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October 24, 2007

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100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Tennessee

Presidents Island Wildlife Management Area
: southwest Tennessee
Size: 6,300 acres
ZIP: 38113

The biggest bucks in Tennessee come from this Mississippi River island within sight of the Memphis city lights. It's a tough ticket-more than 3,000 apply for a mere 80 archery-only permits each year-but if you get drawn, you'll think you've died and gone to deer heaven. "Every hunter sees a load of big bucks, and a few inevitably come home with the deer of a lifetime," says Daryl Ratajczak, big game coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Fantastically fertile soil, abundant farm crops, and an all-out prohibition on hunting until six years ago helped these bucks reach monster status; strict management of deer and hunters (a minimum of nine antler points is required for harvest) is helping keep them that way. Don't let the long odds discourage you: Ratajczak says that a new preference point system adopted recently means that "if you're willing to wait, you will eventually get drawn."

Catoosa Wildlife Management Area
: east Tennessee
Size: 79,740 acres
ZIP: 38555

"Catoosa is one of the more popular public hunting areas in the state for big deer," according to Ratajczak. Antler restrictions at the Cumberland Plateau site have limited the harvest for the past 10 years to bucks with at least four points on one antler, and four gun hunts with 2,500 permits each help limit hunting pressure. Last year, 75 percent of bucks harvested were 2 1/2 years or older. "There are lots of older bucks walking around Catoosa," Ratajczak says, and due to intense use of prescribed burns by land managers, "there are a lot of open areas to see them in." Archery permits are unlimited, and chances are good that you'll get drawn for a gun hunt the first year; if not, the second year is practically guaranteed.

Yanahli Wildlife Management Area
: central Tennessee
Size: 12,800 acres
ZIP: 38401

Yanahli holds some tremendous deer-despite the fact that it's open to all comers under statewide regs. The key to the WMA's buck quality, Ratajczak says, is that many of the scattered parcels (acquired for a planned reservoir that was never built) are accessible only by boat. "There are areas along the Duck River that never get hunted, and big bucks retreat to those when the pressure is on," he notes. Additionally, many of those spots hold the thickest brush and the most fertile ground, much of it planted in soybeans and corn. "The biggest buck I've ever seen in Tennessee was at Yanahli," says Ratajczak, who hunts there himself. "He was a brute, definitely Boone and Crockett material."


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Got to include LBL (Land Between the Lakes) on this list.



Sounds like heaven. I'm transfering to Tennessee this year.So maybe I can get a big buck there!

Dr. Ralph

Fort Campbell produces more monster bucks than any public area in Tennessee, do your homework... LBL is a close second and Catoosa is lame. More pigs than deer and ATV's everywhere! Most ATV's just go to raise hell on the 80,000 acres and could care less about hunting or the hunters they are abusing.

Billy Garrett

For Dr. Ralph in regards to your comment, "Catoosa is lame"... Have you seen the monster that was killed out there a few days ago??? If not, give me your email address and I can send you a pic.

Dr. Ralph

Haven't seen it. I really haven't hunted Catoosa much since they started the QDMA there. Four points on one side for a legal buck just kind of made me mad because there aren't that many deer there to begin with. Look at the harvest records from the late 90's and early 2000's where they were killing 100 deer on 80,000 acres... can you say needle in a haystack?


can u send me a pic of that deer because i am thinking of getting back into deer hunting in catoosa because i have been seeing MONSTER BUCKS and great MONSTER buck sighn when i go squirrel hunting because my 11 year old son killed a 8 pointer that scored 122 last year on private land in jackson county after he saw a MONSTER BUCK IN CATOOSA LAST YEAR he changed his mine he dreams about killing a MONSTER BUCK in catoosa it is a real hot spot.

Robert Wankel

CATOOSA 100 deer harvested on 82,000 acres seems like a generous number to me have have lived right next door to catoosa for several years and am an deer hunter just never fell for hunting on the land for several reasons theres 82000 acres of witch less than half is even accesiable and when every one and there brother gets out there and the deer start to feel the hunting pressure to move off of catoosa well not entirely they move to the places that you wouldnt want to hike to let alone drag a deer out of and you can trust me on that I have seen it. I lived with my brother in a cabin that is in a cunk of land that cuts up in to catoosa by the morgan county line and every time the hunters whent in the woods the deer were in my front and back yard through out the day and the numbers far exceded the harvest. living in two locations right out side of catoosa for the past 12 years has taught me one thing I will never wast my time appling of a hunt there and keep begging my neighbors year after year for the right to hunt there land that is right next to catoosa because when you all get in your stands the good deer run my way and the comment about the boar is slowly become more and more of a realization the prorerty I hunt 4 years ago whitch runs along catoosa north and south off of US 127 you would have hardly every see a boar know we are starting to pull some monsters out of there and there coming off of catoosa we always had problems to the west and north west with 2 hunting lodges inability to keep there boar in the fences witch has slowly gained a respectiable heard of russian boars west of my house but you never seen them on the much to the east of the hunting lodges witch makes me wonder were the boar on catoosa are coming from surely to god with all the problems they have caused the ranchers to the east of use twra wasnt dumb enough to release them like they did the linx witch like 4 or 5 of them they released came off of catoosa and into are back yards and were killing our poultry and attacking cattle and horses and had to exterminated. So times I wounder if these people even have any common sense at all what did some one just say hay there use to be mountlions here years ago so lets let 1000 of them go on 82000 acres of mostly inhabatable land and hope they stay there and dont leave and harm any of the citezens surounding the wildlife managment area because catoosa has to have the highest amount of residence out of any in the state surounding it. Being a advide hiker and amuture photographer I have been in the places the deer love around catoosa and through catoosa and can say for sure from pictures I have taken in the past that there is a large number of deer in the aera unfortiantly they are smarter than the average hunter and know that you are to lazy to go tracking down the side of a gourge to find them. The major part of the catoosa heard will spead north of the accesiable parts of catoosa to wards clear creek and roam east and west fallowing the oh crap I cant remeber the name right know back south witch long past has taken them off of wildlife managment land and sets themgrazing on private fields buy the dozens. I grew up in Indiana nice deer but right here around catoosa is were I have seen the strangest sight I have ever seen a small heards of does and young bucks before and during the rut to gether in the feilds grazing 20 to 30 at a time this is a common sight in Indiana but never before the end of January at witch time you might see 20 to 100 deer of young and mature does and bucks hearding to gether in the feilds but never more than 5 together before and during the rut hardly ever a young buck most button bucks get chased away from there mothers in the rut not even a year old. Not to discourdge any one out of tring to hunt on catoosa I would wish the best of luck to young men suck as the postmans son just to your homework the defenition of hunting doesnt come form the action of sitting in the woods and hoping a deers walks by I mean shoot everyone gets lucky every once in awhile. And if any one has any questions about the habits of the deer and movement patterns for this area around catoosa email me at [email protected] I will do my best to help I am sure some of my knowledge would be quiet usefull. best of luck to all in these last few days of the hunting season.

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