Deer Hunting Forecast 2019

Outdoor Life’s state-by-state analysis of your deer hunting prospects for this fall

a whitetail buck standing in a field
Whitetail biologists from around the country are predicting a very good deer season this fall.brm1949/depositphotos.com

Hunters often fall into the trap of longing for the good old days, when, according to legend or conventional wisdom, things were supposedly better.

One look at America’s current deer hunting scene makes you realize we’re experiencing some pretty good days right now. Coast to coast and border to border, opportunities abound, from tracking big-woods whitetails in the Northeast, glassing for ghost-like mule deer in the Southwest, shivering on a treestand while attempting to ambush a thick-necked Midwest brute, and more.

What's even better is that those adventures are only weeks away. You’ve been shooting your bow, right? Got your cameras set up and shooting lanes cut?

Don’t wait. Get ready. Get out there. Meanwhile, here’s our 2019-’20 deer season guide to get you started.

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

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming


ALABAMA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: about 1.25 million

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: Not available, but harvests have generally decreased through much of the state the past few seasons.

Overall Outlook: Chris Cook, the Deer Program Coordinator with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, says prospects for 2019-'20 look good.

“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,” he says. “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 them to be should do well.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Deer are abundant throughout Alabama, says Cook, and large bucks can come from any area. He added that Barbour Wildlife Management Area is probably the state's best overall public spot, with the prime hunting for mature bucks occurring in January, before and during the peak of breeding. Black Warrior WMA offers a great chance to kill a big buck early in the season—mid- to late November—as deer there rut much earlier than in other parts of the state.

Quick Tip: "Most of Alabama's wildlife management areas are lightly hunted for deer, especially during archery season," says Cook. "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; some mule deer have been sighted from the eastern interior to northern southeastern Alaska.

Estimated Population: Not available. Blacktail populations fluctuate considerably due to winter severity. Charlotte Westing, Prince William Sound area Wildlife Biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said blacktail numbers in her area have recovered to moderately high levels after a severe winter in 2011-'12.

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: unavailable

Overall Outlook: Westing said current deer populations look average. "Mild winters may lessen the frequency of snow-related concentrations of deer on beaches, which can result in a high harvest," she said.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Much of Unit 6D is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, so there's ample opportunity for public hunting.

Quick Tip: "Early in the season, be prepared to hike into the alpine," says Westing. "In recent years, snow has been arriving late, which means success remains dependent on getting up in the alpine rather than glassing the beach."


ARIZONA

Species: Mule deer and Coues deer

Estimated Population: About 85,000 Coues deer and 105,000 mule deer

Fall 2018-'19 harvest: About 9,500 Coues bucks; about 9,000 muley bucks and 360 antlerless mule deer

Overall Outlook: "Arizona is currently in a severe drought through the majority of the state, thus fawn recruitment and general overall nutrition have decreased within the past several years," says Dustin Darveau, a Terrestrial Wildlife Specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "Last year's above-average precipitation in much of the state should help many deer populations rebound slightly. However, on average, most deer populations are remaining stable."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Darveau says about 70 percent of Arizona is public land (state or federal) with good deer habitat, so people receiving permits through the draw system have plenty of solid options. Look for specific information on the department's website under the "Where to Hunt" section.

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


ARKANSAS

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: 1 million

Fall 2018-'19 harvest: 210,381

Overall Outlook: Ralph Meeker, Deer Program Coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, says general deer population trends are relatively stable or increasing slightly. According to recent data collected from 3,147 harvested bucks, 68 percent were 3.5 or older.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "Despite the discovery of chronic wasting disease in 2016, the Ozarks region still looks promising with regard to deer numbers and quality," says Meeker. "Due to recent flooding, fawn survival along the Arkansas River Valley, White River, and Mississippi River was impacted, and localized deer populations in Arkansas County just west of the Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge may have been impacted due to a second consecutive year of southern buffalo gnat outbreaks."

Meeker added that public-land hunters should investigate Mike Freeze Wattensaw Wildlife Management Area or Freddie Black Choctaw Island Wildlife Management Area Deer Research Area’s East Unit.

Quick Tip: "Success favors the prepared, especially if hunting public ground," says Meeker.


CALIFORNIA

Species: Mule deer and Columbian black-tailed deer

Estimated Population: 459,450

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 29,438

Overall Outlook: Nathan Graveline, Deer, Elk, and Pronghorn Program Supervisor with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said deer populations, recruitment, and age-class structure can vary substantially in California, which is large and has diverse habitats.

“We are still experiencing the effects of the most severe drought on record,” he says. “The impacts to deer populations from massive wildfires and unprecedented tree mortality are not fully known. We are currently ramping up our deer population assessments. With data collected from these assessments and ongoing monitoring, we hope to be able to model population response to our changing landscape.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Graveline says hunters in D zones should look for burn scars on U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management properties. The northern A zone and southern B zones have also seen recent fire activity.

“Another option is recent logging activity due to fire or drought,” he says. “The removal of overstory trees allows browse species to grow, attracting deer from nearby dense forest.”

Quick Tip: Backcountry hunting is becoming more popular, and Graveline says it still provides great opportunity to experience wilderness areas. He encourages hunters to try an early-season wilderness archery hunt. Bow-only tags are sold over the counter and can be used throughout much of California.

a mule deer buck on a sunny mountainside
A trophy muley on a mountainside meadow.twildlife/depositphotos.com


COLORADO

Species: Mule deer and whitetail deer

Estimated Population: not available

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 38,303

Overall Outlook: Colorado continues to be one of the West's premier mule deer destinations. Whitetail herds, located primarily in eastern Colorado, were doing very well as of 2018. Mature bucks are abundant across the western region.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Most of the state's quality deer hunting units are west of the continental divide, but hunters can find good opportunities throughout Colorado.


