince William Sound, and Kodiak and Afognak islands. Nathan Svoboda, area wildlife biologist for Kodiak with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said blacktail populations on Kodiak Island look good this year. "After somewhat of a severe winter two years ago, the population has rebounded quickly throughout most of the archipelago," he said. "We have observed a fairly robust deer population this spring and have noticed a significant portion of the population appears to have very good body condition." Charlotte Westing, Prince William Sound area wildlife biologist for ADFG, said deer pellet surveys indicate blacktail populations are stable and relatively high. "Hunters are reporting seeing lots of deer and that the deer are in good body condition," she said.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "Early-season hunting is concentrated in the alpine and subalpine areas," according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game'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: Svoboda reminded deer hunters to consider safety in bear country. "The majority of our bear-human conflicts involve deer hunters not taking the proper precautions to avoid interactions with bears," he said.

Arizona

Species: mule deer and Coues whitetail deer

Estimated population: about 110,000 mule deer and about 90,000 Coues whitetails

Fall 2017-18 harvest: about 10,300 mule deer bucks and 8,900 Coues whitetail bucks; about 450 antlerless mule deer (in northern areas for youth-only permit tags)

Overall outlook: "Arizona is currently in a severe drought through the majority of the state," said Dustin Darveau, terrestrial wildlife specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "Thus, fawn recruitment and general overall nutrition have decreased within the past several years. However, on average, most deer populations are remaining stable."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Darveau said deer numbers in the northern and eastern portions of the state remain fairly stable, but many areas in central and western Arizona have been significantly influenced by drought.

Quick tip: "With low densities of deer throughout much of the state, one of the most important skills to hunt deer in Arizona is to develop solid glassing skills with the best optics one can afford," Darveau said. "Understanding the habitat needs for the species of interest is also highly beneficial."

Arkansas

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 900,000 to 1 million

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 205,310

Overall outlook: "Arkansas' 2017-18 harvest was the fifth highest on record and the sixth consecutive year of 200,000-plus deer harvested and checked," said Ralph Meeker, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. "Based on hunter observation, and biological and harvest data, the whitetail deer population appears to be relatively stable statewide. The percentage of bucks harvested in Arkansas that are 3.5 years and older is remaining pretty consistent at around 65 percent."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Meeker said southern portions of the White River Refuge and surrounding private property might see slight population decreases because of a historic outbreak of the southern buffalo gnat. Also, Arkansas added five more counties in the northwestern part of the state to its CWD Management Zone. "Bag limits were slightly liberalized and antler-point restrictions were removed within those five counties, so a slight increase in deer harvest is expected in those areas this coming season," he said.

Quick tip: "Hunters should definitely do their homework prior to this coming hunting season," Meeker said. "Rainfall across Arkansas this summer has been sporadic. The amount and quality of native vegetation (food and cover) can change drastically based on the amount of moisture available during the summer months."

California

Species: mule deer and black-tailed deer

Estimated population: 532,621 total deer (2017 estimate)

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 29,394

Overall outlook: Overall, deer populations throughout California are generally stable, with small year-to-year fluctuations," said David Casady, environmental scientist with the deer program for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Most of the bucks killed in California are in the younger age classes, although there are also a good number of older age-class bucks available for harvest."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Casady reminded hunters that California is experiencing several large wildfires, many of which are in deer hunting areas. He said hunting will be challenging in those areas this season, especially the B zone and northern parts of the A zones. However, the habitat in those areas should respond well, and hunting should be productive the next three to five years.

Quick tip: "Make sure you have access to the hunt areas prior to applying for a tag," Casady said. "Many hunt areas are on private property, and you don't want to get drawn for a premium hunt only to find out that there is very limited access."

Colorado

Species: mule deer and white-tailed deer

Estimated population: not available

Fall 2017-'18 harvest: not available

Overall outlook: Almost all deer hunting in Colorado requires a limited license, and hunters who've received those for 2018 should do well.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: The Arkansas River drainage holds some big whitetails and is often overlooked by hunters.

Connecticut

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: The state has no current population estimate, but deer densities range from about 15 to 45 deer per square mile.

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 12,080 (13 percent increase from the 2016 harvest)

Overall outlook: Howard Kilpatrick, deer program biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the 2018 outlook is good. "Most populations are stable," he said. "Older bucks are found throughout state but (are) best in areas adjacent to large tracts of lands closed to hunting."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Kilpatrick said the southwestern and northeastern deer management zones tend to be productive for hunters.

Quick tip: "Look for productive oak trees with an abundance of acorns," Kilpatrick said. "In the absence of acorns, focus on green fields. Don't overscout your hunting area, to minimize human disturbance."

Delaware

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: mid-40,000s

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 15,304 (a new state record)

Overall outlook: Joe Rogerson, environmental program manager II, with the Species Conservation and Research Program for the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, said the state has a robust deer population, and the mosaic of woodlands interspersed with agricultural fields and developed areas provides ideal whitetail habitat.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "Agricultural damage due to deer browsing on crops is a problem in areas across the state, but Sussex County, which is our southernmost county, seems to be an area that is more impacted by deer damage. It is a great place for hunters interested in taking an antlerless deer, and the area is known for producing quality bucks year in and year out due to high-quality habitat and abundant forage for deer," Rogerson said.

