South Central Plains Whitetail O.v.macrourus, O.v.texanus
Regardless of which state you choose to up your quest for this unique member of the Whitetail SLAM, when you visit the SouthCentral Plains deer in their living room, you will feel the beating heart of America in all of its glory. Farmsteads, ranches, woodlots, river bottoms and rolling hills whisper tales of monster bucks and spur the imagination of the hunter like no other place on earth!
Whitetail SLAM recognizes 2 subspecies of whitetails as its Central Plains category. O.v.macrourus – inhabits the south-central plains of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, the Texas panhandle, Missouri, and parts of Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico.
O.v.texanus “the Texas whitetail” dwells in the gulf prairies, oak savannas, and mesquite and brush country of the South Texas Plains, to the mountains of the Big Bend. Texas, unlike many states has always valued whitetails heavily as a resource and tourist attraction, and sound herd and buck age management practices have created hunting lands with some of the highest potential of both numbers of deer and trophy harvest. The Edwards Plateau in the center of the state has high deer densities with as many as 40 per square mile.
Body size varies greatly from the huge northern bodied bucks to the south Texas body sizes, following Bergman’s Rule that (the farther from the equator, the larger the body size), but one thing is true for all SouthCentral bucks: they are capable of growing antlers that are second to none because of the highly fertile ground on which they live. Smaller in size than their northern relatives, they often qualify for the record book because of their larger antler size and mass. Age = Monster Bucks is the equation in this area, no matter what math class you’ve ever taken, but hunters and landowners here have increased buck populations and decreased doe to buck ratios over the years so many bucks are seen on most days of hunting, with ample opportunity to harvest mature bucks.
Some of the most impressive bucks of all North America are here and big bodies and massive racks come easily on this habitat. More than 90 percent of the land is privately owned and is in agriculture and livestock grazing, resulting in habitat that supports high populations and produces opportunity for harvesting a buck of a lifetime.
Hunting small woodlots and hedgerows where funnels and travel corridors intersect present frequent shot opportunities, so when you hear the crunching of hooves on dry leaves, prepare for the thrill of a monster buck moving your way!
• Missouri is fast becoming a destination for deer hunters seeking trophy class animas with more than half of the state imposing a restriction of at least 4 antler points on one side.
• Arkansas has been one of the most progressive states in the country with its white-tailed deer program. In 1998 they instituted a law requiring 3 points on one side. Because of the regulation, doe harvest increased and healthier deer habitat, and deer populations with more balanced age and sex structure resulted. Opportunity to harvest a buck three years or older is much greater than ever before. Hunters have also shown majority support for the regulation. If you are the type of hunter who likes to pursue mature bucks, would enjoy the opportunity to view numerous younger bucks doing the things that deer do, and are satisfied with harvesting a doe for meat and sport in lieu of shooting any buck, Arkansas is the place to be.
• In Nebraska the best deer hunting is along stream courses and their associated breaks. River breaks are often characterized by deep gullies and ridges with sparse woody growth. Thousands of miles of shelterbelts in the eastern part of the state are used as cover by whitetails. Grasslands are suitable cover when the topography is right and it is associated with marsh vegetation. Croplands are a reliable source of food and also used extensively for cover. In 2010 a record 75% of whitetail bucks harvested were 2 ½ or older! With statistics like this, Nebraska is sure to grow in popularity as a monster buck destination.
• Kansas ranks 6th in the nation for the number of entries in the Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young Record Books. Whitetail deer numbers have increased dramatically in the last 20 years, with the highest deer densities are in the eastern 1/3 of the state. Although hunters use to the big woods will be shocked at the vast open prairies, whitetails find cover in natural woodlands, shelterbelts, old homesteads and grasslands, and find abundant food in croplands. The selective management program has created a healthy deer herd with excellent potential for trophy-sized bucks in all regions. (We’ve hunted eastern Kansas in November and when I think Kansas, I think flat, windy, cold….and many bucks! Many HUGE bucks too! We will go back!) There are usually non-residents deer permits in every unit.
• Oklahoma is the “sleeper” for big bucks. Often called “poor man’s Kansas” it has the same big bucks, but non-resident friendly with over-the-counter licenses and tags. Good population of deer with a combined harvest of over 100,000 deer makes an attractive proposition for Whitetail SLAM hunters. The state continues to place emphasis on reducing harvest pressure on young bucks and increasing the harvest of does, which is a sure recipe for big buck growth and harvest opportunities. Flat prairies, plum tree thickets and lots of oak are part of the habitat makeup that may conceal your SouthCentral Plains beauty!
• The Texas Panhandle – According to North American Whitetail editor Gordon Whittington, with its’ vast prairies and hidden canyons, has overlooked trophy potential – “a hotspot just waiting to be discovered”.
• Iowa is famous for its trophy class bucks. The combination of vast croplands and winters when there is rarely more than 12” of snow for any extended period, make for ideal conditions for growing large whitetails. Iowa ranks first in total number of Boone and Crockett whitetail entries, third in Pope and Young entries and is the home of the largest whitetail ever killed by a hunter.
• South Texas, with its’ unique brush and prairie habitat and amazing variety of other wildlife, is every hunter’s dream. Known for monster record book bucks with wide antlers, if you are lucky enough to be invited to hunt one of the large ranches of this region, prepare yourself for the hunt of a lifetime.
With the exception of Texas, peak of breeding for the SouthCentral Plains Whitetail is fairly uniform across this vast area ranging from November 10 to 25. (Nebraska – November 10-15, Kansas -November 15-17, Oklahoma – November 14-19, Missouri – November 6-22, Iowa – November 13-18, Arkansas – November 18-25). Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has published peak breeding dates on line for the eight ecological zones in the state. Breeding peaks ranged from as early as November 7 to as late as December 24 for Central Plains deer. The latest breeding peak was in South Texas. If planning a deer hunting trip to Texas, we definitely recommend checking on rut dates for the area you are hunting on the Texas Parks and wildlife web site.