By Paul Smirl
It’s no secret Wisconsin is one of the best places for hunters to find white-tailed deer. Enveloped by gorgeous fall color each hunting season, Wisconsin’s woods have been storied environments for deer hunters of all kinds who venture out into the elements in hopes of a harvest.
With Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer hunt season ahead in late November, we’re taking a look at the best places to bag that trophy buck.
Deer Harvest This Year
Wisconsin is separated into four deer management zones: Central Farmland, Central Forest, Northern Forest and Southern Farmland. Throughout the fall, hunters can review the Deer Harvest Summary by county.
Wisconsin’s archery and crossbow deer hunt seasons in September and October yielded the most harvests in the Central Farmland zone with Waupaca, Marathon and Shawano counties being the standout areas.
Southern Farmland archery and crossbow hunters found success in Sauk and Columbia counties, while Northern Forest hunters harvested the most deer in Taylor County and hunters in the Central Forest counted on Adams County for their white-tailed glory.
Following history, however, Wisconsin’s record-setting trophies have often come in the far western parts of the state, within the rugged landscape near the Mississippi River.
Wisconsin’s Storied Driftless Area
Sculpted by glaciers, Wisconsin’s Driftless Area is not only one of the state’s scenic treasures with curvaceous valleys, towering bluffs and the flowing waters of the nation’s largest river, but it is a nationally lauded region for deer hunting. Its public hunting lands include the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and Coon Creek Fishery Area.
Two hours north of those lands, you’ll find what’s often considered Wisconsin’s – and America’s – premier deer hunting county: Buffalo County. Don’t let its name fool you; Buffalo County is all about the deer and has been ranked by Boone & Crocket as United States’ top county for trophy white-tails.
Wisconsin’s highest-scored white-tail trophy was recorded in Buffalo County in 1973 with a whopping total of 253 points, and the county’s record-making results haven’t slowed down since then, with 86 white-tail deer tallied in the Boone & Crocket record books as of 2012.
Just east of Buffalo is Trempealeau County, another perennial hotspot for white-tail hunting and a Boone & Crocket record-holder as well. As of 2012, 36 white-tailed deer had made it into the record books. Trempealeau’s biggest public hunting reserve is the Borst Valley Wildlife Area, a grassy, marshy, hardwood-laden territory additionally catering to turkey and pheasant hunters.
Search the public lands by county to find those that are open for hunting and find information on regulations as you plan your hunt.
Trophy White-Tailed Deer
While a “trophy” deer is often thought of as a buck with the most possible points, Sawyer Briel of the Wisconsin DNR asks that the state’s sportspeople think broader in terms of a trophy.
“It’s important to remember that the term ‘trophy’ can mean a lot to a lot of different hunters, whether that’s a hunter’s first deer or harvesting a doe for venison,” he says. “We like to encourage all types of hunters pursuing all types of ‘trophy’ deer to head into the woods, and Wisconsin is truly one of the best places around to hunt deer and enjoy the outdoors.”
Bow or gun, north, south, east or west, deer hunting is a state tradition and a unique way to immerse oneself in Wisconsin’s wilderness.
Headed out on a hunt? The WDNRs Wild Wisconsin series offers videos and podcasts to help you prepare for this year's hunt. Also, check out our season forecast and tips for success from the DNR.