Where Are Trophy Odds Best?

In the December 2009 issue of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine, Field Editor Les Davenport reveals his top five picks for trophy whitetail destinations in the United States. Davenport is an accomplished big-buck hunter and former trophy hunting guide.

What follows are his recommendations for outfitters in these regions. For more top options, see D&DH‘s “Guides & Outfitters."

1. ILLINOIS

For a quality outfitter in the Rend Lake area, call Todd Gessner Outdoors, www.toddgesneroutdoors.com. Gessner’s deer hunting camp is managed by Jason Johns on about 3,500 private acres. This is a relatively small operation that caters to archers and a few firearm hunters. This property is well-managed and not over-hunted. Lodging and meals are at the beautiful Rend Lake Resort, www.rendlakeresort.com, which is also available to public-land hunters.

Call (618) 927-3432 to book a hunt with Todd Gessner Outdoors or (800) 633-3341 for reservations at Rend Lake Resort if you decide on a do-it-yourself hunt in the park. Park camping reservations can be made by calling (877) 444-6777. Information and maps can be obtained by calling (618) 439-7430.

2. WYOMING

Call Jeff and Deb Smith at (307) 283-3443 or go online at www.sevenjoutfitters.com. The Smiths run a quality operation.

3. KANSAS

Blue River Outfitters owned and managed by David Schotte is one of this region’s premier outfitters.

Blue River Outfitters hunts 4,000 private acres and caters to both archery and firearm hunters. Schotte is a member of the Kansas Outfitters Association and treats clientele with utmost respect. His operation offers stand sites along agricultural and CRP fields, in timbered draws, and on funneling high points. His success ratio (bow and firearm) is an unbelievable 75 percent with 90 percent opportunity. To book a hunt, call (785) 337-2530.

4. SOUTH DAKOTA

Steve Sandgren of Lodgepole Creek Outfitters has been guiding whitetail hunters on bordering property to the Grasslands since 1976. Steve has a 60 percent archery success for whitetail bucks and a 96 percent success for firearm hunters. His camp’s best whitetail during the 2008 season grossed 174 inches. A 239-inch grossing, 7 x 7 mule deer was taken three years ago. The success for archery mule deer hunters tops out at 100 percent many years. Of the 62,000 acres that Steve leases, whitetails are hunted on 18,000.

Are you on a budget, but would like to go with an outfitter? Five-day archery whitetail hunts with meals and lodging are under $2,000. Firearm hunters pay under $2,500 for five days. Call (605) 773-3485, email lc.outfitter@juno.com, or go online at www.lodgepolecreek.com.

5. OHIO

Southern Ohio Outfitters run by David Lusk is a 6500-acre operation south and west of the Wayne in Jackson County. Each of his leased properties is 400 acres or more and hold a mix of 75 percent hardwoods and 25 percent agricultural fields and food plots. Clients’ two biggest bucks in recent years averaged 180 inches gross, a 10-pointer harvested by Bruce Harrison of Michigan and an 18-pointer taken by Grant Lloyd of Ohio. The 253-inch Willis buck taken in Jackson County was killed on bordering ground leased by Lusk. David had video of the buck before it was harvested.

For more information about Southern Ohio Outfitters go online at www.southernohiooutfitters.com, call (740) 288-522, or email David at info@southernohiooutfitters.com. Lusk maintains a 125-inch minimum, but does target bucks with inferior antler quality. Both guided and self-guided hunts are available.

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