Whitetail Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

The rate at which record-class bucks have been taken in Alberta has never been higher than it's been in the last decade. and prospects for the future are brighter than ever. Alberta is home to three of Boone and Crockett's Top Ten typical and non-typical record setting Whitetail bucks; no other single state or province on the continent has more deer on the list! Those who really know Whitetail deer hunting will tell you the same thing. In Alberta, not only are there lots of Whitetails - there are big Whitetails! They can be so cunning and so elusive that a great many die of natural causes, never been seen by hunters! There is so much open ground to cover here, it is possible these animals can lead a totally human-free existence, wandering throughout their pristine natural habitat for the entire sum total of their fascinating life cycle.

The common range of these deer continues to expand as they adapt and move into new, productive habitat created through forestry, agriculture and petroleum development. This has succeeded in creating more hunting opportunities for trophy Whitetail than ever before. In fact, the Alberta government's Sustainable Resource Development department focuses specifically on developing sustainable infrastructures for hunting and fishing habitat.

An example of the kind of work being done recently in Alberta is the Recreational Access Management Program (RAMP). Some of the primary goals of RAMP are to:

1. Create an access management partnership between landowners and hunters and anglers.

2. Improve public recreational hunting and fishing access opportunities on private land.

3. Provide assistance to landowners to enhance working agricultural landscapes that provide quality habitat and hunting and fishing opportunities.

Alberta is internationally regarded for having one of the highest percentages of trophy-class bucks within its population of any jurisdiction in North America! Per capita hunting days produce more record book deer than any other region. By the book and by the numbers, Alberta just plain makes good mathematical and environmental hunting sense. The natural resources that exist in Alberta are truly the envy of the other nine Canadian provinces. Spend a week hunting Whitetails in Alberta and you may see some of the biggest deer ever thanks to excellent conservation efforts and established, dependable food and water sources well integrated/mature populations.

Whitetails have successfully adapted to a broad range of habitat types in Alberta. In the southern part of the province, prairie deer thrive in river bottoms, slough margins and any other "pocket" of ideal habitat they can find. The smallest piece of suitable cover can shelter outstanding bucks who have learned the hard way the coveted wilderness secrets of living in a fragmented landscape. The Southern Prairie zones (WMUs in the 100s) generally house large populations of Whitetail deer. Alberta Outfitters have mastered the hunting techniques required for pursuing impressive male Whitetail specimens in the prairie wildlife units. Expansive agricultural and grasslands with copses of poplar, willow and sagebrush are common to the prairie landscape. These areas are home to a range of stream and river drainages from the rRockies, and natural or man-made irrigation systems provide deer and other indigenous animals with plentiful water sources to replenish their systems. The winter months result in large amounts of snowfall when heavy open winds cause drifting and exposure patterns to occur affecting animal foraging and movement.

In the central parklands of the province, clumps of aspen forest ranging in size from several to a couplehundred acres conceal deer who take great advantage of abundant food resources provided by cereal, hay and other crops throughout the region. The Parkland zones (WMUs in the 200s) are a transition between the mixed-wood forests to the North and West and the drier prairies to the South and East. Stands of poplar are interspersed with grasslands and meadows, giving areas a park-like appearance. This rich agricultural land has black soils and receives ample rainfall. Many of Alberta's major metropolitan centres are found in the parkland, including Edmonton and Calgary. The region is travelled by all-season highways, gravel roads, and major airports.

The Foothills zones (WMUs in the 300s) are wellpopulated with Whitetail. The foothills provide important Whitetail winter range because winters are warmer than in the adjacent Rocky Mountains, therefore offering a greater diversity of food sources for deer. Woodland Whitetail roam widely throughout these areas. The foothills are similar to the mountain region, but are lower in elevation and generally drier. Forests of spruce, pine and poplar are often broken by tracts of grassland. This spectrum of vegetation provides appealing habitat for a variety of wildlife. Hunting in this area is very productive The Southern Prairie zones (WMUs in the 100s) generally house large populations of Whitetail deer. . Create an access management partnership between landowners and hunters and anglers. . Improve public recreational hunting and fishing access opportunities on private land. . Provide assistance to landowners to enhance working agricultural landscapes that provide quality habitat and hunting and fishing opportunities. Alberta's Professional Outfitter 27 and rewarding, and encounters of a range of diverse and unique wildlife are common. 4x4s are often employed by trail or through unbroken bush from base camps to explore ridgelines, stream basins, forested, thick-bushed or grassy hillocks, open meadows and sometimes even surprise canyons previously invisible from 200 meters away. Hold on tight to your handlebars! Tree stands, still hunting and spot and stalk may all be employed to harvest Whitetail in these zones - the geography is very dynamic and can change noticeably within each square mile.

