DULUTH -- If you’re thinking about a road trip this fall for whitetail deer hunting you might want to use the new edition of “Records of North American Whitetail Deer” as your travel guide.
The 688-page book, compiled by the venerable Boone and Crockett Club, lists the top counties and the top states where the largest whitetail racks have come from.
Some of the records date back as far as 1830, but most date from 1950, when the club revised its scoring system. And dozens of new records have been added in just the last 20 years, pushing the book to 688 pages and more than 17,000 individual records.
Wisconsin continues to rank as the state with the most record book whitetails, with Illinois No. 2, Iowa No. 3 and Minnesota No. 4.
Of course you don’t have to go far to find big whitetails. St. Louis County holds its rank as the second-biggest producer of record-book bucks in the nation with 120 listings in the book. That trails only Buffalo County in southwestern Wisconsin, which has 150 entries.
While St. Louis County’s enormous size is likely one reason it has so many entries — it’s more than double the size of most counties — the county’s thick forests also provide a clue, said Justin Spring, director of big game records for the Boone and Crockett Club.
“Nutrition and genetics are always talked about as the big deals for trophy deer, and that’s partly true,’’ Spring said. “But the places that also have enough habitat where some of the deer can get older, like St. Louis County, tend to produce the most records. Older bucks get bigger, it’s that simple.”
Spring noted that Buffalo County in Wisconsin, while not as heavily forested as St. Louis County, has both agriculture and forested lands and steep terrain, affording bucks both good food and some places to hide and get old.
“Consistent trophy production over time is proof that conservation measures are working exceptionally well,” said Julie Tripp, the Boone and Crockett Club’s director of publications.
Any big rack can count
The Boone and Crockett Club will accept professionally-measured antlers that are obtained by any legal means — whether shot with a rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, crossbow, bow, hit by a truck or found in the woods, even sheds, the records all count.
The new record book (now available for $60) was first developed not as a brag book for hunters but as a tool to find out where the best deer habitat was and which areas best managed their wildlife.
“The goal is to record where big bucks come from no matter how or where they were taken,’’ Spring said. “We are as interested in the location of where these animals are coming from as we are who submitted the record… But if it was taken legally by fair chase the hunter’s name gets in the book.”
The book, like the club that publishes it, was developed at a time when North American wildlife populations were rapidly dwindling due to unregulated harvest. Now, despite diseases like chronic wasting disease, there are more whitetails in the U.S. than ever before.
“If you would have told our founder, Theodore Roosevelt, that more than 130 years after the creation of an organization tasked with saving wildlife populations that this book would be possible, I doubt he would have believed you,” Spring said. “The whitetail conservation successes documented in the pages of this book resoundingly declare the North American model of wildlife conservation is without equal worldwide.”
Minnesota has 1,194 total entries in the book and four counties in the top 20 U.S. counties. In addition to St. Louis at No. 2 nationally, Otter Tail County ranks No. 7 with 63 total entries and Houston County is tied for No. 14 nationally with 54 entries. But Spring noted that Minnesota has big deer in many places, and notes that the state’s top five typical bucks ever taken came from Beltrami, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Aitkin and Wright counties.
Wisconsin has 1,822 total entries and six counties in the top 20 U.S. counties with the most records produced. In addition to Buffalo County’s 150 entries, Crawford County ranks No. 9 in the nation with 58 entries and Trempealeau County ranks No. 11 with 55 entries. Like Minnesota, Wisconsin’s top five typical bucks ever taken did not come from these high-producing counties, instead coming from Burnett, Kenosha, Wood, Columbia and Dodge counties.
Beyond the state-specific records, highlights of the sixth edition of “Records of North American Whitetail Deer” include stories and full-page photos of 21st century whitetails that document 37 records taken since 2000. Noteworthy new entries since the last edition was printed in 2012 feature five new typical bucks, including William L. Loyd’s 2018 buck from Lee County, Arkansas, which scored 200-1/8 points and ranks No. 17 all-time and No. 1 in the state. Four new nontypical records are also featured, in particular Luke Brewster’s 337-1/8-inch buck shot in 2018 in Edgar County, Illinois, which is the No. 3 nontypical all-time and the new Illinois state record buck.
About the Boone and Crockett Club
Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club promotes management of big game and habitat across North America. The Club — which Roosevelt insisted be capped at just 100 members at any one time — maintains the “highest standards of fair chase sportsmanship and habitat stewardship. Members of the group have played roles in enlarging and protecting Yellowstone National Park and establishing Glacier and Denali national parks, founding the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge System. The club is headquartered in Missoula, Mont.
For more information, or to purchase the new, sixth edition of the record book, go to boone-crockett.org. For more information on how to get your rack officially scored, contact the Minnesota Official Measurers at mom.com or go to boone-crockett.org/official-measurer-locator.