Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

Buffalo County, Wisconsin: Why Do They Grow So Many Record-book Whitetails?

By PJ DelHomme 

Buffalo County, Wisconsin, has produced more Boone and Crockett Club record-book whitetails than anywhere else. It’s the number one county in the number one state, according to Club records. Why? 


At 78, Tom Indrebo has a memory like a steel trap—at least when it comes to bucks killed on his property in Buffalo County. He’ll tell you about when a young lady killed a forked-horn buck weighing 240 pounds after it was field-dressed. How do you get such a massive-bodied deer with tiny antlers? It all comes down to nutrition and timing. 

In the state rankings, Wisconsin has appeared in the top 3 since the 1940s. Background, Ken Turner getting ready to pull the trigger on a 160-4/8 B&C buck in 1954.

One spring, a tornado ripped through the area and dropped 3-4 inches of hail, destroying crops and tree blossoms. The deer had little to eat until farmers planted cover crops in August. By the time the shoots surfaced, the bucks were hard-antlered and gorged themselves on the crops. They packed on the pounds but not the inches. 

Get him started, and Indrebo will tell you about the history of Buffalo County, going back to when immigrants from Scandinavia settled there in the mid-1800s. The original settlers might be gone, but their apple orchards are still scattered throughout its woodlands. In the 1930s, he says, it was a big deal just to see a deer track. 

Daniel J. Bernarde with a typical Buffalo County whitetail scoring 183-7/8 points.

Indrebo owns and operates Bluff Country Outfitters. Since 1993, he’s managed his property for big whitetail deer, with many of his repeat clients visiting him in the spring and summer to help around the property. Nowadays, those clients are like family, he says. 

He grew up just east of Buffalo County and recalled a statewide hunting contest in the early 1980s. It wasn’t a contest for big antlers; these bucks were judged on weight. Even though the contest was held after the rut, those bucks still weighed a good 230 pounds. Of the top 20 heaviest deer, 18 were from Buffalo County. That got Indrebo’s attention. 


 Location No. of Entries
1. Buffalo Co., Wisconsin 160
2. Maverick Co., Texas 105
3. St. Louis Co., Minnesota 104 
4. Webb Co., Texas 95
5. La Salle Co., Texas 82

More recently, this chunk of western Wisconsin has produced more than just big-bodied deer. In the past 20 years, hunters in Buffalo County have entered 90 whitetail bucks into the Boone and Crockett records, more than any other county during that time. According to the Club’s County Search Tool, Buffalo County claims 160 record-book whitetail entries total, a solid 55 more entries than Maverick County, Texas, the runner-up. Wisconsin’s whitetail powerhouse didn’t happen by accident. A combination of topography, high-quality forage, and solid deer management created the perfect storm for some really big deer. 

Rural Bluff Country 

Buffalo County is located in the Driftless Area. During the Last Glacial Period, glaciers extended into the Midwest and left behind glacial deposits known as drift. The 24,000-square mile Driftless Area was never covered by glaciers. As a result, the landscape wasn’t scraped clean. The Driftless Area kept its rugged bluff country and fertile river valleys. 

“Those steep slopes make hunting whitetails harder because the winds are really tricky,” says Mark Rasmussen, Wisconsin DNR wildlife biologist. “Most people hunt out of treestands, and on those steep slopes the wind swirls around. It feels like most of the county is on a slope.” Those steep bluffs are punctuated by wooded ridges with agriculture in the bottom, creating plenty of edge habitat that whitetails love. The area is part of the tallgrass prairie and oak savanna communities. 

Classic Buffalo County terrain. Jacob L. Guelig shot this buck during Wisconsin's 2015 season.

With one stoplight, Buffalo County is far enough away from big cities to keep the area distinctly rural. At the same time, the city isn’t too far away. Plenty of hunters in cities like Minneapolis pay for the opportunity to kill a big buck. With that kind of demand comes an incentive for landowners to work together to build bigger deer. 

Private and Productive Habitat

As a whole, Wisconsin is roughly 82 percent private land. By comparison, Buffalo County is 92 percent private land with limited access. “Door knocking is not super-productive anymore,” says Rasmussen. “It’s not impossible, but it’s not easy.” 

Hunters didn’t even knock on doors to hunt a farmer’s property 50 years ago. That ended in the 1970s after a couple of bad winters forced Minnesota wildlife managers across the Mississippi River to the west to close their gun season. Indebro recalls that for a $35 nonresident license, those deer hunters poured into Buffalo County and changed the hunting there forever. 

Elmer Gotz's non-typical scoring 253 points has been the state record since 1973.