Quick tip: "Delaware's archery season opens earlier than most states — Sept. 1 — so that first week of the season provides hunters with the chance to take a buck in velvet, which for many people is a unique opportunity," Rogerson said. "That said, it is often quite warm, and the mosquitoes can be bothersome, so coming prepared for those conditions in the early season is key."

Florida

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 97,017

Overall outlook: Cory Morea, deer management program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the 2017-18 deer harvest increased slightly throughout much of the state, and biologists noted an increase in antler size.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "The northwestern and north-central parts of the state continue to be productive due to good soils and nutrition," Morea said.

Quick tip: "Commit to learning the lay of the land via aerial maps and on-the-ground scouting to identify transitional zones between different habitat types," Morea said. "Deer like to bed during the day in areas with dense vegetation and move out into more open areas at night to feed. The edge between these habitats is a good place to catch deer heading to and from feeding areas at dusk and dawn. Look for all types of deer sign — well-used game trails, tracks, scat, and buck rubs and scrapes."

Georgia

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1.27 million

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 381,629

Overall outlook: "Looks like another excellent season ahead in Georgia," said Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist with Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division. "With a couple of years of reduced harvest on females from reduced either-sex days, we've seen a slight increase in the population. Fawn recruitment rates have been reasonable and stable the last few years, and the percentage of mature bucks in the harvest is stable."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Killmaster said the northeastern portion of the piedmont region is the state's current buck hotspot. Conversely, deep southeastern Georgia usually see the lowest deer harvests.

Quick tip: "Try hunting a new stand location this year," Killmaster said. "Deer grow wise to permanent stands, and it might just give that extra edge you need."

hunter with deer in snow
A stud Idaho muley.Outdoor Life

Idaho

Species: mule deer and whitetail deer

Estimated population: mule deer, 317,847; whitetails, no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: mule deer: 20,25 bucks, 5,221 does; whitetails: 15,895 bucks, 10,607 does

Overall outlook: Daryl R. Meints, deer and elk coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the state's deer populations have been trending upward since 2012. Some parts of Idaho experienced significant winter losses during 2016-17, but deer survival returned to normal in 2017-18. Most of the state continues to meet harvest objectives for hunter success and the percentage of 4-point (on one antler) mule deer bucks and 5-point (on one antler) whitetail bucks harvested.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "The Southeast Region and the Weiser-McCall areas had significant losses during the 2016-17 winter," Meints said. "It may take a little time for those areas to recover."

Quick tip: "Study your maps," Meints said. "Hunt as far away from the nearest road and trail as you can get … Spot-and-stalk is one of the most effective hunting methods. Buy the best optics you can afford. It's going to be an active fire season, so stay up to date on the latest information."

Illinois

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: No estimate; population is stable to slightly increasing.

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 147,730

Overall outlook: Tom Micetich, retired deer project manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said Illinois hunters should encounter similar deer numbers to those of previous seasons. "The herd has recovered from the 2012 and 2013 EHD outbreaks, which means that more mature animals should be available," he said.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Micetich said counties with higher-than-desired deer numbers are open for late-winter antlerless-only hunting. Also, some east-central Illinois counties will be in a restricted archery zone, as they have fewer deer than desired. However, they still produce some good bucks.

Quick tip: "Any of the larger Illinois public land sites (4,000 acres or more) should be able to accommodate most of the hunters interested in pursuing whitetails on them," Micetich said. "The Shawnee National Forest, any of the U.S. Corps of Engineers reservoirs (we have three of them) and the Mississippi River area, to name a few, would be worth looking into."

Indiana

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 113,595

Overall outlook: "In general, Indiana has a thriving deer herd with a nearly balanced sex ratio in the observed population and the harvest, and a buck harvest that is skewed toward bucks older than 2.5 years old," said Joe Caudell, state deer research biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. "This trend has been developing over time, partially because of Indiana's one-buck rule as well as the increasing selectiveness of hunters for that single buck they can harvest." Caudell added that Indiana has not experienced a widespread EHD outbreak since 2012, so deer populations throughout much of the state are in good shape.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Caudell said the northwestern portion of the state routinely produces relatively high numbers of Boone and Crockett-class bucks and other high-scoring deer.

Quick tip: "Because Indiana has a relatively balanced sex ratio in the deer herd throughout much of the state, the peak rut period is usually condensed to a relatively short period of time," Caudell said. "Therefore, hunters wanting to take advantage of that period should get out early."

Iowa

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 496,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 105,573

Overall outlook: Tyler Harms, wildlife biometrician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the state's deer population has been mostly stable statewide since 2013. "Although we don't have any official measure of production (in terms of a survey), anecdotal observations in the field suggest this was an average to above-average year for production," he said. "We don't have data on relative abundance of older-class bucks since we don't collect age data at harvest."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Northeastern and south-central Iowa remain good areas for big bucks and good hunting, Harms said. "Populations are below goal levels in the northwestern quarter of the state, and we are implementing regulation changes to limit antlerless deer harvest to allow populations in that area of the state to recover," he said. "Populations in southeastern and southwestern Iowa continue to recover from outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, but one can still experience a quality and successful hunt in these areas."

