The fourth year of Tennessee’s velvet buck hunt is in the books, and it’s proved to be another great year of opportunity for a number of deer hunters chasing velvet in the Volunteer State.
Despite the heat, the weather for this year’s hunt was a big improvement over the endless thunderstorms and tornados that swept across the state during the 2020 velvet buck hunt. It’ll be interesting to see what the harvest numbers show for the 2021 hunt compared to seasons past. In its inaugural year (2018), the buck harvest over the velvet weekend was 796. We’ll see how things shake out for this season when the totals are posted.
By most reports I’ve seen and heard across the state, the action proved to be fairly slow compared to previous years. My crew made several afternoon sets in bean fields in west Tennessee. We saw a total of 5 bucks, none of which made the cut.
Things were different for my buddy, JT Ardis of Mississippi. Ardis made the drive up to hunt with family for the velvet hunt weekend and found himself in the hot seat on Day 1 of the hunt.
“I was hunting a fence gap between standing corn fields for the afternoon hunt,” says Ardis. “The buck was with 2 younger bucks as they came by my stand just 20 yards away. I made the shot and watched the deer crash away. I wasn’t sure about my shot at first, but was later stoked to find my shot was good and my velvet buck was piled up not far down the trail.”
Josh Wilson, of west Tennessee, spent the weekend in pursuit of a big velvet buck he had showing up on a trail camera on a regular basis.
“I got up Sunday morning to go hunt the buck we had showing up on camera regularly,” says Wilson. “About an hour after daylight, the buck walked up at 25 yards, but didn’t offer a shot before turning to walk away.”
At 30 yards, the buck turned slightly, giving Wilson the shot he had been praying for. “With a small window of opportunity, I sent the arrow from my TenPoint crossbow toward the buck,” says Wilson. “After sitting for a few minutes to settle down, I called my buddies to help me track the buck. We found blood shortly after my buddies showed up, and we soon found my buck laying at the end of the trail. It was a big blessing God gave me that morning!”
Wes Hancock is another Tennessee hunter that got in on the early season action over the weekend. Hancock first caught trail cam photos of a buck he later named, Bull Winkle, in early June. He knew right away the buck was going to be unique.
“The excitement for the opportunity to hunt him grew as the weeks drew closer,” says Hancock. “When the weekend finally arrived, I chose not to hunt him in the morning for fear of bumping him on the way to the stand. So I waited and climbed into the stand for the afternoon hunt around 3:30.”
“The farm I was hunting rotates corn and beans each year and always seems to be a great spot for bachelor bucks to hang out.”
“After sitting in the heat for several hours, I caught movement coming up the ridge towards me. To my excitement, 3 bucks in a single file line were heading right towards me, with Bull Winkle in the back of the line. I grabbed my bow and stood up, saying a prayer under my breath as he stepped in the clear.”
“When the buck finally stepped back into the open and got right for the shot, I drew back, aimed behind the shoulder, and took the shot. The buck took off in a dead run and disappeared in the thick brush.
I was like a kid on Christmas morning!
Having punched my velvet buck tag in 2018, 2019, and now in 2021, this was my 3rd good velvet buck over the last 4 years of Tennessee’s velvet buck season.”
Tennessee’s velvet buck hunt opportunity has grown in popularity over the last several years. The hunt initially started as an archery-only opportunity for bowhunters, but has since grown to include gun hunting opportunities across several CWD zones in the state as well.
What about you? Would you take part in a statewide velvet hunt if offered in your home state? Comment below, and let us know what you think.