CONNECTICUT

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: No current estimate

Fall 2018-'19 harvest: About 11,500

Overall outlook: Howard Kilpatrick, Deer Program Biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, says the state has a stable deer population with good numbers of older-age-class bucks.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Deer numbers are highest in the Fairfield County area of southwestern Connecticut, Kilpatrick says. Public-land hunters should focus on state-owned, bow-only areas. Firearms hunters should consider larger state forests and strive to access remote areas.

Quick Tip: "If acorns are abundant in the area you hunt, then hunt the oak forest," Kilpatrick says. "If acorns are scarce or absent, focus on fields and other green openings."

DELAWARE

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: about 40,000

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 14,883

Overall Outlook: Eric Ness, A Deer Biologist with the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, says the state's whitetail population is currently higher than management goals.

“To meet the population objective, Delaware has one of the longest (five months) archery seasons, with firearms seasons spread throughout that timeframe,” he says.

“Delaware hunters are limited to two antlered deer, one of which must have an outside antler spread of at least 15 inches. This harvest regime provides hunters with an opportunity to harvest a buck but not put too much pressure on the younger age classes, thus allowing an adequate number of bucks to reach older ages.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "The deer density is greatest in Delaware's northernmost county, New Castle," says Ness. "However, this is also Delaware's most developed county, so access can be limited. On the southern end of Delaware, in Sussex County, you will find a rural area with interspersed agriculture fields and forested habitats."

Quick Tip: Delaware's archery season opens September 1, so hunters have a good chance to take a buck in velvet, says Ness.

“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,” he says. “For the folks who prefer to hunt with a firearm, our primary firearms season occurs in mid-November, which is during the peak of the rut and can obviously provide some great action from the stand.”


FLORIDA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: Unavailable

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: About 74,974

Overall Outlook: Cory Morea, Deer Management Program Coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, says statewide population levels are stable. Data from 2018-'19 indicated that 14 percent of bucks harvested on Florida's wildlife management areas were 1.5 years old. About 44 percent were 2.5 and 42 percent were 3.5 or older.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "The central and north-central parts of the state are good, as well as the northwestern region within Deer Management Unit D2," says Morea. "Access and habitat at some areas in northwestern Florida are still impacted due to downed trees from Hurricane Michael."

Morea says that public-land hunters should check into opportunities at these wildlife management areas, many of which offer quota hunts that require special permits: The Hatchineha Unit of the Everglades Headwaters WMA in the Southwest Region; Joe Budd and the Hutton Unit of Blackwater in the Northwest Region; JW Corbett and Dinner Island Ranch in the South Region; Twin Rivers and Camp Blanding in the North-Central Region; and Ocala, Three Lakes, Bull Creek, Guana River and Half Moon in the Northeast Region.

Quick Tip: "Florida can be challenging to hunt, especially on public land, so patience and persistence are key," says Morea. "Take time to scout, and get off the beaten path. Consider using knee-high waterproof boots, breathable mesh camo clothing, and insect repellent."


GEORGIA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: About 1.2 million

Fall 2018-'19 harvest: 141,295 bucks and 179,556 does (320,851 total)

Overall Outlook: "Georgia's deer population has been stable and at a healthy level for the past several years," says Charlie Killmaster, a State Deer Biologist with Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division. "Bucks 3.5 years old and older make up about 35 percent of our antlered buck harvest."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "Our Piedmont region has always been the deer factory for the state, but I expect that deep southwestern Georgia will see an increase in deer abundance," says Killmaster. "The aftermath of Hurricane Michael kept a lot of folks from hunting in that area, and the harvest was down substantially in the hardest-hit counties as a result. Our high-elevation areas of northern Georgia continue to suffer low deer densities. We've made some regulation changes for the upcoming season to try to help the situation."

Quick Tip: Georgia has several new Voluntary Public Access program lands throughout the state.

“Spend as much time in the woods as you can,” Killmaster says. “Deer hunting is as much about patience as it is skill.”


IDAHO

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated Population: About 280,000 mule deer and 200,000 whitetails

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 26,977 mule deer, 25,132 whitetails

Overall Outlook: Daryl R. Meints, Deer and Elk Coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, says, overwinter fawn survival has been below average for two of the past three years, but hunters can still find older-age-class bucks throughout the state.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Meints says the best whitetail opportunities are in northern Idaho in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions. The best mule deer hunting occurs in the southern two-thirds of the state.

“South-central Idaho has experienced the best survival over the last few years, while mortality has been above average in the Weiser/McCall areas due to heavy snowpack,” he says.

Quick Tip: Meints encouraged hunters to go afield during midweek and to focus on drainages with no roads or trails.

hunter kneeling in a field next to a mature Midwest buck
Bart Landsverk with a mature Midwest buck.Bart Landsverk


ILLINOIS

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: No estimate

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: About 151,709

Overall Outlook: "The statewide deer population is stable to slightly increasing," says Tom Micetich, a retired Deer Project Manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. "The proportion of older-age-class bucks in the harvest has been improving since recovery from the EHD outbreak of 2012 and 2013."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Hunters interested in areas with high deer numbers should check into counties included in Illinois' late-winter antlerless-only season. Counties will be announced in October. For public land, he encouraged hunters to investigate large state and federal properties and review harvest figures from those areas.

Quick Tip: "Don't underestimate the potential of a weekday hunt before or after work," says Micetich. "In the 2018-2019 Illinois archery deer season, 60 percent of the harvest occurred between Monday and Friday."


INDIANA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: No estimate

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 111,251

Overall Outlook: Joe Caudell, State Deer Biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, says the state has a thriving deer population, with buck-to-doe ratios in most areas of 1-to-1.5 to 1-to-2. Statewide, about 60 percent of bucks harvested are 2.5 or older.

Potential Fall 2019 hotspots: "As always, the northern region of Indiana produces the greatest number of trophy bucks when compared with the amount of deer habitat, while the southern region produces a larger total number," says Caudell. "Boone and Crockett scores tend to be higher in the northern portion of the state due to the high relative amount of crops compared to the size of the deer population in those areas."