Quick tip: "Our online Iowa Hunting Atlas (programs.iowadnr.gov/maps/m/huntingatlas/index.html) is a fantastic resource for scouting potential locations, especially if you have an interest in exploring new areas of the state," Harms said.

Kansas

Species: whitetail (statewide) and mule deer (western half)

Estimated population: about 627,000 whitetails and 46,000 mule deer (using 2017 pre-firearms season estimates, removing the 2017 harvest and without knowing 2018 fawn production)

Fall 2017-18 harvest: whitetails: 77,674; mule deer: 1,893

Overall outlook: Levi Jaster, big-game program coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said the 2018 outlook is fairly average, as general population trends are stable, with isolated areas of population increases or minor declines. All units could produce opportunities for older bucks.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "Deer Management Unit 12 has had an increasing population the last couple of years," Jaster said. "DMU 18 has been below desired population levels for the last few years and has no antlerless permits valid within it."

Quick tip: "I recommend hunters in Kansas start their scouting from home utilizing online maps and then ground-truth areas they're interested in when they arrive," Jaster said.

bow hunter with deer in kentucky
Hunting editor Will Brantley with a Kentucky archery buck.Will Brantley

Kentucky

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 136,026

Overall outlook: "The overall outlook for the 2018-19 season really looks good for us here in Kentucky," said Kyle Sams, deer program biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Due to the fairly wet spring and summer, forage quality is higher than normal, which means deer are in good condition going into the hunting season. I would expect to see similar if not higher harvest numbers than in 2017-18."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Sams said most areas of Kentucky offer good opportunities, but he'd focus on western, central and northern counties. "However, in southeastern Kentucky, where a severe epizootic hemorrhagic disease outbreak occurred, numbers are expected to be somewhat lower compared to previous year," he said. "During the outbreak in 2017, our hunters responded well by not harvesting female deer in hopes of improving reproduction rates the next year."

Quick tip: "Whether you're hunting public or private ground, if you want to be successful, put the time into scouting and learning the area you're hunting," Sams said.

Louisiana

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 500,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 86,779

Overall outlook: Johnathan Bordelon, deer program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, is optimistic about the upcoming season. "2017-'18 was a banner harvest in Louisiana," he said. "While it is not uncommon to see a drop after a spike in harvest, the 2018-19 season looks promising based on increased productivity the past two seasons. Known-age harvest of adult bucks is collected through our Deer Management Assistance Program. Louisiana continues to be in the top five each year for 3.5-year-old and older bucks in the bag. As expected, ranking in the top five each for 3.5-year-old and older bucks also means that Louisiana hunters harvest very few 1.5-year-old bucks."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: The northwestern pine/hardwood portion of Louisiana had the largest harvest increase in 2017-18, and Bordelon said that area should remain productive. The Mississippi River area still produces the largest deer, as its abundant agriculture and bottomland hardwood forests make ideal habitat for big bucks.

Quick tip: "Know when the rut occurs," Bordelon said. "Peak breeding occurs in Louisiana anywhere from October through January, depending on the physiographic region. Hunting the rut will be your best bet to bag a deer. The diverse breeding chronology in Louisiana allows hunters a four-month window depending on location."

Maine

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: not available

Fall 2017-'18 harvest: 27,233

Overall outlook: Nathan R. Bieber, wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said the state's deer population is trending upward, likely because of increasing herd numbers in central and southern Maine. Better, biologists estimate that almost 26 percent of bucks in the herd are 3 years old or older.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "Central and southern Maine remain preferred areas for hunters who want to see higher numbers of deer," Bieber said. "Northern Maine is a destination for hunters wanting to stalk very large-bodied north-woods bucks."

Quick tip: “If you’re physically able and capable of navigating the woods, you can always find areas to hunt and stalk without another soul around, if you get away from the roads and trails,” Bieber said.

Maryland

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 222,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 31,670 antlered, 54,872 antlerless

Overall outlook: " Maryland continues to offer excellent deer hunting opportunities, and the population has been stable over the past decade," said Brian Eyler, deer project leader with Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "The current buck harvest in Maryland is comprised of more adult age-class bucks than yearlings."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Eyler said most areas of the state offer good hunting. The deer population in Region A has been increasing for several seasons, and hunters enjoyed a strong buck harvest there in 2017. "I suspect a significant EHD outbreak on the mideastern shore last year will negatively influence harvest numbers there for a couple of years to come," he said.

