Kentucky is known for horses, but now a national magazine has named the Bluegrass State as the top destination for trophy-quality white-tailed deer.
In its June/July issue, Outdoor Life has named Kentucky the No. 1 trophy buck state in the country. The rest of the Top 10 were, in order, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma.
The magazine used a number of criteria, including the number of record-book entries from each state, hunter density per state, the cost of guided hunts offered to non-resident hunters, and the state's "hunter friendliness" in terms of laws and regulations.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources isn't surprised by the ranking, spokesman Mark Marraccini said.
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"We've known for quite some time that we have one of the best trophy white-tailed deer herds in the country," Marraccini said. "We know we have a quality herd. We have trophy white-tails probably in every county in the state."
Management of the herd has led to better-quality deer available for hunting.
"Years ago, hunters were allowed to take two bucks per year," Marraccini said. "That changed when the department decided to manage for a trophy system. We allow hunters to take one buck per year. Basically that protects your younger deer coming on."
The deer population has grown over the last 60 years.
"Around 1950, Kentucky had 1,000 deer in the whole state, and most of them were in Western Kentucky. It's about 900,000 now statewide," Marraccini said.
Trophy bucks are determined by the number of points on each antler, the tip-to-tip spread, the inside spread of the main beams, and the length of the points, according to the Boone and Crockett Club, which sets scoring standards for all types of wildlife.
Deer hunting generates an estimated economic impact of $409 million in Kentucky each year, Marraccini said.
Nicholasville deer hunter David Hamilton said he generally agreed with the magazine's findings.
"Kentucky has done a great job managing the buck-to-doe ratio and allowing only one buck to be killed," Hamilton wrote in an email.
In an interview, Hamilton said 15 years ago "you didn't think about Eastern Kentucky for trophy bucks. But now you've got trophy bucks coming out of Eastern Kentucky, Central Kentucky, Western Kentucky. It's unbelievable."
The Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will likely tout its No. 1 ranking, Marraccini said.
"I imagine we'll mention it some," he said.
To read Outdoor Life's complete deer hunting coverage, visit outdoorlife.com/whitetailscale.