When you think of big whitetails you dream of the midwest as a hunter. States like Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Kentucky come to mind as they have rightfully earned the title of big buck states. They have continually produced big deer and have become a hot spot for hunters from not only across North America but the world searching for an opportunity to take a giant whitetail. Since 2000 Wisconsin has had 730 B&C bucks both typical and nontypical with famous Buffalo County, WI producing the most.
Over the last couple years Oklahoma has worked its way into what many refer to as a “Sleeper State”. This term is used to describe a state that is on the cusp of having the reputation of producing huge deer consistently. In 2017 Oklahoma had 37 bucks scored that toped 200” blowing lots of hunters around the country away. We recently sat down with our friend and long time Oklahoma B&C scorer George Moore to talk about the recent success the state of Oklahoma has had. “I’ve been asked a bunch, why do you think you scored so many big bucks in 2017? I believe four factors played into me personally scoring 37 deer of 200”. One was social media. A guy kills a big deer and takes a picture and even if he doesn’t want it known it gets out there. We have probably had big deer like this killed over the last four, five six years and kept it off social media and know one knew about it. Social media has really made what we have more aware than ever before.”
With Moore’s theory that big deer have been killed in Oklahoma consistently for a while but technology has helped bring that to light in more recent years. Moore went on to also explain that many hunters don’t want people to know they killed a big buck fearing neighboring pressure increase, poaching, and so forth.
“Another big factor is trail cameras.” Moore explained. “We have had game cameras a long time but people are using them to educate themselves on the deer they have on their property. If a guy has a giant buck on trail cameras why would he shoot that 140” buck knowing that a bigger buck is also in there. We are seeing trail cameras change how hunters hunt and we are seeing them pass deer they normally wouldn’t because of that.” Moore went on to say this. “The third factor is this, in 2016 we had a bumper acorn crop. We will have another big acorn crop in 2018 and in 2016 we didn’t see as many big bucks as we did in 2017 because they weren’t coming to food plots and feeders cause they didn’t have too. They were on acorns. In 2017 we had a terrible acorn crop and people with feeders and food plots and the rut fell perfect so people saw those big bucks more frequently.”
“The fourth factor is simply education of our hunters.” Moore stated. “I’m 64 years old and when I was 12 or 13 years old hunting in Oklahoma when you saw a deer you killed it. If you saw one with horns that was a big deal. We just didn’t see many deer. You shot everything you saw. I think education has played a huge role. People like you (Brad Clay) and shows like Final Descent Outdoors that also show what management can do is also a big factor. We are seeing younger kids being educated and hunters being educated that if you want to kill a big buck then you need to let the young ones grow.” Along with being able to inventory the bucks on your property education from croups like the QDMA and the Oklahoma Wildlife Department with their campaign slogan “Hunters in the know, let young bucks grow” as helped Oklahoma see better age structure in Oklahoma. According to the QDMA Oklahoma made a vast jump in recent years and in 2016 59% of the bucks harvested were aged 3.5yrs old or older.
Was it abnormal with Oklahoma having 37 bucks over 200” in 2017? Yes, but we just had perfect conditions. That’s just what was scored. I had several people that killed big deer that I reached out to about scoring their deer and they said no, they weren’t interested because they didn’t want the attention. I actually had people upset with me in 2017 because I scored and was posting these big bucks on social media. They don’t want the state to get the attention. Will we have another 2017? I don’t know. Will we have some 200” bucks killed? Sure we will have some but we will need to have those perfect conditions again to have another year like that.”
So to answer the question of whether or not Oklahoma has become an elite whitetail state Moore had this to say. “I would say we were for sure in 2017 a top 8 state. Wisconsin, Ohio, Kansas, and those states are always way up there but Oklahoma is for sure being recognized as one of those top 8 to 10 states in the country for producing big whitetails.”
Author Brad Clay is the host of Final Descent Outdoors and a licensed and ordained minister in Oklahoma. Brad served for 12yrs in vocational ministry before stepping out to do full time outdoor ministry in 2013. Brad resides in Edmond, OK and is married with four children.