Quick tip: "Maryland allows baiting, but I encourage hunters to not fall into the trap of relying on bait," Eyler said. "Hunters will be more successful if they learn basic deer behavior and hunt accordingly."

deer hunter kneeling by buck
A wide and heavy buck from Massachusetts.Outdoor Life

Massachusetts

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 100,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 13,305

Overall outlook: David Stainbrook, deer and moose project coordinator with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said whitetail opportunities seem promising. The 2017-18 harvest was a record, and the 2016-17 total ranked No. 3. Also, bucks at least 2.5 years or older comprise more than half the state's buck harvest. "We have kept antlerless deer permits low in the western and central parts of the state for the past five-plus years to allow a conservative increase in the population, but at the same time making sure to keep deer numbers below a point where major impacts to the forest habitat are seen from browsing. The eastern part of the state has seen increasing deer numbers despite liberal antlerless deer permit allocations, but this is mostly because of access restrictions. In areas where there is adequate hunting access, forest impacts are minimal, and the population is relatively stable. However, in areas where there are major limitations to hunting access (land closed to hunting and discharge setbacks around homes), deer numbers are continuing to increase and impacts to the habitat are observed."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Stainbrook said most areas of the state provide quality hunting opportunities. However, the north-central and northwestern portions of Massachusetts typically have lower deer numbers because of habitat restrictions. "You can find great places to hunt anywhere in the state and find quality deer, especially if you are willing to go farther into the woods where most hunters don't go," he said. "While conducting field work on our state lands, we found that deer sign increased dramatically once you ventured in over a mile from roads. You can find quantity if you are willing to hunt in suburban areas and work hard to get the necessary permissions for access."

Quick tip: "Scouting after the season in January and February, when there is snow cover, can provide useful insight for the deer in the area that you hunt, such as travel routes and bedding areas," Stainbrook said.

Michigan

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 376,365

Overall outlook: Ashley Autenrieth, deer program biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said recent winters have featured fair or normal conditions, and deer numbers seem to be increasing. The Upper Peninsula herd is rebounding after severe winters knocked it back from 2013 through 2015. The northern Lower Peninsula has experienced relatively stable deer population increases the pasts three years. Harvest numbers have fluctuated somewhat in the Lower Peninsula, but that's mostly because of increased harvest efforts at specific areas.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "Most hunters should expect to see increased numbers from last year, but keep in mind that trends can also change from year to year," Autenrieth said. "Just because deer utilized a particular trail last year doesn't mean they will this year. Land-use changes, population fluctuations and resource availability all have an impact on deer movement patterns."

Quick tip: "You can never scout too much," Autenrieth said. "The more you do, the better your chances of seeing and maybe even harvesting a deer become. If you find you simply don't have the time you want consider checking out michigan.gov/mihunt. This is a way to get some scouting done before you even head out into the woods. It gives you access to cover types, cutting schedules (for public land) and other great resources."

deer hunter kneeling by buck
A massive whitetail from Minnesota.Outdoor Life

Minnesota

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1 million

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 197,768

Overall outlook: Erik Thorson, acting big-game program leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said hunting prospects look bright in much of the state, especially in the transition zone from the northwestern to southeastern portions of Minnesota."Populations are trending up in much of the state, and deer numbers in the northern forest have generally recovered from the hard winters of 2012-13 and 2013-14," he said. "Even though we had a prolonged winter that lasted into early April this year, initial reports of fawn production are good. Southeastern Minnesota permit areas with APR regulations still have more older age-class bucks, except for the area around the CWD management zone."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Thorson said the central portion of Minnesota holds the best deer populations, "including areas that are more agricultural on the western side, east through the transitional areas and into the southwestern portion of the forest." Conversely, deer populations are usually slow to recover in the agriculturally dominated areas of southwestern Minnesota, likely because of habitat limitations.

Quick tip: "Scout for good stand locations each year, and sit for as long as you can, especially during the firearms season," Thorson said.

Mississippi

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1.575 million

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 194,975

Overall outlook: "Total harvest has been trending down for the past eight years," said William T. McKinley, deer program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "Mississippi has one of the highest percentages (75 percent) of 3.5-plus-year-old bucks in the harvest."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "The Delta and adjacent hills tend to produce some of the largest-bodied and (largest-)antlered deer in the state," McKinley said.

Missouri

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1 to 1.2 million

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 284,477

Overall outlook: "Generally, populations have been on the upswing throughout much of the state as they continue to recover from the severe 2012 drought and associated EHD outbreak," said Barbara Keller, cervid program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "The opening date of the November portion will be earliest it can occur in 2018, which is generally associated with increased antlered buck harvest due to the timing of the rut in Missouri. It will revert to the latest it can occur in 2019, when we can expect to see a decrease in antlered buck harvest. We continue to see older-age class bucks being harvested in those counties where we have a four-point antler restriction. However, be on the lookout for EHD mortality this summer. We are in a severe drought in much of the state, and although we have not yet received significant reports of EHD mortality, this can occur anytime from July to November."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Deer populations continue to increase in southern Missouri, Keller said, and hunting prospects there have improved, although mast production can influence them heavily. Deer populations in northwestern Missouri have struggled to recover from a 2012 EHD outbreak, and the Department of Conservation has closed the four most-affected counties to the three-day antlerless portion of the firearms season.

Quick tip: "The timing of (epizootic) hemorrhagic disease outbreaks occur too late in the season for us to change bag limits, so be on the lookout for information from the Missouri Department of Conservation regarding EHD outbreaks," Keller said. "During a severe EHD year, consider reducing your harvest of antlerless deer."

