Finding Your Buckeye Buck: There’s Plenty of Places to Bag Your Big Buck This Season

Ohio has become one of the nation’s top trophy-producing states. Most of the good shooting is in the southeastern or lower central parts of the state but a big buckeye buck can be found just about anywhere.


Whitetail Deer Have Made a Comeback

As recently as the early 1900s whitetail deer were exterminated from Ohio and for the next twenty years remained absent from the state. After being reintroduced by the state’s Department of Conservation, deer numbers continued to hover low and the herd still hadn’t climbed above the 20,000 mark by the mid-1960s.

Today it’s a different story. The Ohio Division of Wildlife regularly fields complaints of nuisance deer as whitetails overrun not only the woodlands and countryside but suburban gardens and subdivisions as well.

With so many deer available it would seem that all a hunter would have to do is take up a position and then blast away until a shot connected. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially if trophy bucks are the target.


Ohio is a Top Whitetail Deer Destination

Ohio produces some of the largest whitetail deer in the world. Many Boone and Crockett award deer have been taken in Ohio and there’s no end in sight. To qualify for the Boone and Crockett’s “Awards” category a deer has to be impressive. A rack must score 160 points or better and a nontypical rack has to be at least 185 points. The “All-time” category requires a typical rack to be 170 points and a nontypical rack has 195 points.

Whitetail Deer
Whitetail Deer

Tips for Whitetail Success

Here are a few time-tested tips to help locate an Ohio big buck.

  • Big bucks choose home ranges that incorporate a variety of habitat. Ohio is ideally suited with plenty of rolling fields of grain crops, woodlots filled with acorns and other nut trees, thickets, swamps, second-growth brush and woodlands. Deer grow big where there’s plenty of cover and abundant sources of food, and where hunting pressure is light or the thickets are too hard for hunters to negotiate, a five-year-old Buckeye buck can sport a huge rack.
  • The Buckeye Big Buck Club records indicate where the monster whitetails are taken with some regularity in Ohio. Though deer can grow large throughout the state, certain regions tend to produce the greatest numbers of big bucks on a consistent basis. Muskingum County in southeastern Ohio is a top trophy producer in anyone’s book. Licking, Hocking and Guernsey counties hold their own while the entire east-central and southeastern regions of the state follow as close contenders.
  • Northeastern Ohio hunters bag plenty of deer in the area’s scattered woodlots, croplands and private holdings. Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Jefferson and Harrison counties are good bets for bucks according to the BBBC, and in southwestern Ohio Brown, Clermont, Adams and Highland counties generally offer the best hunts. Closer to the center of the state, Richland, Hardin and Wyandot counties are good places to try.
  • The Ohio Division of Wildlife maintains wildlife food plots, clear-cuts forest areas and encourages the development of second-growth trees and brush to create deer habitat. If hunting one of these public wildlife areas, state forests or state parks, contact them directly or the Division of Wildlife management office covering the area to find special restrictions and regulations that are in place. These offices can also supply you with maps and some helpful advice.
  • Though public hunting lands are productive, private land generally out-produces them. If private land is found that allows hunter access there is a decent chance of bagging a trophy whitetail. Look for access to privately-owned land that combines a variety of the best whitetail habitat such as clear cuts, woodlots, defined habitat edges, farm fields, overgrown fields and creek bottoms and ridges dominated by oak and other mast-producing trees.

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