Public-land hunters might check out Indiana State Forest lands in the southern portion of the state, as those are often underused, says Caudell. In the northern part of Indiana, look for properties that border lots of agricultural land for larger bucks, he says.

Quick tip: Caudell adds that Indiana's annual deer report can help hunters better understand harvest numbers on a local scale: in.gov/dnr/fishwild/9812.htm.


IOWA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: Unavailable

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 107,857

Overall Outlook: "Statewide, our deer population is stable to slightly increasing based on data from the past harvest season," says Tyler Harms, Wildlife Biometrician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. "However, we received 39.1 inches of snowfall last winter, which is approximately 13.9 inches above normal, and the combination of warm and cold spells produced some pretty unfavorable conditions for deer and other wildlife in the state. In February alone, we received 23 inches of snow, which is only about 3 inches below the long-term average of total snowfall from December through March. I received some reports from individuals of deer found dead likely due to winter conditions. While we did see a slight increase in the total number of deer observed on our annual spring spotlight survey between 2018 and 2019, that is only one of many indices we use to monitor deer populations, and doesn't include potential differences in production between last year and this year."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Harms says buck harvests are highest in the northeastern and south-central portions of Iowa. Deer populations in northwestern Iowa remain lower than goals, so the state has implemented regulations to reduce antlerless harvests there.

“Unfortunately, I can't recommend a single public location that is particularly noteworthy for deer hunting, but I would encourage hunters to seek areas that contain a diversity of cover types (that is, woodland areas with grasslands or food nearby),” he says. “As many hunters know, deer will utilize a variety of cover types depending on weather patterns, available food, and many other factors, so having these different cover types available will increase your probability of seeing deer.”

Quick Tip: Harms says Iowa is continuing its chronic wasting disease surveillance effort this year, and he encouraged hunters to submit deer for sampling, especially in Allamakee, Clayton, Dubuque, and Wayne counties, where CWD has been detected in wild deer.


KANSAS

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

Estimated Population: 622,280 whitetails (post-hunt population), 51,790 mule deer (post-hunt)

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 79,958 whitetails, 1,811 mule deer

Overall Outlook: Levi Jaster, Big-game Program Coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, says whitetail populations are stable and potentially increasing slightly. Southeastern Kansas has seen an increase in numbers, but populations in the northwestern part of the state have experienced minor declines. Mule deer numbers are stable, but population increases in deer management units 1 and 2 are overshadowing severe declines in other units. Both species have stable buck-to-doe and yearling buck-to-adult buck ratios.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Jaster says southeastern Kansas deer management units 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 will have strong whitetail numbers, For mule deer, Unit 1 is the best option. Whitetails are down somewhat in northwestern units 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Mule deer numbers are down in all units except 1 and 2.

“Kansas has very little public land, and most is heavily used, but there are some overlooked gems on Walk-In Hunting Access properties that are publicly accessible for hunting,” he says.

Quick Tip: "Heavy spring and early summer precipitation may change areas deer utilize this year," says Jaster. "Areas may still be flooded this fall, and many food sources could be very abundant. You may need to try something different this season."


KENTUCKY

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: Unavailable

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 145,753

Overall Outlook: "The overall outlook for the upcoming season looks good for our deer hunters," says Kyle Sams, Deer Program Biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. "The statewide estimate shows a stable to slightly increasing population. Kentucky hunters seem to do a good job of letting yearling males walk while also taking female deer. The female portion of our harvest is nearly 50 percent every year."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Sams says the entire state produces good dear, but the Bluegrass, Purchase, and Green River regions have higher deer densities, which boosts hunter success. The Southeast and Northeast regions experienced a significant EHD outbreak in Summer 2017, and numbers in some of those areas are still rebounding. Notable public-land opportunities include the Kentucky River, Big Rivers, and Livingston County Wildlife Management Areas. The former two properties have open and quota hunting.

Quick Tip: The Kentucky DFW website has detailed information on state wildlife management areas.


LOUISIANA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: 500,000 (minimum pre-hunt estimate)

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: Final reports aren't in, but biologists expect the 2018-'19 harvest to be about 130,000 to 140,000 deer.

Overall Outlook: Johnathan Bordelon, Deer Program Manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, says the state's harvest and population have been stable in recent years. However, Louisiana continues to be affected by a prolonged Mississippi River flood, which began in 2018, and some of the best deer areas in the state have been inundated.

“Displaced deer will be congregated on refuge habitat outside of the flood waters which leads to higher deer densities on available lands along with increased predation, disease, and parasite transmission, as well as increased competition for remaining food resources. As a result, we are anticipating lower recruitment in 2019 along with below average deer condition for parts of Louisiana.”

Elsewhere in the state, Bordelon expects to see average recruitment and development.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "River flood plains will be down, but the pine-dominated habitats of Louisiana should be average to above average based on current conditions," Bordelon says. "The western half of the state will be most productive since it was spared from the bulk of flooding, with a few exceptions."

Bordelon adds that public wildlife management areas in western Louisiana offer lots of acreage with little hunting competition. Fort Polk, Peason Ridge, Clear Creek, and West Bay cover 50,000 to 105,000 acres each.

Quick Tip: "Louisiana has a wide range of peak breeding dates across the state," Bordelon says. "Learn the peaks of breeding for the area you are hunting to increase your chances of success."


MAINE

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: more than 250,000

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 32,451

Overall Outlook: Nathan R. Bieber, Deer Specialist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, says deer populations are stable or increasing in southern, central, and much of coastal Maine. In northern Maine and the western mountains, deer populations are more cyclic and responsive to severe winter conditions, so recent severe winters mean numbers in those areas will be down.