Montana

Species: mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 386,075 mule deer, 235,316 whitetails

Fall 2017-'18 harvest: 55,545 mule deer, 48,956 whitetails

Overall outlook: "Deer populations in most of the state are doing very well, having rebounded with good fawn production from hard winters six to eight years ago," said John Vore, game-management bureau chief with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "There are good numbers of bucks 3 years old and older, especially in secure habitat."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Vore said deer numbers in the northwestern part of Montana — FWP Region 1 — are down because of harsh Winter 2017-18 weather. The area is primarily whitetail country.

Quick tip: "Know the country, hunt hard, hunt safe, always ask permission and be courteous to landowners," Vore said.

Nebraska

Species: mule deer and whitetail deer

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 46,492 whitetails, 11,184 muleys

Overall outlook: Deer numbers look good throughout the state, according to Luke Meduna, wildlife biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. "Whitetail deer continue to recover from the hemorrhagic disease outbreaks of 2012 and 2013, with some areas recovering faster than others," he said. "Mule deer numbers are variable across the state. In the southwest, we are dealing with too many mule deer, and in areas across the east and northwest, mule deer are stable to declining due to a variety of causes, such as habitat loss and meningeal brainworm, among others." Meduna added that Nebraska hunters take a fairly high percentage of older bucks. About 35 to 40 percent of whitetails taken by hunters were 3.5 years old or older, compared to about 15 percent in the early 2000s. Likewise, more than 50 percent of mule deer shot by Nebraska hunters are 3.5 or older, up from about 15 percent in the early 2000s.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "The southwestern portion of Nebraska will continue to be a stronghold for mule deer," Meduna said. "Harvest information from this area, primarily age structure and sex ratios, continue to improve in this region. Whitetail deer populations continue to expand rapidly in the central and northeastern part of the state, rebounding to levels close to those before the (hemorrhagic disease) outbreak in 2012. Similarly, the numerous river corridors across the state continue to be major strongholds for whitetail deer in Nebraska."

Quick tip: "Pressure is key to finding deer — find the areas that have the least pressure," Meduna said. "This may be a large area that's hard to access or a small over looked site that people avoid."

Nevada

Species: mule deer

Estimated population: 92,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: about 7,000

Overall outlook: Cory Schroeder, mule deer staff specialist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said deer populations seem stable, with a slightly higher 2018 buck-to-doe ratio (about 33 bucks per 100 does).

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "Lincoln County is producing big bucks," Schroeder said. "Northern Washoe County is slightly down on bucks and older-age-class deer."

Quick tip: "Bring lots of water and high-quality optics," Schroeder said. "Nevada has very arid and open country."

New Hampshire

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 100,000

Fall 2017-'18 harvest: 12,309

Overall outlook: Dan Bergeron, deer project leader with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, said hunters can anticipate a good 2018 season. "Populations are trending up, and the past winter's severity was average to below average across the state," he said. "This means deer likely came through winter in good condition, and productivity was likely high. 2.5-plus-year-old bucks typically comprise 50 percent or more of New Hampshire's adult buck harvest."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Prospects look good statewide, and 11 of the state's 20 wildlife management units will offer increased opportunities in 2018.

Quick tip: "Don't be afraid to change things up and hunt new areas," Bergeron said. "Habitat changes over time, and deer move around. There may be a reason you're not seeing any deer in the spot you've been hunting for 30 years."

New Jersey

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: more than 146,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 48,545

Overall outlook: "Deer populations in New Jersey have been fairly stable for the past several years," said Carole Stanko, chief of the Bureau of Wildlife Management with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. "With a good mast year and milder winter in 2017, deer hunters can expect another good year for 2018."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Stanko said agricultural regions of the state always promise good deer hunting.

Quick tip: "Befriend a farmer," Stanko said. "Although New Jersey has a lot of public lands available for hunting, private properties serve as deer refuges and generally are hotspots for deer in the Garden State."

New Mexico

Species: mule deer (desert and Rocky Mountain subspecies) and whitetail deer (Coues and Texas subspecies)

Estimated population: 80,000 to 100,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 11,316 total deer

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," said Orrin Duvuvuei, deer and pronghorn biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. "Abundant precipitation in recent years 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, and overall population numbers are increasing throughout the state. An even age structure of bucks, including older age-class, can be found in most units throughout New Mexico. The beginning of 2018 was dry through the fawning season, but summer monsoons have increased summer forage production, which will help lactating females and bucks obtain weight prior to the rut."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Duvuvuei said mule deer populations in parts of northern New Mexico are steadily increasing thanks to optimal moisture conditions and recent wildfires that created deer habitat. The mule deer in the Jemez Mountains and Pecos area of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are showing signs of rapid growth, and hunters take some big bucks in these areas. The Sand Hills country in east-central New Mexico has a healthy mule deer population and consistently produces larger-than-average bucks. Hunters typically take several Boone and Crockett-class bucks each year in the north-central part of the state, in GMUs 2B, 2C and 4.

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," Duvuvuei said.

