Ask most serious whitetail hunters which state boasts the best odds for taking a buck with true trophy potential and most will offer an unhesitating “Iowa.” It’s also one of the hardest to get tags. Unlike most whitetail states that offer over-the-counter licenses, nonresidents must enter a draw to win a lucky permit.
That’s the reason famed hunters such as Lee and Tiffany Lakosky and brothers Gene and Barry Wensel chose to uproot their lives and move to Iowa; residents don’t need to draw! But Iowa isn’t the only quality deer hunting state
that requires hunters to enter a draw for an opportunity at a big-racked buck.
Kansas, another top choice among trophy seekers, requires nonresidents to draw as does other big buck destinations. The trophy potential of Illinois is well known among anybody who hunts, thanks to Pike County and others gaining in fame, but if you’re a nonresident who wants to hunt there with a gun or muzzleloader, you need to draw for a tag.
Montana’s Milk River region has also put the western state on the map as a legit trophy whitetail destination, while hunt booking consultant C.J. Brown of Outdoor Adventures Worldwide likes neighboring Wyoming for the unpressured hunting and quality whitetail potential found there. Both of them require hunters to enter a draw.
A growing number of hunters, including Cabela’s T.A.G.S. manager Eric Pawlak, are starting to look at North Dakota as a state with real sleeper trophy potential, and it also requires hunters to enter a lottery. Following is the breakdown on what you need to know for each state so you can improve your odds this year in obtaining a tag to one of these top trophy destinations.
- For most big-game and other whitetail states, the gun season is usually the most sought after. Not in Iowa. Here the archery season runs through the heart of the rut, making archery one of the harder tags to draw. Iowa’s gun season is broken up into two five-day seasons during the first half of December and late muzzleloader, running from mid-December to mid-January.
The latter season has grown more popular because most hunters want to be there toward the end, since that is the best likelihood of cold, nasty weather, which gets the deer moving. As for zones in Iowa, Pawlak likes 4, 5, and 6, but expect it to take about three years to draw, even as you add preference points (you should purchase one every year). An outfitted hunt here can run upwards of $5,000, but for serious big buck hunters, it should be worth the price.
“Without a doubt, Iowa is the best state in the country to kill a big whitetail,” says Pawlak.
Application Deadline: June 3 Cost: $493, includes doe tag plus $74.34 just to apply; bonus point, $30.59. — Iowa DNR