Georgia’s Best Big-Buck Counties 2017

GON system rates every Georgia county.

Daryl Kirby | October 2, 2017

James Johnson killed this Jackson County bow-buck last season. It netted 145 5/8, which makes it the new No. 1 Jackson County bow-kill of all-time. We missed this buck in last month’s County-by-County bow rankings, and the buck should also have been listed at No. 8 in Georgia’s Best Bow Bucks article highlighting the state’s top archery bucks from last season. James’s bow-kill will help Jackson County’s big-buck production ranking for the next 10 years.

After several years of declining scores, the latest number-crunching shows a significant improvement in big-buck production for most Georgia counties.

Counties are given a score based on official net scores of bucks killed in the past 10 years. We also factor in the size of a county into the equation. Scores will drop from one year to the next if there are more bucks from 11 years ago falling out of the equation than new bucks being added in the past year. The 10-year window is an important component to determine which counties are currently the best for big bucks. There are some Georgia counties that 15 or 20 years ago were in the Top-10 of this list, counties like Henry and Heard, that have seen a big drop in big-buck production in the past decade.

However, there are many more counties with rising scores this year than counties with scores on the decline.

For the sixth year in a row, Worth County is the No. 1 county in Georgia for producing high-scoring bucks. Worth’s big-buck production score of 214 is remarkable, even when compared to the other top Georgia counties. Worth County’s score is 54 points higher than the second-best county. And consider this—the 10th best Georgia county has a score of 106. Just the difference between our No. 10 county and Worth County is 108 points, which is more than the total score for 150 of Georgia’s 159 counties. And make no mistake, that No. 10 county is awesome when it comes to producing big bucks—Worth has just been that much better.

Last season, Worth County produced the No. 1 Georgia buck, Shannon Sledge’s Booner that netted more than 200, plus Worth also had two other bucks that made GON’s Fab 40. Why is Worth County so good? Quality dirt—fertile soil along the Flint River corridor—is a primary reason. That middle section of the Flint River drainage is also home to Macon, Sumter, Dooly, Lee and Dougherty counties—all top big-buck counties year after year. There is lots of agricultural farmland in this section of middle to south Georgia, and high-protein peanuts are commonly in the planting rotation in this part of Georgia. Contrast that to the sandy soils of southeast Georgia dominated by vast pine plantations.

Probably the greatest factor in Worth’s dominance as the best big-buck county is the number of large tracts of land there intensively managed for growing big-racked bucks. High-density hunting clubs are rare in Worth County. It’s hard to grow a 5 1/2-year-old buck on a 500-acre hunting club with 20 members—who all want to get their money’s worth each season and won’t pass up a decent 8-pointer. Old age, combined with deer getting great nutrition, and throw in some high-end genetic potential, and Worth County and other counties in that part of Georgia are prime for big bucks.

It’s noteworthy that in second-place this year is Macon County, which was No. 1 for many years before Worth overtook it. Macon had dropped a few spots for several seasons, but it’s back at No. 2 this year. Lee County, which held the No. 2 spot the past four years, fell to No. 5, but Lee is still an elite big-buck county—there’s no decline occurring in Lee County when it comes to producing big bucks.

Also noteworthy is the emergence of the Piedmont Triangle of Morgan, Jasper and Putnam counties. Morgan has been a Top-10 county for more than a decade, and now Jasper and Putnam have joined Morgan to form a pocket of red—denoting the very best trophy-buck counties in Georgia. That pocket of red also demonstrates how well this buck-production formula works. Adjacent counties and regions of the state have similar scores and typically trend together from year to year.

If you kill a good buck this season, contact GON as soon as possible. Call (800) 438-4663, or email [email protected].

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