New York

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 950,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 203,427

Overall outlook: The New York Division of Fish and Wildlife expects hunters to enjoy another good deer season in Fall 2018. Despite winter weather that lingered into April, overall winter mortality wasn't excessive. "For the 2018-19 deer hunting season, we expect the statewide buck harvest to be similar to 2017 and the antlerless harvest to increase slightly," the agency said in its online deer season forecast. "Statewide, we increased the allocation of deer management permits (antlerless tags) by roughly 8 percent from what was issued in 2017, with most of the increased DMP availability occurring in wildlife management units in central and western New York, where deer populations are above desired levels or increasing toward desired levels."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "Central and western New York and suburban areas are always productive for deer hunting," said Jeremy Hurst, big-game unit leader with the New York Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Quick tip: "Many New York hunters are choosing to let young bucks grow and watch them grow," Hurst said. "You can, too."

North Carolina

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1 million

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 161,854

Overall outlook: "Deer harvest is a fair predictor of deer numbers, and (they) have been declining in the eastern half of the state, with the most notable declines in the Northeastern Zone," said Jonathan Shaw, state deer biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "Harvest is stable to somewhat declining in the Central and Northwestern zones and increasing in the Western Zone, particularly on private lands. Hunters observed around 0.6 fawns per doe, which is relatively consistent with most other Southeastern states that track this metric. We currently have about 37 percent 1.5-year-old deer in the antlered buck harvest, and 26 percent are 3.5 or older. The age structure could shift more toward older males in years to come following the passage of a statewide two-antlered buck limit in 2018."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Shaw said the Foothills and Northern Piedmont regions and areas along the Yadkin and Pee Dee rivers are generally productive. Deer populations might continue to decrease in the Northeastern Zone.

North Dakota

Species: mule deer and whitetail deer

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: about 25,000 whitetails and 5,100 mule deer

Overall outlook: Bill Jensen, with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the state's deer population is slowly increasing.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Jensen said areas south and west of the Missouri River might be especially promising in 2018.

Quick tip: "Know the regulations, and review the (Public Lands Open to Sportsmen) guide," Jensen said.

hunter with buck in a truck bed
A huge nontypical buck from Ohio. Read the full story here.Outdoor Life

Ohio

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 186,247

Overall outlook: Michael J. Tonkovich, deer program administrator with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said 2018 hunting prospects look bright. "Hunters can expect to continue to reap the benefits of the very conservative antlerless regulations in 2015 and 2016," he said. "I would expect a respectable increase in the buck (harvest) as well as the total harvest this fall. Lots of opportunities and plenty of deer."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Tonkovich said most of the state should see an uptick in harvest. Some counties were hit hard by EHD in 2017, and the DNR adjusted regulations in Jefferson County to offset losses.

Quick tip: "If you want to see more deer, go back to hunting deer like you did 20 years ago," Tonkovich said. "Get out of the tree stand and move."

Oklahoma

Species: mule deer and white-tailed deer

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-'18 harvest: 107,914

Overall outlook: "Oklahoma had a fantastic 2017-'18 season, with more than 30 deer over 200 inches being harvested and the highest overall harvest since 2012," said Dallas Barber, big-game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Trends show that our hunters are choosing to adopt our, "Hunters in the know let young bucks grow" motto, seeing that our harvest is shifting toward more mature bucks."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "Although the southeastern part of the state had a banner year for trophy animals, there really isn't a bad part of the state in regards to deer hunting," Barber said. "The name of the game in Oklahoma is habitat, and all habitat is dependent on rainfall. We have been experiencing some drought conditions in the western portions of the state but have been blessed with rain in the past few months. I look for those areas to rebound fairly quickly."

Quick tip: "Find out a buck's early-season routine, and put yourself somewhere along his path between bedding and feeding areas," Barber said. "Once the rut comes into swing, anything can happen, so make sure to sit as long as possible."

Oregon

Species: black-tailed deer (western Oregon), whitetail deer (primarily in northeastern Oregon) and mule deer (east of the crest of the Cascades)

Estimated population: 191,000 muleys; no estimates for whitetails or blacktails

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 13,401 mule deer, 1,406 whitetails

Overall outlook: "Black-tailed and white-tailed deer relatively stable," said Don Whittaker, ungulate coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Mule deer are down in some areas since the severe winter of 2016-17. Mature bucks are available in all areas."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Whittaker said mule deer populations and controlled-hunt tag numbers are down slightly overall, especially in northeastern Oregon in Baker, northern Harney and Malheur counties, and some parts of Union County.

Quick tip: "Planning for warmer weather will be important since the season is in the early part of its cycle," Whittaker said.

Pennsylvania

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 367,159

Overall outlook: Christopher Rosenberry, deer and elk section supervisor with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said six-year deer population trends are increasing in four wildlife-management areas (2C, 3A, 4C and 4E) and remain stable in other units. In 2017, 57 percent of bucks shot were 2.5 years old or older."With antler-point restrictions, Pennsylvania now has the oldest buck population in hunter memory" he said.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: With all unit population levels stable or increasing, Rosenberry said, hunting opportunities should be good statewide.

Quick tip: "Put in your time scouting before the season," Rosenberry said. "Then in (the) season, spend as much time as possible … downwind from where you expect to see deer."

