Dakota Whitetail Odocoileus virginianus dacotensis
The Dakota Whitetail is well renowned for its majestic antler potential and massive body size. Whether in the Shadows of the majestic Rocky Mountains to the west, or on the great northern plains of the US or Canada, your quest for this leg of the Whitetail SLAM will be a scenic and dramatic adventure that you will surely never forget!
The Dakota whitetail is widely distributed throughout western and central Canada, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North and South Dakota and western Minnesota. From Saskatchewan to the cottonwood bottoms of Montana and everywhere else in its range, the Dakota is highly prized as a game animal for its magnificent antlers, even in those western states where Elk and Mule Deer are commonly thought of as the primary quarry.
The Dakota’s range often overlaps with those of the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Woodland to the East. It shares the same capabilities with these neighbors of achieving great body size and antler growth.
Although there are very few distinguishable physical differences between the Dakota whitetails and the Northwestern and Northern Woodland neighbors, the dramatic differences in hunting Dakotas in the plains, river bottoms and hills they make home is what makes travelling to hunt these deer such a worthwhile adventure. In places like Alberta and Saskatchewan, finding mature buck in excess of 300 pounds is not at all uncommon, and some grow to be substantially bigger, but throughout their habitat, the Dakota is generally one of the most impressive deer sub-species in terms of body and antler size.
The most important habitat for Dakota white-tails are hardwood draws and river bottoms. In farmland areas, marshes and sloughs are often the only cover much of the year and therefore are an important type. Hunting tactics in this very open habitat are highly variable, and make for a unique adventure. Hunters often are required to use multiple strategies to achieve success. The variables influencing success include weather, hunter fitness, timing of the hunt in relation to the rut, and habitat type. Hunters may use ground blinds and treestands or use spot and stalk tactics. Still-hunting is common when ground cover conditions are favorable, and in some areas deer drives, or “pushing bush” as it’s often referred to out west is also used. This tactic, not only challenges the shooter with a moving target, but is a highly successful method for creating opportunities for harvesting huge bucks that might otherwise never show themselves in thick brush cover.
Today, hunting opportunity abounds throughout the territory with outstanding outfitters, some public areas, and many private ranches that with permission can yield great returns for hunters. Around the turn of the century (1900) populations had been so decimated by unregulated hunting that major steps needed to be taken to rebuild. In the black hills region, during the 1930’s, seasons were closed and then deer populations rebuilt over the next 3 decades. Now, modern management practices and game regulations have assisted Dakota whitetails in becoming a vast and attractive resource for pursuit by hunters from around the world. Many western states offer combination tags which creates a unique opportunity for hunters to harvest either a Mule Deer or Whitetail.
Mid-November when deer are in rut in the Dakota’s territory is an exciting time like all others, but unique in that bucks can be seen chasing does in the wide open prairie areas. In river bottoms where population concentrations are high, the action can be fast and dramatically close as the bucks get on their feet. Any time from Oct 31st through Thanksgiving can be highly productive.