“Statewide, yearling male frequency in the deer harvest was about 40 percent in 2018, down from 49 percent statewide in 2017,” he says. “This means that statewide, around 60 percent of harvested bucks were two-plus years old in 2018.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Bieber says Maine will offer additional antlerless harvest opportunities in 2019 for two new deer management subunits in the southwestern corner of Wildlife Management District 25 and the center of District 26.

“Much of Maine’s north woods are available for public hunting if you like to track or stalk deer in big terrain,” he says. “For southern or central Maine, Gene Letourneau (Frye Mountain) Wildlife Management Area offers over 5,000 acres of upland forest and fields.”

Quick Tip: "Maine's unique tradition of open land access is dependent on good land stewardship and communication by land users, so if you plan to hunt private lands, asking permission and taking care of the lands that you use will get you far and serve the hunting community well," says Bieber.


MARYLAND

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: 207,000

Fall 2018-’19 Harvest: 31,308 antlered, 46,074 antlerless (77,382 total)

Overall Outlook: Brian Eyler, Deer Project Leader with Maryland Department of Natural Resources, says the state's deer population remains stable and well balanced. More than 50 percent of bucks harvested are 2.5 or older.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County on Maryland's Eastern Shore offer great deer hunting opportunities, and hunters can try their hand at sika deer hunting along with whitetails," Eyler says.

Quick Tip: "Research the area you plan to hunt, and place stands so that you can take advantage of whatever wind conditions exist for the day," says Eyler. "Look for natural deer foods (mast), and don't rely on bait."


MASSACHUSETTS

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: More than 100,000

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 14,551

Overall Outlook: "Deer numbers are at goal levels that are well-balanced with the forest in most of the state—in the 12- to 18-deer-per-square mile range— especially where there is adequate hunting access," says David Stainbrook, Deer and Moose Project Coordinator with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "Deer numbers tend to be much higher in the eastern part of the state, where hunting access is limited. We have plenty of mature bucks in the population statewide."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "You can find quality deer anywhere in the state, but numbers are highest in the eastern part of the state, where hunting access is limited," says Stainbrook. "A few areas in the northwestern and north-central part of the state have deer numbers below goal levels, but that is mostly driven by historically poor soils and habitat.

Stainbrook says that promising public spots include Mount Greylock, Mount Tom, Mount Toby, and Wachusett Reservoir; East Mountain, Maple Hill, Montague, and Leyden wildlife management areas; and Wendell, Upton, Taconic Trail, and Mount Washington state forests.

Quick Tip: "Deer density is very patchy on the landscape, and hunters tend to stay close to parking areas, so the best advice I can give is to hike in over a half-mile from roads and parking areas, and focus on seasonal food and cover," says Stainbrook.


MICHIGAN

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2018-'19 harvest: About 360,666 (211,754 bucks, 148,912 antlerless)

Overall Outlook: Ashley Autenrieth, Deer Program Biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, says the preliminary 2019 outlook appears similar to that of 2018.

“It’s still very early, so we are basing this off of how this winter and spring were,” she says. “While there were heavy snow levels in the northern regions this year, the snow came late and left on time, which appears to have made for good deer survival this year. A healthy fawn crop is expected, and many anecdotal observations have already been reported. While the wet spring conditions experienced may not contribute negatively to deer condition so long as summer is productive, we are preparing for late crop harvests this year, which may impact hunting season success.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "Areas of the Upper Peninsula that had over 4 feet of snow this winter may have lower deer numbers, but keep in mind, these areas have had historically low deer numbers as well," says Autenrieth. "Areas of high-quality habitat should have high deer numbers as well. This includes much of southern Michigan and areas of the north that have high mast production—both hard and soft—and high-quality soils."

Autenrieth adds that Michigan has ample public land, and a new interactive scouting tool—MiHunt@mi.gov/mihunt—can help people explore properties before going there.

Quick Tip: "Nothing replaces good scouting of potential hunting locations," says Autenrieth. "If you're able to get out and see the landscape, find those deer trails and identify potential hunting spots, you'll be that much closer to a successful hunting experience, and you'll have the added benefit of getting outside to enjoy all that Michigan has to offer."


MINNESOTA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: No estimate

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 188,706

Overall Outlook: Barbara Keller, Big-game Program Supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, says 2019 hunting prospects look good, as most deer population trajectories are stable or increasing slightly. The 2018 harvest varied; some regions experienced increased harvest, but others saw decreased harvest.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "The highest deer densities exist in the southeastern part of the state, and (deer numbers) are generally high in central Minnesota as well," says Keller. "These areas provide very good opportunities to harvest deer. Elsewhere, densities are more variable. The winter of 2018 produced a very deep snowpack for an extended period, which may have negatively impacted deer populations in some areas of the state, especially the northeast."

Hunters might want to check out Camp Ripley, a federal property that offers several special hunts and good odds of being selected.

Quick Tip: Keller says that Minnesota has new rules in areas affected by CWD, and hunters should read the regulations booklet to learn if those apply to their areas.


MISSISSIPPI

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: Not available

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: not available

Overall Outlook: As of 2018, Mississippi's deer harvest had been trending downward for eight years. However, about 75 percent of harvested bucks were 3.5 or older.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: The Delta region and adjacent hills produce some of the state's largest deer.

missouri hunter kneeling beside buck in a beanfield
A Missouri beanfield buck taken during muzzleloader season.Steve Stoltz


MISSOURI

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: 1.4 million

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 290,224

Overall Outlook: Jason Isabelle, Cervid Program Supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation, says deer numbers are increasing throughout much of the state, and 2019 should be a good season.