Rhode Island

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-'18 harvest: 1,886

Overall outlook: Dylan Ferreira, senior wildlife biologist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, said the state's harvest has been trending downward since 2008.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Arcadia and Big River management areas had the highest public-property deer harvests, Ferreira said. Hunters at Arcadia shot the most bucks with eight or more points.

Quick tip: "Don't be afraid to go knock on doors and ask for permission," Ferreira said. "We have a lot of public land to hunt, but many landowners (foresters) experience high deer browse on their property and may not have any or enough hunters to reduce deer densities."

South Carolina

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 730,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 185,286

Overall outlook: Charles Ruth, big-game program coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, is optimistic about prospects for the 2018 season. "Although harvest trends have generally been down over the last decade, the 2017 harvest was up a modest 7 percent, and 2018 should be similar," he said. "It should be a good season provided that the state has good seasonal weather."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Ruth said Anderson County, in the piedmont, and Aiken and Orangeburg counties, in the coastal plain, look especially promising this year.

Quick tip: "With the exception of the mountains in the northwestern part of the state, the rut is mid-October to mid-November, with the last week in October and the first week in November being the peak," Ruth said.

South Dakota

Species: mule deer and whitetail deer

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: about 44,500 whitetails, 7,300 mule deer

Overall outlook: Steve Griffin, wildlife biologist for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, said the outlook for whitetails and muleys appears promising. "The general population trend for both species is increasing," he said. "Mule deer populations are slowly responding to reduced harvest on the female segment of the population over the past few years. Whitetail deer populations are increasing at a faster pace and are recovering from past years of hemorrhagic disease outbreaks."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "Most areas east of the Missouri River are showing growth rates from 6 to 20 percent for whitetail deer populations," Griffin said. "Whitetail deer populations are expected to be good in 2018. Mule deer growth rates in the western half of South Dakota are growing at lower rates of 1 to 5 percent. Although specific areas cannot be identified as particularly promising, mule deer populations are increasing." Conversely, Griffin said, whitetail growth rates are down in the Upper Missouri River and Black Hills deer analysis units. Mule deer growth rates are down in the Black Hills and Grand River deer analysis units.

Quick tip: "Most of South Dakota is made up of private land, so obtaining permission before you hunt is vital in maintaining positive landowner/sportsman relationships," Griffin said.

Tennessee

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: about 145,000

Overall outlook: Deer populations remain fairly stable throughout Tennessee, according to Tim White, wildlife biologist with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Moreover, the percentage of older bucks in the annual harvest is excellent. "The deer herd in Tennessee has been trending toward an older age-class of buck for many years now," White said. "We are nearly at a point where we cannot get a whole lot better. Last season, about 25 percent of harvested bucks were 3.5 years old or older. Bucks that were 1.5 years old only comprised about 32 percent of the harvest."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: White said top deer harvest counties include Giles, Henry, Fayette, Hardeman and Montgomery. Counties with the most bucks with nine or more points included Montgomery, Hickman, Giles, Henry and Dickson.

Quick tip: "If you plan to hunt public lands, I recommend you go the extra mile," White said. "Meaning, don't hunt close to the road or a parking area. These places see the most hunting pressure. The farther you get off the beaten path, the better your success will be and the greater your chances of seeing a bigger buck."

Texas

Species: whitetail deer and mule deer

Estimated population: 4.6 million

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 918,009

Overall outlook: Long-term trends indicate the state's whitetail population has increased about 27 percent since 2005, though those increases are not uniform across the state, according to Alan Cain, whitetail deer program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. A lack of consistent, uniform rainfall left the state with a patchwork of habitat conditions during spring and early summer, but that shouldn't affect the 2018 season. "Regardless of the range conditions, Texas has a robust deer population with plenty of animals for hunters to pursue," Cain wrote. "Overall, the 2018 deer season is expected to be good; probably similar to the last several years.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: The Edwards Plateau, in the south-central part of the state, has the highest deer population, with an estimate of more than 2.6 million animals, Cain wrote. "Hunters looking for opportunities to see lots of deer when afield should put this area on the priority list to hunt this fall," he wrote. "Hunter success in this region runs about 77 percent, with an estimated 13.9 deer per 1,000 acres harvested."

Quick tip: "Hunters who haven't found a deer hunting spot for this fall should consider putting in for one of the drawn deer hunts conducted on TPWD wildlife management areas and state parks," Cain wrote. "Each year, some excellent-quality bucks are bagged on our WMAs, and lots of hunters go home with an ice chest full of venison from an antlerless and spike buck hunts. You can find out about the draw hunts on the TPWD website."

hunter kneeling next to trophy buck
Shooting Editor John B. Snow with a massive Utah mule deer.Outdoor Life

Utah

Species: mule deer

Estimated population: 360,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: about 29,000 bucks

Overall outlook: Overall deer populations are up but slightly lower than the peak numbers of 2015, according to Covy Jones, big-game program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Statewide fawn production was fairly consistent, at about 60 fawns per 100 does.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: "Pine Valley has had high buck-to-doe ratios for several years and is a good general-season area where you have a better chance at harvesting a quality buck," Jones said. "Southeastern units have had severe drought, and it has impacted fawn survival this past year. You probably won't see many yearling bucks."

