Hunting and Fishing News & Blog Articles
Velvet Bucks- Whitetails Most Unique Trophy
Stag whitetail deer are formed when a young buck’s testicles fail to form properly. Although these bucks grow antlers, the velvet does not shed from the bone and they carry velvet-covered antlers throughout the season. Non-typical bucks are slightly more common due to a bodily injury or genetic defect. Taking a deer with either characteristic is difficult, yet my buck shown above had both. Although this deer didn’t score well, it absolutely had to be mounted. More and more hunters are taking the “velvet challenge” and trying to take a buck before the antlers shed their fuzzy cover.
Plan Now for Velvet
Stan Potts took this giant velvet whitetail in Kentucky that may be the best bet for a fuzzy antler. Kentucky has an abundance of great whitetail habitat and a high population of deer in rural areas. Most importantly, KY only allows one antlered deer per hunter per season. When you can only harvest one buck, hunters will pass up even Pope & Young class bucks for the prospects of a really big one. Whitetail bucks generally begin shedding their velvet in Mid September, so the earlier you can hunt, the better.
Jeff Harrison took this great deer on Maryland’s opening day, formerly September 15. Recently, Maryland has moved the date earlier to September 8th, a time when most bucks will still be in velvet. Unlike Kentucky, the Free State allows three bucks per year, and nearly unlimited does in much of the state. A non-resident hunting license is good for multiple deer, two turkeys, and small game. Western Maryland has an abundance of public land with moderate access and hundreds of campsites.
Begin Your Research Now
In August and early September, most food sources are static and deer will bed and feed in a regular pattern. You need to locate deer without spooking them from their regular routine which means using binoculars and glassing food plots from afar or carefully cruising likely feeding habitat at mid-day when deer will be bedded.
Consider Baiting or Minerals where legal
Both Maryland and Kentucky allow baiting and all of the above are favorite deer feeds. Some deer love apples, other will ignore them. Pumpkins are excellent deer food but most mature too late for velvet antlers. A food block or mineral block can be put out now so that deer become used to it and there is no need to repeatedly visit the site to replenish. I’ve been using Big Tine mineral blocks with excellent success and one block usually lasts about 6 months.
Invest in Cellular Trail Cameras
Setting up a mineral site is a great way to support deer behavior. At one point last year, I had seven bucks visit this mineral site in a single day. As you can see, this young fawn has already discovered the site and may visit it regularly as it grows to maturity. Wary mature bucks may shy away from baited sites during daylight, yet minerals are a more natural allure and available year round. Today’s cellular cameras will pay for themselves with gas and travel time saved. More importantly, checking your cameras will be the first thing you do every day, even before coffee. You may see bears, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, and a host of other critters that make hunting fun.
Tune Up and Get Ready
If a velvet buck is your goal, get started today. Check your state regulations to see if your season opens in early September. Consider special seasons which may be used to reduce crop damage. South Carolina opens its deer season on August 15th on private property and the limit is two bucks per day with a cap of four total. If you don’t have a state nearby, booking an outfitted hunt in the “Low Country” of South Carolina is an excellent way to take this most unique trophy. In addition to a beautiful taxidermy mount, you will harvest the best venison you have ever tasted. I bagged an 8-point in South Carolina many years ago and a guide asked if he could process the deer since he was a butcher by trade. I can still taste how delicious those steaks and roasts became. It was so positive, that I took a group of friends the next year. Best of luck this season and send us a picture of those “fuzzy horns.”