“In southern Missouri, deer numbers have been slowly but steadily increasing over the years as a result of more conservative hunting regulations designed to allow the population to increase to desirable levels,” he says. “Across most of northern Missouri, deer numbers have continued to rebound from a severe hemorrhagic disease outbreak that occurred in 2012, and current population levels in most places are comparable to pre-2012 numbers. The fertile soils and diverse landscape of northern Missouri typically result in the region being more able to produce larger-antlered bucks than most southern Missouri counties. An antler-point restriction exists in most central and northern Missouri counties, which greatly reduces the number of yearling bucks that are harvested, resulting in an older age-structure of bucks than in counties where the APR does not exist. That being said, mature bucks are harvested each year all across the state.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Isabelle says hunting should be good throughout the state, but he warns that deer numbers in extreme northwestern Missouri—Andrew, Atchison, Holt, and Nodaway counties—remain low from the 2012 EHD outbreak.

Missouri has ample public land. Regulations vary on some state lands, and the Department of Conservation also offers managed deer hunts.

Quick Tip: "To be consistently successful at harvesting deer, do your homework, hunt smart and hunt hard," says Isabelle. "Spend time scouting and practicing with your hunting method, always play the wind, ensure your approach to and from your stand minimizes alerting deer, and put in as much time as you can during the season."


MONTANA

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated Population: 334,965 mule deer, 215,268 whitetails

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 97,156 total (52,242 mule deer, 44,914 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," says John Vore, Game-management Bureau Chief with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "There are good numbers of bucks three years old and older, especially in secure habitat."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Vore says FWP Region 1 in the northwestern part of the state, which is primarily whitetail country, experienced some tough weather the past two winters, so deer populations there are down. Eastern Montana and the Missouri breaks offer good public-land deer hunting.

Quick Tip: Vore encouraged hunters to learn about new CWD updates and regulations on the department's website.


NEBRASKA

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated Population: No estimate

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 58,348 (11,779 mule deer, 46,569 whitetails)

Overall Outlook:** Luke Meduna, Wildlife Biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, says prospects look solid.

“Populations in most management units are stable, and the rest are trending in the direction of desired management,” he says. “Units with low numbers are slowly increasing, and units with crop damage issues should be trending downward with the increased permits and harvest.

“Statewide, buck age structure for both mule deer and whitetails are at all-time highs; 52 percent of harvested mule deer bucks and 37 percent of harvested whitetail bucks were aged 3 or older at our check stations in 2018. This is up from about 45 percent and 35 percent in 2013 and about 20 percent for both species in 2003.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "We had a very difficult winter and spring in 2019, so a lot of the state is in a wait-and-see mode for this upcoming year," says Meduna. "We saw very little immediate impacts from the flooding and weather in terms of mortality, so we are optimistic, but the impacts on habitat, fawn production, deer distribution, and overall health won't be fully realized for a while. However, the river corridors will continue to be strong areas for whitetails, and the Sandhills and southwestern Nebraska will continue being good areas for mule deer."

Meduna added that 97 percent of Nebraska’s land is privately owned, but most large public properties hold good numbers of deer, including some quality bucks. Also, he says hunters shouldn’t overlook smaller public properties, as they receive less pressure.

Quick Tip: "Most hunters hunt too much and scout too little," Meduna says.


NEVADA

Species: Mule deer

Estimated Population: 93,000

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 8,018

Overall Outlook: "(Nevada experienced) poor recruitment of fawns in the northern portion of the state for 2019, so deer numbers will be down this fall," says Cody Schroeder, Mule Deer Staff Specialist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. "We received a tremendous amount of precipitation during winter and spring, so outlook for antler growth should be outstanding."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Schroeder says Lincoln County is always promising. Deer populations and buck quality are down in northern Washoe County.

The state has already issued tags for 2019, but for future years, hunters should consider applying for Ruby Mountain Wilderness (hunt units 101 and 102) and the Toiyabe Range (hunt units 171 through 173), as those areas have relatively high deer numbers and good-quality bucks.

Quick Tip: "Nevada is very arid and wide-open country, so bring your best optics, and glass early and often near water to find feeding or bedded bucks," says Schroeder.


NEW HAMPSHIRE

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: 100,000

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 14,113 (a record 8,029 bucks, 6,084 antlerless)

Overall Outlook: Dan Bergeron, Deer Project Leader with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, says hunters should expect another good season.

“Winter severity in the northern half of the state was above average, but deer appeared to make it through fairly well, and biologists did not document much mortality during annual deer-yard surveys,” he says. “But populations levels were up in many areas, and deer should recover quickly. Bucks 2.5-plus-years-old and more continue to comprise 50 percent or more of New Hampshire’s adult buck harvest.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Bergeron says New Hampshire has increased opportunity in 11 of the state's 20 wildlife management units. Much of the state has public access to land.

Quick Tip: "If you want to be successful in New Hampshire, you have to put in the time," Bergeron says. "Put more emphasis on time afield and less on new gadgets."


NEW JERSEY

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: 133,453

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 50,861

Overall Outlook: Carole Stanko, Chief of the Bureau of Wildlife Management for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, says prospects look promising, as deer harvests have been stable or increasing throughout most of the state.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Search New Jersey's deer regulation sets online to see which units have the highest deer densities (njfishandwildlife.com/pdf/2018/regsets18-19.pdf ). Stanko says hunters should investigate wildlife management areas in regulation sets 6, 7, and 8.

Quick Tip: "Since almost 80 percent of New Jersey's land is in private ownership, get out there and make friends with landowners to open up properties to hunting," Stanko says.


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 2018-'19 Harvest: 10,568 bucks, 133 does (10,701 total)

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," says Orrin Duvuvuei, Deer and Pronghorn Biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. "Abundant precipitation in recent years has been good for deer throughout New Mexico. The precipitation, coupled with recent beneficial wildfires, has improved habitat conditions in many areas throughout New Mexico. 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 classes, can be found in most units. 2019 has been a great year for precipitation so far, which should (bode) well for fawn survival and antler growth. The increased rain has improved deer body condition, which will help as lactating does nurse their fawns and raise them to independence."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Duvuvuei says mule deer populations in northern New Mexico are steadily increasing in response to optimal moisture conditions and recent wildfires that created beneficial deer habitat. Mule deer herds in the Jemez Mountains and Pecos area of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are showing signs of rapid growth in recent years, and hunters take some big bucks every year in those spots. The Sand Hills country in east-central New Mexico has a healthy mule deer population and consistently produces larger-than-average bucks. Hunters kill several Boone and Crockett-class bucks each year in the north-central part of the state in game management units 2B, 2C, and 4. Mule deer populations in those units are migratory, spending summers in the high country of Colorado and wintering in lower elevations in New Mexico.

