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The Velvet Buck

Trisler
Jeff Trisler of Jonesville, La., realized one of his bowhunting goals only after he wrapped his hands around this 8-point buck's antlers still sporting velvet.
By Jeff Trisler

-- Velvet! That was all that kept running through my mind once I wrapped my hands around this buck's antlers. It all happened so fast that I had never noticed the buck's "summer skin" still on its antlers. Once I released the arrow, the commotion that had occurred away from the buck I had just shot grabbed my full attention. It wasn't until I actually touched its headgear that I realized I had just accomplished one of my personal goals as a bowhunter.

It is safe to assume that every whitetail hunter who makes his or her way into the deer woods dreams of shooting a trophy buck. I am no different. However, there have always been two "sub-categories" that I wanted in the way of a buck. I have dreamed of harvesting a deer in velvet and a buck sporting a drop tine. Little did I know that on Oct. 2, 2006, one of those goals would become a reality.

I had just bought a new Mathews Outback bow that summer and was excited about taking it into the woods that fall to christen it. Oct. 2 was a Monday, and I could not wait to finish up with work and head home, grab my gear and settle in a lock-on treestand that I had hung just a few weeks prior.

The stand was positioned about 15 yards off of a road that led across a bottom filled with briars and palmetto with a pin oak acorn flat to my left. I had hunted the acorn trees the previous year and kept noticing that the deer would often feed on the edge of the acorn trees and cross the road in the bottom. I had hung my lock-on so that I could shoot the road and the heavily used trail coming through the briars. The set-up was perfect, and I could not wait to climb up in the stand for the evening hunt.

As I stepped out of my truck the temperature was 93 degrees, and I felt every bit of the heat as I walked to my stand and settled in. While sweat dripped from my nose, I wondered what in the world I was doing deer hunting instead of fishing. "Welcome to Louisiana," I mumbled. I was there for an hour when I noticed a spike slipping out of the palmetto and into the road. It slowly made its way out and fed for about 20 minutes before I observed the deer become fully alert. It stared down the road to my left.

The spike quickly slipped off the way it had come, and it did not take me but a second to find out why. BUCK! There was no caution in its step. In fact, it was almost in somewhat of a jog. I am not sure if the buck was chasing the spike away or just coming in for a bite, but the deer was definitely coming fast. A quick glance and I knew he was a legal deer on our lease. I remember thinking that the buck was sporting a heavy set of antlers.

The buck stopped at 15 yards, and I drew back the Mathews and settled the pin behind its shoulder. With the touch of the release, the arrow found its mark, and I knew that I had struck pay dirt. The buck ran right by the tree that I was sitting in and stopped about 10 yards behind me to my right, trying to determine just how serious a situation it had gotten into. The buck's legs began to fail and it went down right there in the palmetto.

As the noise from the crashing buck ended, I heard something to my left. It was another buck! Startled by the noise, this second buck had walked out of the road and taken cover in the thicket. I watched this 8-point buck slowly pick its antlers through the briars trying to figure out what had just happened to its counterpart. The buck made its way to within 10 yards of my stand before realizing something just wasn't right. It sniffed the air and curled its upper lip trying to figure out the strange smell.

In only a few seconds, this buck became uncomfortable and bounded through the palmetto, putting some distance between us. It was then that I noticed another set of antlers slipping across the oak flat! Bachelor group! I only caught the left rack of this buck but was impressed with the five points, tall tines and mass that I saw. As these two bucks walked out of sight, my attention turned to what I had just done. I had a buck down and it was time to take a closer look.

To be honest, I don't even remember climbing down the ladder. I can almost guarantee that I missed a few steps on the way down. As I grabbed the buck's antlers, I noticed that what I had mistaken for mass turned out to be an 8-point buck in full velvet!

It had all happened so fast that I never noticed the summer characteristics of the buck. It is probably a good thing I did not notice the velvet because buck fever would have surely given this bowhunter the shakes.

I had fulfilled one of my goals in the early Louisiana bow season, and I am still chasing that drop-tined buck. This year as I hunt my lease and travel to Illinois, I can't help but think that a smasher buck with a "vertically challenged" antler is lurking just out of bow range.

Jeff Trisler
Jonesville, Louisiana

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