The mountain hunting region is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain zones (WMUs in the 400s) that stretch along much of the western border of Alberta. It is characterized by forests of coniferous trees such as spruce, fir and pine. At higher elevations, permanent snow fields and glaciers are scattered among rocky ledges, scree slopes and alpine meadows. Next to this region are Alberta's three national parks: Jasper, Banff and Waterton Lakes. Hunting is strictly prohibited in national parks.Further North, the boreal region offers deer the safety of spruce/aspen forests dissected by numerous cut blocks, roads, cutlines and fringe areas of agricultural production. The Northern Boreal Forest zones (WMUs in the 500s) are characterized by vast expanses of mixed-wood forests of coniferous spruce, pine and larch, and deciduous poplar and birch. These stands are broken by numerous lakes, muskegs and rivers. In the extreme northeast of the province, the Canadian shield of Precambrian rock is exposed, harbouring many clear-water lakes.

The Whitetail "RUT" occurs from mid to late November. Weather conditions during this month are highly variable and range from dry and warm to two feet of snow and -30 temperatures. There is no way to predict from year to year what to expect, so one should come equipped and prepared for any of these possibilities. Outdoorsmen can always peel off extra clothes if the weather is unseasonably warm, but it is tough to hunt effectively if you're constantly shivering, so ensure you bring clothes for periods of below freezing. Archery seasons and the early northern rifle seasons are generally milder; however hunters should still be prepared for cold and snow during any of the fall months.

Hunting tactics vary greatly in Alberta, and here anything can happen. Weather, a hunter's level of fitness, timing in relation to the rut, habitat type, and personal preference of the Outfitter are all variables that play a role in the tactics used for success. Bowhunters will have their best luck hunting from ground blinds or tree stands. Stands are placed along established travel corridors adjacent to known feeding areas or between food sources and bedding cover. Rattling, calling, scents and decoys may all be used to help move deer closer to bowhunters and rifle hunters utilizing blinds or stands. The rifle hunter has more options to choose from when it comes to selecting tactics or set-ups.

While ground blinds and tree stands continue to be effective choices, a spot and stalk approach can be highly productive for trophy deer, as can still-hunting where ground- cover conditions are favorable. Another time-tested technique for rooting out midday bucks from cover is "deer driving", or "pushing bush" as its most commonly referred to in western Canada. This tactic, while certainly challenging the shooting skills of the hunter on post, is a highly successful method for creating opportunities for harvesting huge deer that might otherwise never show themselves.

The Whitetail subspecies native to Alberta is the largest bodied and largest antlered of the many recognized subspecies of Whitetails across North America. Mature bucks in excess of the 300 "plus" pound category exist here and some grow to be substantially bigger. As for antler size: Alberta's habitat, genetics and moderate hunting pressure allow many deer to reach the true trophy proportions and incredible mass that is recognized throughout the hunting world. As a result, rifles in the .270 to .300 Win. Mag. class are the norm. It is difficult to have too much gun when hunting Whitetails and most Outfitters recommend clients bring with them the largest caliber they can comfortably handle. Variable scopes can be of great value too, as shooting opportunities may present themselves at anywhere from a handful of yards if hunting from a blind or stand to 350 yards or more in open habitats.

Alberta is truly a hunter's paradise, and as a long time visiting hunter recently quoted: "Flying in each year gives me the same feeling. As the plane touches down, I get that exciting feeling of anticipation and the thought comes to mind that I am 'home', back in the 'land of giants'!"

Alberta Top 3

Score Date Owner
204 1/4 1967 S. Jansen
199 5/8* 1991 Don McGarvey
198 1/2 1981 Morris Kimball
Score Date Owner
279 3/4 1991 Brad Gsell
277 5/8 1976 Doug Klinger
276 1/8 2007 Helgie Eymundson

View Top Ten


Odocoileus virginianus

Hoofed Animals

Deer Family (Cervidae)


Size: 190 cm/90-105 cm at the shoulder
Weight: 90-135 kg


In the Rockies, the Whitetail deer is outnumbered by the smaller mule deer. Over the past decade, Whitetail have been moving uphill, and have become a common sight in the mountains. Like the mule deer, they have a tawny coat with a light rump. Their tail is much bushier than that of the Mule Deer, and despite their name, is brown in colour. It is the underside of the tail for which this deer has become known. When startled, they raise their tail and reveal the white underside. This "flagging" as it is called, acts as a danger call to other deer in the immediate area.

Their antlers are also unique. The main branch (or tine) forks several tines along its length. The antlers of mule deer form a y-intersection at each junction.


The most wide-spread deer in North America, the Whitetail is found across the U.S. and southern Canada. While less common in the mountains than the Mule Deer, it is gradually becoming a more common sight.


They feed on many grasses, flowers and leaves during the summer months, resorting to browsing buds and twigs during the long winter months.


Like other members of the deer family, the rutting season takes place during September and early October. Fawns appear in the spring, making the winter a challenging time for the does. They must divert limited winter resources towards reproduction, and this may result in their being more likely to be selected by predators.

Notes: Poorly adapted to winter climates, Whitetail deer 'yard' up during the winter. Quite simply stated, they move in groups, using trails to make winter travel less difficult. Unlike Moose, who are well adapted to move through the deep snows of the mountains, deer are forced into a bounding gait with even a shallow snowpack. Very soon, the benefits of movement can be outweighed by the energy costs.

Source: www.mountainnature.com