“The Jemez Mountains in the Santa Fe National Forest are a great spot to hunt mule deer right now,” he says. “Recent habitat work and wildfires have greatly improved forage conditions and hiding cover for deer in this area. As a result, overall deer numbers are improving.”

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

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: Not available

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 227,787

Overall Outlook: New York remains one of the Northeast's top deer hunting states. Almost 60 percent of bucks harvested in 2018 were 2.5 or older.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Central and western New York and suburban areas are typically productive.


NORTH CAROLINA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: 1 million

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 143,529

Overall Outlook: Jonathan Shaw, State Deer Biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, says deer populations are declining in the state's Northeastern and Southeastern zones, stable in the Central and Northwestern zones, and increasing in the Western Zone.

“We implemented rule changes, including a statewide antlered bag limit of two and antlerless bag limit of four, in 2018-2019 to intentionally reduce harvest, with the goal of stabilizing deer numbers and improving the sex ratio and age structure of the herd,” he says. “Additionally, in the Western Zone, the timing of doe harvest was shifted toward the opening of the season, which has numerous biological benefits for the herd. Changes in the structure and condition of the herd take years, but early results are encouraging and indicate we’re heading in the right direction.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Shaw says the foothills and northern Piedmont (areas in the Northwestern and Central zones) are generally the best for large-antlered deer.

Quick Tip: "Take a kid with you," Shaw says. "Keep it fun, and be safe."


NORTH DAKOTA

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated Population: Not available

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: Not available

Overall Outlook: Bill Jensen, a Big-game Biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, says the state is seeing mixed population trends, but numbers are generally increasing.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Populations south and west of the Missouri River have increased.

Quick Tip: Jensen encouraged hunters to contact landowners well before the season. Also, check out the Private Land Open to Sportsmen guide on the department's website.


OHIO

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: No estimate

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 172,049

Overall Outlook: "Deer populations, hunter satisfaction metrics, and proportion of mature bucks in the harvest continue ticking upward across much of the Buckeye State," says Michael J. Tonkovich, Deer Program Administrator with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. "The 2019-'20 season should be a memorable one."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "The public-land harvest last year strongly suggests that the regulations imposed in 2018-'19 [modifications to the antlerless harvest after the state's week-long firearms season] protected a large portion of the antlerless population," Tonkovich says. "Naturally, this should translate to a few more deer on our public lands this fall. Although designed to protect antlerless deer and ultimately encourage population growth, antlered bucks may have been a beneficiary. Anecdotes suggest that many hunters may have been disinclined to buck-hunt only after the statewide gun season. We're looking for great things on our public lands this fall."

Quick Tip: Tonkovich says hunters should be excited to hunt the state's public lands. "Explore one of Ohio's public hunting areas on a Tuesday," he says. "You'll be surprised by what you see and, more importantly, what you don't see."


OKLAHOMA

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated Population: Not available

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: Not available

Overall Outlook: Dallas Barber, a Big-game Biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, says whitetail and mule deer populations are trending upward. During the past five years, biologists have seen tremendous improvement in the overall age structure of bucks harvested, which Barber attributes to the state's motto: "Hunters in the know let young bucks grow."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Barber says Oklahoma has great public-land opportunities statewide. Popular wildlife management areas include Packsaddle in western Oklahoma, Kaw in the north-central part of the state and Three Rivers in southeastern Oklahoma.

Quick Tip: "To be successful, be it on public or private lands, hunters must do their homework, patterning deer in the areas that they hunt," Barber says. "If you can put yourself in the path of that animal between food sources and bedding areas, your chances of filling your tags go up exponentially."


OREGON

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

Estimated Population: Not available

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: Not available

Overall Outlook: Justin Dion, Assistant Wildlife Biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's game program, says black-tailed and whitetail deer numbers are relatively stable. Mule deer were down in some areas since severe winters in 2016-'17 and 2017-'18. Muley populations have decreased slightly from 2017 across their range, with about 60 percent of mule deer units showing declines in estimated population numbers. Hunters can find mature bucks in all areas.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Dion says 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.

“There are huge amounts of public land opportunities across the state,” he says. “As with all public land, success depends largely on doing your research on the area and committing to covering as much ground as possible during your hunt. Our main recommendation to hunters looking to be successful on public lands is to put in the time scouting and commit to hunting as far from the access roads as possible. By doing so, you will be more familiar with your public-land resource and will avoid encountering the majority of other hunters in that area.”


PENNSYLVANIA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: No estimate

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 147,750 bucks, 226,940 antlerless (374,690 total)

Overall Outlook: Bret Wallingford, Deer and Elk Section Supervisor with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, says deer populations are stable or increasing in all units. Yearlings comprised only 36 percent of the 2018 buck harvest, so there should be many 2.5-year-old bucks on the landscape 2019.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots:** “All units will be similar to previous years, but localized abundance may vary depending on food and cover,” says Wallingford. “This is where scouting is important.”

**Wildlife management units 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 2D, 5B, 5C, and 5D have the best antler development and deer abundance. For hunters with time who are willing to put forth the effort, large state forests and state game lands in Unit 2G contain fewer deer but large, mature bucks.

“This is rugged country, and research shows hunters need to go more than 1,000 meters off the road into big forested country to encounter them,” he says.Also, Wallingford suggested that hunters check out Susquehannock State Forest in Potter County.

