An RSO visitor named Bill from way back east just asked for advice on Western whitetail outfitters. Smart guy. He’s looking the right direction for great whitetail hunting.
I explained to Bill that, while I can’t guarantee any outfitters, I have had great luck with Laughing Waters Ranch Outfitters near Bassett, Nebraska. Check out a short video on YouTube. LWRO has great river bottom habitat and lots of big bucks. I took a 143 net there two years ago, a 150 gross last Nov.
In Alberta try Willow Creek Outfitters with outfitter Andre van Hilten south of Calgary near Nanton. With Andre you have a good chance for both a mule deer AND whitetail. Eastern Montana has long been a great trophy whitetail destination, but 14 months ago it suffered a major winter kill. As if that weren’t bad enough, late last summer EHD (a viral disease) hit, wiping out as many as 90 percent of the surviving whitetails in some spots. Check carefully before booking in Montana. Some ranches retain good bucks, but it’s spotty.
Wyoming is usually good around the Black Hills and Sheridan areas. Eastern Colorado is super for massive, mature bucks, but I suspect you’ll pay a steep price for access. Expect huge mule deer in the same habitats. South Dakota can be outstanding in places depending on harvest pressure. North Dakota is a sleeper. Kansas is always great, but outfitters there seem to be following the Midwest model — they stick you in a stand and there you must sit. But man, do they have bucks! If you enjoy sitting and waiting, Kansas would be a good use of your time.
I’m afraid I can’t recommend Idaho anymore. In the 1980s and early 90s it was producing excellent whitetails, along with the best branch-antlered elk hunting in the country. Shiras moose were popping up like mushrooms in May. I saw 11 in one day while hunting grouse east of Idaho Falls! But the wolves seem to have “overharvested” Idaho’s big game. I haven’t seen a moose in years, elk numbers have nose dived in many places and whitetails are huddling on rural doorsteps to avoid wolves.
Texas is, of course, big time whitetail country, but most of the hunting is somewhat contrived in that deer are intensely managed. So are hunters. You may be directed to sit not only in one stand your entire hunt, but over a feeder that “goes off” at 8:45 AM and 4:40 PM each day. You could even be told to shoot the 4×5 with a broken G3 on the right side, but not the 5×4 with tall tines and a broken G1 on the left. This is just one way Texans manage to produce so many fully mature, spectacularly antlered bucks. They harvest no buck before its time. But this takes the “hunt” out of hunting for some of us. If you don’t mind such restrictions, Texas can certainly produce a huge buck for you.
Truly, any western ranch with whitetails and controlled access can provide outstanding hunting. Your success depends on the services the outfitter provides (food, lodging) how much pressure he puts on the deer, how freely he lets you hunt, how hard you hunt and how effectively you hunt. I’m betting you’ll see more and larger bucks on any western hunt than you see in a season in most eastern states. But don’t take my word for it. Head West and try to prove me wrong.
(Like the photo at the top? Watch me take this buck in a new episode of Winchester World of Whitetail on NBC Sports Network later this summer or early fall.)
# # #