“One guy had 35 deer piled up, and then the farmers got together and posted their land,” Indebro says. “They didn’t want to let anyone shoot a gun, but you could bowhunt. The hunting essentially got shut down. The herd got a whole new start.” Indebro liked to bowhunt, and the farmers took one look at his weapon of choice and saw him as a low-level threat—if not crazy. 

In 1993, Indebro bought a farm in Buffalo County for $300/acre and moved there. He didn’t buy it with the intention of outfitting it. He wanted to hunt but never actually hunted at all. “I was trying to figure out how to pay for the farm,” he says. A taxidermist across the river in Minnesota knew a dentist from Florida looking for a place to hunt. Indebro’s farm had good deer, so he let them hunt his place for a fee. Indebro wasn’t alone. 

As hunters started caring less about a deer’s weight and more about its antler score, they started to come to Buffalo County. Demand for land went up. So did land values; property taxes followed. Farmers started selling the wooded parcels they couldn’t farm, and the new landowners put in ponds and planted more trees. Indebro says he’s planted hundreds of thousands of trees on his property over the years. Today, farmers might farm, but it’s not people food they’re growing. 

“Almost 100 percent of the county has been put into management,” Indebro says. “Those crops are left for the deer.” Corn and soybean crops keep deer fat and happy in the bottomlands, while acorns on sunny hillsides provide year-round dining. The apple orchards left behind by early settlers are the cherry on top, and programs from the USDA, authorized in the Farm Bill, help hold the landscape together. 

Deer Management 

Today, the bucks of Buffalo County are hardly a secret. As a result, a lot of cash trades hands for hunting property there. Farms sell for around $10,000/acre now, says Indebro—a far cry from the $300/acre he paid for his first farm. That kind of money means land managers maximize every square inch to grow the biggest deer possible. 

Even with Wisconsin’s relatively liberal deer hunting season (hunters can kill three does per license and one buck per weapon type), land managers build big deer. Indebro says the average antler gains are 20-30 inches each year based on the sheds they find. The most he’s seen one jump in a year is 38 inches. 

Josh Westbrook is joined by his family and his Buffalo County buck taken during the 2021 season.

No discussion about big whitetails is complete without talking about genetics. While there is no direct evidence that Buffalo County is producing a new kind of superior subspecies of whitetail, proper deer management lends itself to producing bigger deer. If bucks are allowed to grow old and big, they’re able to pass on those genes. Recent research has shown that deer are more than just a product of what they eat. They’re also a product of what their parents and grandparents ate. When you have generations of big deer eating quality forage, plus security to grow old, you’ve got the recipe for record-book deer. 

Folks in this part of the country are keeping an eye out for chronic wasting disease. While the Boone and Crockett Club is busy keeping tabs on all those big bucks, we’re also keeping tabs on the spread of this always fatal disease. In the meantime, Buffalo County still reigns supreme as the top record-book buck county in the U.S.

“Everywhere is deer habitat,” says Rasmussen. “There is a culture around here of people trying to grow bigger deer.” According to the Boone and Crockett records, it’s working.

Want more whitetail information? 

Check out Big Game Records LIVE, an annual subscription to B&C's Records Database.



If books are more  your thing, consider adding Records of North American Whitetail Deer, Sixth Edition to your library. 

Records of North American Whitetail Deer, Sixth Edition

The sixth edition of our most popular record book -- Records of North American Whitetail Deer! This greatly expanded sixth edition features over 17,000 trophy listings for whitetail and Coues’ whitetail deer dating back to the late 1800s up through December 31, 2019. Along with the state and provincial listings, readers will also enjoy the hunting stories of 37 of the top whitetail deer taken in the 21st Century.


Regular Price: $60

Associate Price: $48 - Join and Save


Shop All Things Whitetail! 


The Importance of Records in Big Game Management

When you enter your trophy into the Boone and Crockett system, you aren’t just honoring the animal and its habitat. You are participating in a data collection system that started in the 1920s and was refined by Club members in 1950. Today, there are nearly 60,000 trophy records. By establishing a records database more than 70 years ago, the Boone and Crockett Club established a scientific baseline from which researchers can use to study wildlife management. If you’re still  on the fence about entering your trophy, we encourage you to read Why Should I Bother to Enter My Trophy. To the best of our ability, we ensure that the trophies entered into the records were taken in accordance with the tenets of fair chase ethics. Despite what some may think, the Boone and Crockett records are not about a name or a score in a book—because in the end, there’s so much more to the score.





Support Conservation

Support Hunting

Support Conservation

Support Education

"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt