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October 24, 2007

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100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Minnesota

Whitewater Wildlife Management Area
: southeast Minnesota
Size: 27,500 acres
ZIP: 55910

Minnesota has ample public land, but it also has plenty of pressure-about a half-million hunters chase 1.2 million deer. One of your best shots at a big buck may be the coulee country of the state's southeast corner. Glaciers never flattened this land, and 10,000 years of erosion by wind and water has sculpted jutting ridges that drop 500 feet to valleys ribboned by trout streams. Whitewater is the largest public land in the region, and it attracts a sea of orange, according to area manager Jon Cole of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, especially on opening day, when as many as 1,200 hunters turn out. Nevertheless, a number of 120- to 140-class deer are tagged here regularly, and three years ago a 170 was taken. This year's acorn crop (from the area's 100-year-old red and white oaks) looks good, Cole says, and once the shooting starts deer will sit tight in cut-over areas of brushy timber or bed in restored native grass fields.

Itasca State Park
: central Minnesota
Size: 32,000 acres
ZIP: 56470

Central Minnesota, from Park Rapids to Brainerd, has some of the highest deer numbers in the state; some permit areas in the region harvest 10 to 13 deer per square mile, says big-game biologist Lou Carnicelli of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Relatively limited road access and a ban on ATV's and permanent deer stands make Itasca, Minnesota's oldest state forest, a unique experience for this part of the state. "It's not a drive-by deer hunt," Carnicelli says, "it's an opportunity to hunt a mature forest without someone buzzing by every 15 minutes." Itasca is in its third year of antler restrictions requiring a buck to have at least three points on one side. While it may be too early to tell if this mostly flat forest is hiding any record-book bucks among its numerous bogs and small lakes, it does promise plenty of action: The region boasts a pre-harvest deer density as high as 40 deer per square mile.

Superior National Forest
: north Minnesota
Size: 3.9 million acres

Deer numbers in the Superior National Forest are the highest they've ever been, thanks to a combination of forest management and a decade of mild winters, says Tom Rusch, a wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This vast area offers a classic big-woods hunt in just about any form you can dream up, from a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters to a lakeside cabin with ATV transportation. "It's the kind of place where people like to pick a chunk of land, a section of map, and just go," Rusch says. He advises starting with a Superior National Forest Map, which is color-coded to delineate federal, state, county and paper company ownership. (Each has a different policy on motorized vehicles.) In general, deer numbers increase as you move west, home to the more productive ground (some agriculture mixed in with rolling terrain dominated by managed forestland) that sustains 20 to 30 deer per square mile. Scout diligently, Rusch says, and you could tag a 130- to 140-class buck.


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I bet Minnesota has some really big bucks!

john weinhandl

minnesota has to many hunters who only care is to shoot deer with no care for the growth of big mature bucks.I would bet the average age of buck shot here is 2 years,not nearly ready to be harvested.Your best shot in mn for a shooter is with bow.Rifle hunters have very little respect for each other or where they hunt it is a shame but its gotten to the point where you need private land to get away from the crowd,and even then people don't respect posted property.


The hunt that takes place within the city limits of Duluth is the best in the nation. It's public land bowhunting and has already produced lots of huge bucks up to the 180's in the first three years it's been available to hunters. People pass up 3 1/2 year old bucks all season.

MN Hunter

Minnesota's number of hunters is just right for the population. In fact, we wouldn't shoot all the little bucks if they would give out more doe permits. They say our numbers are low, well obviously not, when I drive the roads in my area and on the interstate, all I see on the side of the road is dead deer. So if our population is so low, why are we blaming JUST the hunters? People aren't slowing down in deer areas and then they complain to the insurance companies about the deer. Well in the words of Bill Engvall--"Here's your sign"


why would anybody hunt deer?? i mean they are harmless animals jsut trting to live there life! how woiuld u feel if somone shot u and put your head on the wall???


do you eat beef, fish or poultry? do you suppose they live a fullfilling life before they are slaughtered? If deer hunting was not allowed deer would overpopulate very quickly and die horrific deaths from disease. Not to mention winter yards would not support the numbers of deer, and many would be eaten alive by predators!

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100 Top Public Lands
Field & Stream reporter Steven Hill spent two months interviewing state game agency officials, deer biologists, and whitetail experts to identify the absolute best public whitetail hunting grounds in the nation.

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