2023 Velvet Stud on KY Public Ground
By Patrick Dunning
Jake’s Kentucky buck is the first deer of the Big Buck 411 Blog’s 2023-2024 season, and rightfully so. He’s a self-taught, self-proclaimed newbie in the dark arts of bow hunting with just two years of experience under his belt. Jake must be living right, because he’s managed to find success lately and has two trophies to be proud of, like the one featured here.
Jake Marcum grew up gun hunting opening weekends with his father in the Appalachian coal fields of eastern Kentucky under a loose “if it’s brown it’s down” approach.
Deer hunting is in the Marcum family’s history, and Jake has always held respect for wild game and the sport. But it wasn’t until two years ago he became infatuated with the public land, bow hunting from a saddle craze. The 29-year-old harvested his first whitetail with a compound bow in 2022, a 160-class Kentucky stud on public land, and has been hooked since.
“It’s safe to say I’m hooked on bow hunting for the rest of my life. I did a lot of gun hunting growing up, but it’s chess versus checkers,” Jake told Buckmasters. “It’s a different game. There’s thermals, the wind direction, you have to know where he sleeps and eats and where he stages.”
Jake serves as co-pastor at a church in downtown Louisville and spends his free time scouting management areas within a two-hour radius of the city with his hunting buddy Hudson Taylor.
2023 was the first year Jake actively pre-season scouted, hung trail cameras and made a methodical plan for the state’s bow opener.
“I don’t own any private land, so we started exploring and scouting public land, hanging cameras and doing everything people talk about on Youtube and podcasts,” Jake said. “My buddy Hudson and I usually hunt close to each other on public land. We’ll sit on parallel draws, thermal hubs, and share any intel.”
Jake says they ran cell cameras for two months on a public tract in the Green River Region, and in early August this velvet-clad stud appeared on all eight of their cameras.
Opening day, Sept. 1, Jake and Hudson sat 14 hours straight without any luck. The only deer Jake saw all day was the doe he jumped getting down from his tree that evening. Hudson saw five does, a few fawns but no shooters.
On Memorial Day, Jake set out for a solo afternoon hunt with temperatures in the upper 80s. As he began the one-hour trek to his spot, he could see and hear (clearly) folks drinking and partying, enjoying the holiday and playing music at a nearby swimming hole.
He hung a stand about 90 yards from the commotion in a ditch draw and didn’t expect much deer movement that evening.
“I thought there was no way deer would be active. People were being loud, playing music; I would be shocked if they move in this,” Jake said. “But my thermals were perfect, and the wind was blowing down into the ditch and right out.”
Just after 7 p.m., Jake says the party ended and the woods came alive.
“I heard deer coming down the ridge above me; didn’t hear anything for five minutes, then look to my left and there’s a nice buck 20 yards from me. He crosses the ditch and I’m excited to shoot this deer. I couldn’t get my hand on the bow and draw back because he was staring in my direction. He was going to have to pass me to for me to get a shot on him.”
Jake let that buck walk, looked to his left again and saw a big 8-pointer in full velvet using the same trail.
“He did the same thing the other deer did. He walks past me with his head down in the foliage; I grab my bow and draw back. He’s 18 yards from me. I aimed at his opposite shoulder quartering away and buried the entire arrow in him.”
10 minutes after the shot, Jake got down, found quite a bit of blood and backed out with confidence. He drove his Honda Civic to the top of a hill to get cell service and called Hudson to let him know the news.
“I said ‘Hey! I killed the big 8!’” Jake said. “There was no way I was dragging this deer out without him because we put so much work in together. The only difference between him and I is I was in the tree instead of him. Lots of hard work but ultimately the Lord brought that deer by me, and I made a good shot on him.”
The two recovered the deer after a short 50-yard track.
“I don’t think I could be more fortunate and blessed to harvest this buck on opening weekend.”
Buckmasters master scorer Dale Weddle has this 4x4 on his list of 2023 Kentucky bucks to measure soon!
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