Finding Trophy Hotspots

It might sound overly simple, but you can’t kill a giant animal if there isn’t one living where you’re currently hunting.

A huge deer rack rose above a bush 50 yards in front of me. I had been flat on my belly in the snow for hours, waiting for the giant mule deer to stand up. My teeth were chattering and my fingers were numb, but I was determined to wait the animal out. He was a whopper.

The sun was dipping low when the deer suddenly rose and dropped his head to feed. I rolled to my knees, drew the Hoyt bow and aimed at the broadside buck. The Easton arrow smashed home with a hollow thud. The monster was mine. He later scored more than 200 Pope And Young record-book points, a huge deer in anybody’s book.

Some readers have asked how I manage to bag trophy animals on a fairly regular basis. The answer is simple: For every big one I take, there are several others that gave me the slip. Only persistence gets wise old animals. But I always try to hunt in places where large critters live so I have opportunities at awesome bucks and bulls.

And you can do the same.

Most hunters dream about trophy antlers and horns. Even those who claim to be “meat hunters” would never shoot a little deer standing beside a huge one. Big antlers and horns always win out.

I recommend that serious hunters concentrate their efforts where trophy potential is high. Vacation time is precious, so why hunt in any old place without doing some research first? Sad to say, many hunters do exactly that, and dream about giant animals that don’t even exist in their hunting area.

Places with trophy potential are rare. There are dozens of poor locales for every one that produces large animals. Heavy hunting pressure, poor feed, and second-rate genetics can all contribute to small animal size.

You’ve got to be deliberate to find trophy hotspots. First, look at record books from Boone and Crockett, Safari Club International and Pope and Young. These are sold through sporting goods stores and also carried by some libraries. Trophy lists from these clubs can also be accessed on-line. Check out states, provinces, and specific counties where huge animals have been shot the past 10-15 years.

A second trophy-finding tactic is talking to local taxidermists and state or provincial game biologists. These professionals pay attention to big animals and where they were bagged. Biologists are easily reached by calling game department offices, and most are happy to help a polite hunter.

The mule deer described at the start of this blog came my way after I did just this kind of research. Rather than bowhunting one of many poor mule deer places found across the West, I found a hotspot in southern Alberta, Canada. The photo of my buck proves that research can put you where the big ones are!

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