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Appalachian options: more than a quarter of all U.S. states contribute land to the Appalachian Mountains and their foothills. Here are a few of the public hunting lands worth investigating.

1 NEW YORK: Some big bucks are shot on the Tompkins-Cayuga Cooperative Hunting Area, which is just east of Cayuga Lake. This 5,000-acre compilation of private lands is administered by the state on a sign-in basis. Areas are assigned by the day.

2 PENNSYLVANIA: For big bucks, head to the north-central region; deer there average the oldest in Pennsylvania. Wildlife Management Unit 2G has miles of lightly hunted, rugged and remote habitat. If you go, be prepared for a truly wild hunt.

3 MARYLAND: Lying nearly in Pennsylvania and Virginia but entirely in Maryland's Washington County, Indian Springs WMA yields some good bucks every year. The 6,400-acre public area is hilly and 90 percent shrouded in hardwood forest.

4 OHIO: Perched on the north side of the Ohio River in Scioto and Adams counties, Shawnee State Forest is 63,000 acres of rugged hardwood hills, valleys and small streams. It even includes a wilderness area off limits to motorized vehicles.

5 WEST VIRGINIA: Four far-southern counties have long been bow-only for deer, and they consistently produce big ones. R.D. Bailey Lake, Tug Fork and Laurel Lake WMAs, along with Panther State Forest, total 60,000-plus acres open to archers.

6 VIRGINIA: Radford Arsenal, a U.S. Army munitions plant in Pulaski County, has long been a trophy hotspot. Assorted hunts are available by lottery, and the odds ot getting drawn are tough -- but if you get in, there's serious big-buck potential.

7 KENTUCKY: Kentucky's largest public deer destination is Daniel Boone National Forest, with 700,000 acres spread over 21 eastern counties. Whitetails share some of these heavily wooded acres with reintroduced elk, which can be hunted only by limited permit.

8 NORTH CAROLINA: There's no shortage of steep public land giving you room to outwalk less serious hunters. Consider trying your luck at South Mountains Game Lands, a group of tracts totaling over 21,000 acres near Dysartsville. Some prescribed burning is on tap for 2014.

9 TEN North Cumberland WMA north of Knoxville is a great place to combine rustic mountain camping with get-away-from-it-all deer hunting. Elk also live here, but only a handful of permits arg allocated each year.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Want to hunt a wild area? Try the scenic Jocassee Gorges area in Oconee County. Bucks here get old because so few hunters are willing and able to reach them. If you can't or won't climb, you won't, either. A boat is a big help.

11 GEORGIA: There's a lot of public land in North Georgia, but the bow-only 3,000-acre Gartecay section of Rich Mountain WMA has extra promise. You can't take an ATV into this area, so be ready to hoof it in and out. There are some food plots.

12 ALABAMA: Riverton Community Hunting Area offers 6,625 acres of public deer hunting in Colbert County, in the state's northwest corner. Numerous other tracts worth looking into are scattered across the state's more rugged northern quarter.

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Publication:North American Whitetail
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:Aug 7, 2014
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