Most deer hunters have to wait until October first to get out and do in any bowhunting for whitetails. There are a few states that open the middle of September, and one even in August. Kentucky routinely has their opening day the first Saturday of September. Depending on how early in the month Saturday falls, hunters have a small window to be able to tag a velvet buck.
This year, opening day fell on September Second in Kentucky. With the opening day this early in the month, hunters stood a good chance of having the opportunity for a velvet buck, at least for a couple days anyways.
Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf states just a few days prior to opening day, and much of Kentucky was feeling the aftermath of the vicious storm as my nephew Ray Hingson and I made our way from central Illinois to Central Kentucky Outdoors near Salvisa, Kentucky.
Upon our arrival, John Braasch, owner of Central Kentucky Outdoors quickly showed us trail camera photos of some of the bucks on the property. It was evident that the property held some big bucks thanks to a management plan that provided everything the bucks needed to grow quality antlers and big bodies.
A couple of the trail camera photos that John showed us were of a couple management bucks that were estimated to be 5 years old. John put last year’s photos of the bucks next to this years, and they were almost identical. Both were respectable bucks pushing 120-inches, but he would like to see them harvested if the opportunity presented itself.
Opening morning came in with rain pelting our faces as we headed opposite directions on the farm in search of a mature velvet buck. We both knew that our window of opportunity was small before bucks became hard horned.
The heavy rains kept many of the deer hunkered down throughout the morning. The occasional doe would make an appearance every now and then, but knowing some giant bucks lived on the property the does got a pass.
Arriving back at the lodge midmorning, we compared the mornings activities. We all agreed that if the rain stopped mid-afternoon like it was forecasted to do, the bucks would likely be on their feet looking for food.
As the hours passed, it was time again to start thinking about the evening hunt. My nephew Ray would be going to a stand overlooking a food plot consisting of soybeans. I made the choice to go to a stand that was mainly frequented by does.
The reason I made the choice I did was because I was hunting one particular doe. The doe on my hit list was a 7-year-old doe (proven through trail camera photos). I missed this particular doe last year. She would be an easy doe to recognize if she would show herself. Being blind in her left eye, and missing her tail are dead giveaways of the doe I’m looking for.
I saw several does that evening, and was even tempted to let an arrow fly a time or two. Holding out for the old doe, I went back to the lodge at dark without shooting.
As the minutes passed by, my nephew and John still had not returned. Often, it is a good sign when hunters return to camp late. Finally, in the distance I could hear the rumble of the UTV making its way up the steep hillsides Central Kentucky is known for.
The laughter and talking was all I needed to hear to know Ray had a successful hunt. As the vehicle passed under a nearby security light, I could see the white of a belly, a big belly.
At seven o’clock, two bucks exited the woods, and quickly made their way across open ground with their eyes focused on soybeans and the Big & J mineral block near Ray’s stand. Using his binoculars, Ray quickly knew that the bigger buck was one of the management bucks that we were after.
At 30-yards, it appeared the bucks were not going to come any closer to Ray. Setting his 30-yard pin on the vitals of the biggest of the two 8-point bucks, he squeezed the trigger of the release. With a loud thud, the arrow struck home and red blood was immediately visible as the deer dashed off towards where it had just come from.
Sixty yards into the sprint, the buck never slowed down as it summersaulted and came to its final resting place. Ray had accomplished what he set out to do. He took his first velvet buck on opening day of the Kentucky archery season. Something many hunters across the country will never get to feel.
The trail camera photos of this buck did not do it justice. The width and mass of this buck was much larger than any of us suspected. The buck has not officially been scored, but unofficially it is 124 3/8ths, making it a great management deer for any hunter.
I never did connect on my blind doe, but the last morning of the hunt I arrowed a mature doe that will feed my family. I saw plenty of deer, and several large bucks but I never felt comfortable pulling the trigger on my release. There is always next year.
I hear a lot of hunters talk negatively about hunting over bait. Hunting over bait does not guarantee success, far from it. Yes, there might be corn, Big & J blocks, and other food sources placed on the ground by man, but deer still have to come to them and then the hunter has to be able to get a shot off. Natural food sources often win the deer’s attention over placed bait piles.
With acorns falling to ground in large volumes, the deer were under the oaks eating what they could before they disappeared for another year. Deer will almost always go to the oaks before anywhere else. I hunted hard for 5-days and never shot a buck. I saw plenty of bucks, but the cards did not fall into my lap this year. Who knows, maybe I will find my way back to Kentucky later in the season and get the old blind doe that outsmarted me again earlier in the season.
For a chance to hunt for a mature velvet buck next year, contact John Braasch. The information can be found on his website, www.centralkentuckyoutdoors.com