Tails from Camp Buckskin - The Velvet Buck


          With lovely fall weather upon us, Elroy and I were anxious to start another whitetail bowhunting season. Elroy had been working all summer on our ground blinds in anticipation of opening day and now it was done.

          On opening day Elroy got up at 4:00 a.m., did his exercise routine and had a good breakfast before heading out the door. He got to his stand a little before dawn and settled in to watch the sunrise and the woods wake up to another day. It felt so good to be out in the woods hunting again that it almost brought tears to his eyes. A sense of peace amid the solitude arises and is a feeling that only another hunter would understand.

          The first animals to greet him were his friends the pine squirrel and chipmunk. After watching the two of them, some blue jays play, but no deer for a few hours, he decided to return to the cottage.

          That afternoon Elroy and I got our gear ready and walked down the path through the backyard to our little hut. We quickly settled in as Elroy readied his video camera and filmed some initial footage of our blind, shooting lanes and surrounding area.  I did a bit of meditation, requesting a nice deer to offer itself up to feed us during the coming winter.

          We’d only been sitting in the blind for an hour when a 3-point buck sauntered down the trail.  It stopped facing away from us, staring towards the north. There it stood occasionally moving slightly from side to side.

          Elroy was pleased to be catching such interesting behavior on his video camera. I’d quietly moved into position, patiently waiting for the deer to present me with a clear shot. Elroy nodded he was ready, giving me the okay to shoot anytime.

          We waited, but the deer still hadn’t turned giving me an ethical angle. My arms began to cramp so I relaxed my position, sitting back in my chair to rest my body.  As we continued watching, the buck grazed contently on acorns. The deer began to move so I carefully moved into position again. Elroy was still filming the buck and again reminded me to shoot when I was ready.

          Finally the animal turned enough to present me with a quartering away shot. I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger on my Excalibur.  The arrow left the bow and sped on its way into the buck with amazing speed.  Elroy excitedly said that I had made a perfect quartering away shot!  He had seen the arrow buried to the fletching as the deer ran off.

          Elroy turned to me and gave me a hug. We watched the film playback on the camera and realized the battery died just before I’d shot. Elroy hadn't noticed and thought he’d filmed the whole hunt. Disappointed over the film, but elated over the hunt, Elroy left the hut to look for a blood trail. Finding none, we decided to wait until morning to recover the buck.   I felt safe about leaving it till morning since there hadn’t been much bear activity in the area and it was too cool for the meat to spoil.

          Next morning Elroy skipped his hunt and began searching finding the trail within 30 yards; 35 yards more and he spotted the buck. To his amazement the little buck's antlers were still in velvet. In all his years of hunting, never seen a harvested buck in velvet.  Wanting to protect the antlers, a bit of creativity was necessary to protect the velvet during recovery.

          He removed his gloves and placed them over the antlers as padding while he transported the deer back to the cottage with the tractor and trailer. I awoke to find Elroy ready to take pictures of me and the buck as soon as I got dressed. He took the pictures, made our usual movie of retelling the story and then took the deer into be registered and processed.

          While waiting for our turn for registration we got into a conversation with some other hunters. Everyone was excited to see the horns still in velvet and hoped that we would mount them. We checked with our taxidermist to see if we needed to do anything special to preserve the velvet. Put them in the freezer until delivery was all so one of the hunters helped Elroy remove the skullcap from the head.

          A few weeks later Elroy brought the antlers to our taxidermist, who informed us that this was a first and he was eager for the experience. He did a wonderful job and they now hang in my trophy room. Elroy and I are happy hunters.