Quick Tip: "Spend time scouting, choose your stand based on two good reasons (trail, wind direction, food sources, or movement pattern), and maximize your time in the field, even if only at the end of the day," says Wallingford.

a hunter in orange kneeling behind a buck
A food plot strategy that paid off.Brian Lovett


RHODE ISLAND

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: No estimate

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 2,125

Overall Outlook: "Harvest trends have remained stable for the last three years, with a slight increase in harvest this year, which may be due to the new online licensing system allowing easier harvest reporting," says Dylan Ferreira, Whitetail Deer and New England Cottontail Project Leader with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife. "About 34 percent of bucks were 3.5 years old or older, which is up 10 percent from last year."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Public-land hunters might want to check out Arcadia Management Area, which typically has the highest deer harvest of any state wildlife management area.

He also added that Rhode Island has experienced significant forest defoliation—mostly oaks—from gypsy moths, causing tree die-offs. Acorn production might be lower than usual. However, oak thinning (salvaging dead oaks) across the state should lead to future growth.

Quick Tip: "Take advantage of the state-owned and cooperative (co-op) properties that are open to deer hunting," says Ferreira. "Some co-op properties are open to archery hunting only, so if you're not using archery equipment, this would be a good way to lengthen your season and increase your number of spots. All hunters can also use crossbows, as a disability permit is not required."


SOUTH CAROLINA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: 730,000

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 109,208 bucks, 85,778 antlerless (194,986 total)

Overall Outlook: Charles Ruth, Big-game Program Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, says prospects for 2019 look good.

“The harvest has increased each of the last two years, at least temporarily reversing what had been a general decline in harvest over the last decade,” he says. “New regulations related to tagging and limits on antlered deer went into effect in 2017, and although it will take a few more years, indications are that these regulations may increase the availability of older-age-class bucks.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Ruth says good counties for quality bucks include Aiken, Anderson, and Orangeburg. For high deer numbers, top counties include Bamberg, Anderson, and Hampton. Liberty Hill Wildlife Management Area, a relatively new property in Kershaw County, covers 8,000 acres in the piedmont and offers rolling terrain with abundant hardwoods. It has an antler restriction on bucks and is generally open (no drawing) during deer season.

Quick tip: "Most breeding in South Carolina occurs Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, with the peak being the last week in October and the first week in November," Ruth says.


SOUTH DAKOTA

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated Population: No estimate

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: Whitetails: about 27,700 bucks and 17,600 does (45,300 total); mule deer: about 6,200 bucks and 1,600 does (7,800 total).

Overall Outlook: Steve Griffin, Wildlife Biologist for South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, says general population trends for whitetails and muleys are increasing. Mule deer populations continue to respond to reduced antlerless harvests the past few seasons, and whitetail numbers are growing at a faster pace.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: "Most areas east of the Missouri River are showing positive growth rates for white-tailed deer populations," says Griffin. "The northeastern portions of South Dakota experienced severe weather this past winter, and whitetail deer populations experienced some winter mortality but are still expected to be good in 2019. Mule deer growth rates in the western half of South Dakota are showing positive population growth. Although specific areas cannot be identified as particularly promising, mule deer populations are increasing. Mule deer growth rates are down in the Black Hills deer analysis unit."

Quick Tip: "With most of South Dakota consisting of private land, it is very important to obtain permission before applying in South Dakota," says Griffin. "This permission before arriving in South Dakota will make your hunt more enjoyable and is vital in maintaining positive landowner/sportsman relationships."


TENNESSEE

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: not available

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 63,130 antlerless, 83,977 bucks (147,107 total)

Overall Outlook: James D. Kelly, Deer Management Program Leader for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, says hunters have a reason to be optimistic in 2019.

“Last year appeared to buck the trend—no pun intended—of multiple years of decline in reported harvest,” he says. “The percentage of bucks 2.5 years old or older in the harvest continues to increase and comprised nearly 67 percent of the buck harvest during the 2018-’19 season.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Kelly says Cheatham Wildlife Management Area is a popular property where hunters experience good success. It has quota and non-quota hunts. Tennessee wants to slow down increasing deer herds at Hiwassee and Yuchi refuges, so those areas would be good for hunters seeking antlerless deer. Yuchi has all quota hunts for which hunters must apply. Hiwassee has quota hunts but also has a nonquota archery hunt.

“Many hunters have expressed interest in traveling to western Tennessee this year to take advantage of several of the special opportunities in our newly established hunting unit, Unit CWD,” he says.

Quick Tip: "Wear plenty of tick spray," says Kelly. "Also, we would encourage public-land hunters to try one of the many hunting apps available to confidently explore the entire piece of property without worrying about going onto the neighbor's property."


TEXAS

Species: Whitetail and mule deer

Estimated Population: 5.4 million whitetails

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 883,564

Overall Outlook: Alan Cain, Whitetail Deer Program Leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, says the 2019-'20 season should be exceptional. The state has received lots of rain, which grows good habitat and healthy deer.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: The Edward's Plateau in central Texas has the highest deer population, with about 2.4 million animals. Hunter success in the region runs about 78 percent,with about 14.3 deer harvested per 1,000 acres in 2018. The Cross Timbers region in northern Texas has the second highest deer population. Population trends there indicate positive growth in all management units since 2005. The South Texas Plains region is known for producing quality bucks. Deer densities range from 15 to 39 deer per 1,000 acres, and population trends have shown slow but positive growth for the past four years.

Cain says hunters who receive a tag should investigate Chaparral, Matador, Kerr, Mason Mountain, and Gus Engeling wildlife management areas.

Quick Tip: "If it stays green into hunting season, the traditional deer feeder may be less productive, so hunters may have to spend more time afield in pursuit of deer or alter their hunting strategy," says Cain.


