So, if you could live anywhere, and maybe in this age you can, what western state should you move to for the best shot at taking a trophy room full of Boone & Crockett trophies? Before you read on or look at the chart to the left, grab a napkin and quickly draw a chart with the game you care about most and write down the states you’d consider. Then make a guess at filling in each state’s ranking for each animal.
If you count all four species of western deer, the three species of elk, antelope, desert and Rocky Mountain bighorns, mountain goats and mountain lions, moose, bison and black bear you get the 15 recognized B&C categories for the U.S. western states.
The state with most #1 rankings over the last 10 years is . . . (envelope please) . . . California. Of course, you knew that, right? They’re #1 in black bear (surprise!), blacktail deer, Roosevelt’s elk and tule elk. Not excited about joining California’s millions or paying Golden State taxes?
Let’s try again. Say your interest is the Big 3 – antelope, mule deer and elk. Pack your bags for Wyoming. They’ve got plenty of room for ya, plus they’re 1st in antelope, 3rd in mule deer, 5th in elk and #1 in Shiras moose, not to mention #1 for bison. If you care more about elk and deer than antelope and moose, point the UHaul toward Utah – #1 in Rocky Mountain elk, #2 in mule deer and #8 for antelope. As a bonus, they’re also #1 in goats and you can hunt bison, at which they’re second best.
Wait, you’re more into the “trophy” species – sheep, goat and moose? Montana ranks #1 by a wide margin for Rocky Mtn. bighorns, #2 on both Rocky Mountain goats and moose and has more book entries for cougar than any other state.
Don’t leave out Colorado. The Centennial State dominates in mule deer. They’re also tops in whitetails and second in both black bear and cougar. Colorado is 3rd in Rocky Mountain bighorns, has a few tags for desert sheep and ranks 4th in trophy antelope. That’s not a bad combination. Surprisingly, although Colorado has loads of elk it is below average for book heads at #6.
Overall, Montana, Colorado and California share the honors for the most top three entries with five while Wyoming and Utah have four apiece. But, good news – every western state is represented. Maybe housing costs or taxes will tip the scales; your wife doesn’t like snow; your parents want to be close to your kids . . . It can’t just be as simple as the best trophy hunting for your favorite species, can it?
By Dave Hoshour
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