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Top 3 DIY Whitetail States for 2018

For North America’s most popular big game, it’s becoming increasingly common to travel beyond the borders of your homestate in pursuit of punching a tag. Although 45 different states claim whitetail, there are a few that stand out above the rest, with exceptional public land opportunities, economical tags, license availability, and trophy potential.

3. South Dakota

Tag cost: $290 Season length: early September – late December Public land owned: 2,400,000 acres Boone & Crockett typical entries: 128


Like Nebraska and North Dakota, South Dakota recently changed their archery opener from September 22 to September 1. The next couple of years will give archers great opportunities at velvet bucks, hunting deer that have never before been pressured this early in the season. Although it doesn’t operate on a true over the counter system, statewide archery tags are available to everyone and firearm preference points are some of the cheapest in the country.


The firearm season dates can be confusing as its on a county-to-county basis, with rifle seasons starting in early November and running all the way through Thanksgiving. Nearly the entire state is open to archers, but nonresidents have very little firearm opportunity east of the Missouri River.


With some well thought out planning, finding a mature whitetail on public land in South Dakota is very doable. It’s definitely one of the most under-the-radar destinations in the Midwest.

2. Ohio

Tag cost: $180 Season length: late September – early February Public land owned: 600,000 acres Boone & Crockett typical entries: 563


With one of the cheapest non-resident licenses available, Ohio has been captivating DIY hunters on a budget in recent years. The state has some of the best trophy potential as well, with Boone & Crockett entries near the top of the book. The public land here is valuable, being made up of rolling hills and thick timber that hunts bigger than what it actually is.


Like other states in the area, Ohio doesn’t have an ample amount of public ground. The Buckeye State also has a late archery opener, dropping hunters right into what some consider the lull of the season.


Short on public land, but loaded with big deer and cheap tags, Ohio is a low-risk and high-reward state that is exactly what out-of-staters should be drawn to. Find yourself in an Ohio treestand come early November, and you’re likely to see some of the best public land rutting available.

1. Nebraska

Tag cost: $240 Season length: early September – late December Public land owned: 700,000 acres Boone & Crockett typical entries: 208


Nestled between Iowa and Kansas, Nebraska has the genetics and nutrition to pump out mega whitetails like its neighbors. Nebraska has an early opener that appeals to archers, but also has a month-long muzzleloader season in December that favors firearm hunters. Whether you want to hunt with a bow or grab the flintlock, Nebraska should be considered. It’s also an incredibly diverse state, with whitetails found among the large ag fields, rough river banks, and vast sand hills.


Public land in Nebraska isn’t as abundant as other Great Plains states like the Dakotas. It’s also thought to still be recovering from a devastating 2012 that hit the entire state with EHD, with a herd that’s not quite back to the age structure of old.


There isn’t much to dislike about Nebraska, with big bucks that can be pursued early or late with the weapon of your choice. The state is notorious for data available to hunters, making digital scouting for deer nerds a dream.

DIY Gear

Planning an out of state hunt this year? These pieces of gear will increase your odds of killing a buck in unfamiliar territory.

Hawk doesn’t make you choose between mobility and comfort with the Helium XL Hang-On, with a 12 pound setup that offers a large platform and over-cushioned seat. It quickly and quietly gets you in position, using tree digger teeth and silent-use attachment hooks to stay undetected.

When on a budget hunting out of state, hotels usually aren’t an option. The next best thing is a comfortable tent, like the Cabela’s Alaknak that will stand up to any conditions that the whitetail woods can throw at you. With multiple sizes sure to fit your hunting party, this tent will pay for itself in no time.

OnX does the work of dozens of plat books, phone books, and government issued maps. It's the perfect tool for the archer who's looking to gain permission in a new area, or just better understand public land boundaries. This app is a must own for all do-it-yourself whitetail hunters.

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