UTAH

Species: Mule deer

Estimated Population: 372,500

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 30,000

Overall Outlook: Utah experienced a "dry summer and hard winter this last year," says Covy Jones, Big-game Program Coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "We definitely lost some deer this last winter. On a bright note, the deer we lost were older, and we are set up to really be able to grow over the next couple of years. Also, with spring moisture, we should have some great antler growth this year."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Southwestern Utah has been great the past few years and should be productive again this season, Jones says. Southeastern Utah was most affected by the drought and could be down. The Pine Valley, Oquirrh-Stansbury, and Wasatch East deer units feature good hunting with lots of public access.

Quick Tip: "Don't be afraid to get away from a road and spend time behind glass," says Jones. "An hour watching a hillside is often more effective than three hours of hiking through brush."


VERMONT

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: 135,000

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 19,011

Overall Outlook: Nick Fortin, Deer Project Leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, says 2019 should be productive but not as good as the 2018 season.

“Deer numbers remain high in many areas, and the abundance of mature bucks should be good in those areas as well,” he says.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Fortin says deer numbers remain high in western Vermont, but numbers will be down in the central and northeastern portions of the state after a hard winter. Also, Fortin says, hunters should check out Birdseye Wildlife Management Area in Rutland County.

Quick Tip: "Locate food sources away from roads and other hunters," says Fortin.


VIRGINIA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: No estimate

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 191,947

Overall Outlook: Matt Knox, Deer Project Coordinator with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, says deer numbers are stable or might have increased slightly. The number of older-age-class bucks has increased steadily.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Knox provided a map that lists seven counties with the highest abundance of deer on private lands: Clarke, Loudoun, Rockingham, Amherst, Bedford, Craig, and Grayson.

Quick Tip: "Please support the Virginia Hunters for the Hungry program, do not feed the deer and, most importantly, be safe," says Knox.

Virginia Season Dates/Bag Limits](https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/hunting/regulations/)


WASHINGTON

Species: Mule deer, black-tailed deer, whitetails

Estimated Population: No estimate

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 27,846 (all deer)

Overall Outlook: "Population trends based on available annual monitoring data are generally stable throughout the state, though harvest has been lower than average during the last two years," says Sara Hansen, Statewide Deer Specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "This decline is likely associated in part with recent drought conditions, severe winters and temporary loss of prime winter habitat due to large wildfires experienced in some areas of the state."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Hansen says northeastern Washington (District 1) is the most productive area for white-tailed deer. Chelan and Okanogan counties remain the most productive areas for mule deer. Black-tailed deer are ubiquitous throughout the western third of the state. Hunters can look at hunting prospects reports at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/locations/prospects.

Quick Tip: "Before heading afield, please 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," says Hansen.


WEST VIRGINIA

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: 500,000

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 108,856

Overall Outlook: Christopher W. Ryan, Supervisor of Game Management Services with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, says 2019 prospects look very good.

“Populations are stable across the state, with most close to management objectives,” he says. “The number of older bucks is increasing as hunters pass up younger animals.”

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Ryan reports that four West Virginia counties—Logan, McDowell, Mingo, and Wyoming—only allow bowhunting. Any wildlife management area in those counties should be good for archers. Stonewall Jackson Wildlife Management Area is good for gun hunters.

Quick Tip: "Much of the harvest is tied to hard mast (primarily acorns)," says Ryan. "Hunters need to scout and know where acorns are abundant this year."

hunter holding up a wisconsin mule buck by the antlers
The author with a solid Wisconsin buck.Brian Lovett


WISCONSIN

Species: Whitetail

Estimated Population: About 1.8 million-plus

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 336,464

Overall Outlook: "The overall outlook is excellent," says Kevin Wallenfang, a Big-game Ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "For the first time in 10 years, we have antlerless hunting opportunity available in every deer management unit (that is, zero buck-only units). Any severe winter conditions we experienced didn't really settle in until late January, so we would expect overwinter survival and spring fawn production to be good. Herds continue to grow or be abundant in the farmland zones and offer the most hunting opportunity in terms of numbers and older-aged deer."

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Wallenfang says central and southern farmland counties have the highest deer numbers. Most of the land in those areas is privately owned, but hunters can find many good public properties. Some counties with high deer numbers and the best chance for public access include Columbia, Dane, Iowa, Marquette, Richland, Sauk, Waupaca, and Vernon. Those counties and others offer hunters one to six antlerless tags with their buck license.

“While some of the northern counties saw some harsh winter conditions, (deer) numbers have increased in recent years following a string of mild winters,” he says. “There is an abundance of big-woods hunting opportunities on public lands, so if low competition from other hunters is what you crave, you can find it in the north woods. Deer abundance tends to be higher in areas with some farmland mixed in with the forest habitat.”

Quick Tip: "Much of the state has experienced a wet growing season, and water levels may be higher than normal once the seasons roll around," says Wallenfang. "Otherwise, we've got an overabundance of deer in many areas. We need hunters to take a very active role of responsibility in managing our herd, especially with CWD spreading more across the state and prevalence rates increasing. Most farmland counties are offering multiple antlerless deer tags. Help manage the herd and take a doe or two when opportunity presents itself. The future of our deer herd and their habitat depends on it."


WYOMING

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated Population: 390,000 mule deer, 92,400 whitetails

Fall 2018-'19 Harvest: 27,134 mule deer, 17,956 whitetails

Overall Outlook: Grant Frost, Senior Wildlife Biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, says the mule deer population is stable, with average production and a good abundance of older bucks. Whitetails are increasing, with above-average production and increasing numbers of older bucks.

Potential Fall 2019 Hotspots: Frost says most of Wyoming looks good for muleys, but the southwestern corner of the state is still feeling the effects of several hard winters. Whitetail prospects appear promising throughout their range.

Quick Tip: "All national forest and most Bureau of Land Management lands that are publicly accessible provide good opportunities," Frost says.