Quick tip: "It's dry this year, so water is more important than ever," Jones said. "Also, there is no right way to hunt deer. Be courteous, and realize that a small buck may be a trophy to some."

Vermont

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 155,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 15,984

Overall outlook: "The deer population has increased for the third straight year and is now at a 10-year high," said Nick Fortin, deer project leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. "The relative abundance of older bucks should be similar to recent years.

“Population should be stable or up just about everywhere.”

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Fortin said Birdseye Wildlife Management Area might be promising.

Quick tip: "Both hard and soft mast will probably be spotty this year, so locating food sources will greatly improve your chances," Fortin said.

Virginia

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 840,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 190,623

Overall outlook: "A major increase or decrease in the statewide deer kill from last fall is not expected, and the chances of seeing and killing a really nice buck is better today than ever before, and the opportunities to do so are increasing over time," said Matt Knox, deer project coordinator with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Virginia lists deer abundance as very high in nine counties: Clarke, Loudoun, Rockingham, Amherst, Bedford, Craig, Giles, Pulaski and Grayson.

Quick tip: "Be safe," Knox said. "One last point that I think should be the No. 1 priority is safety. I am sure you have heard it all before, but hunting safety cannot be overemphasized. No deer that ever walked across the commonwealth is worth someone getting injured or killed over. For example, if you allow hunting from tree stands, consider having a rule requiring a safety belt. Make all of your hunters hold a valid hunter safety card, regardless of their age."

Washington

Species: mule deer, black-tailed deer and whitetail deer

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 26,537 total deer

Overall outlook: "Population trends based on available annual monitoring data are generally stable throughout the state, though the harvest in 2017 was lower than the 10-year average," said Sara Hansen, statewide deer specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Hansen encouraged hunters to look at the department's hunting prospects reports.

“Northeastern Washington (District 1) is the most productive area in the state for white-tailed deer,” she said. “Chelan and Okanogan counties remain the most productive areas for mule deer. Black-tailed deer are ubiquitous throughout the western third of the state.”

Quick tip: "Before heading afield, be sure to check for notices about burn bans or any access restrictions that may be in place due to wildfires or fire danger in Washington," Hansen said.

Washington Season dates/bag limits](https://www.wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/)

West Virginia

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 480,000 to 500,000

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 108,160

Overall outlook: Christopher W. Ryan, supervisor of game management services with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said prospects look good, as the state's overall deer population trend is steady, and many units are closer to management goals. "There is a good relative abundance of older age-class bucks, as hunters continue to pass younger animals," he said. "In addition, we still have four counties that are bow-only, with an annual buck limit of one, and five wildlife management areas with antler restrictions and an annual antlered bag limit of one. Hunters should note that in a number of counties, they must harvest an antlerless deer before they harvest an antlered deer across any season."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Ryan said most of the state should produce good results for bucks. The national forests in West Virginia's mountainous counties hold the lowest populations.

Quick tip: "It's going to be a very good mast year across much of the state," Ryan said. "Hunters need to lace up their boots and do some scouting to find good sources of food. Start with white oak first."

Wisconsin

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: no estimate

Fall 2017-'18 harvest: 320,039

Overall outlook: As always, Wisconsin hunters can expect a good year for numbers of deer and quality bucks. "We continue to see an abundance (overabundance in many counties) of deer in the farmland zone, with lots of antlerless tags," said Kevin Wallenfang, big-game ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Wisconsin continues to produce large numbers of trophy bucks, including several 200-plus-inch in deer in 2017. Northern forest counties have recovered nicely after three very mild winters and should see more adult bucks in the harvest this year. We had a return to 'real' winters in some areas (centered on Iron County, as usual) and getting more moderate to mild as you moved out from there. Iron County is the only buck-only county in the state this year, while all other counties have returned to offering an antlerless harvest opportunity."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: As mentioned, Wisconsin's farmland zones have the highest deer populations and the most antlerless tags. "Several counties are offering multiple antlerless tags in an attempt to reduce deer numbers," Wallenfang said.

Quick tip: "Wisconsin is well known for offering lots of hunting opportunity, and that just continues to grow," Wallenfang said. "Multiple counties are offering special late antlerless hunts around the Christmas holiday. Plus new this year, 12 counties have extended the archery/crossbow season to Jan. 31. We have an abundance of counties with these added hunting opportunities, and there is good late-season hunting on public lands if they just get out there and spend some time and effort to plan and scout."

female hunter holding rifle kneeling next to a buck
Senior editor Natalie Krebs with a mature Wyoming whitetail.Natalie Krebs

Wyoming

Species: mule deer and whitetail deer

Estimated population: 390,000 mule deer, 92,000 whitetails

Fall 2017-18 harvest: 27,134 mule deer, 17,956 whitetails

Overall outlook: "Overall, deer populations have been increasing lately, with good numbers of bucks," said Grant Frost, senior wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "Mature bucks should be found in better numbers than the recent past."

Potential Fall 2018 hotspots: Frost said the western one-third of the state is still recovering from the severe winter of 2016-17, but the rest of Wyoming has experienced good reproduction and survival the past few years.

Quick tip: "Almost all public lands provide deer hunting opportunities to one degree or another," Frost said.