by Bryan Larsen
My 2016 hunting season started with planting bitterbrush seed and clearing juniper trees to complete my volunteer hours for Utah’s dedicated hunter program. I was in my final year for the unit before I needed to reapply. In 2014, I harvested my biggest mule deer to date and was determined to dedicate the next two years to harvesting my biggest velvet buck.
In late June, I started setting trail cameras in multiple areas. Throughout the next couple months, I found several deer that I would be happy to harvest.
The Thursday before the opener, I found myself in an area that held a high concentration of deer and a few ideal prospects. That night and the next day, I searched for the bucks I wanted to hunt. With no success of turning them up, I was unsure of my plan for the next day. I also had a general archery elk tag and had spotted a large herd of elk not too far from camp. That was my backup plan.
As I woke opening morning, I climbed up onto my glassing point looking for the big bucks, with no luck. With the elk herd not too far away, I constructed a plan to sneak my way into the herd. After a two-hour stalk, I harvested my archery elk on opening morning. After processing and packing my elk out solo, I headed home for the week.
Next Thursday, day six of the hunt, I chose a closer area that I found during my scouting that held a couple great bucks, but was in some rough country where not many deer lived. I made the hour hike up a very steep mountain where I had previously seen the bucks. That day, the weather was overcast with sporadic rain showers making for great hunting weather. As I sat glassing and waiting, I kept having this instinct to descend the mountain. Feeling stubborn and pointless to hike back down what I had just hiked up, I continued to glass and wait. After thirty minutes of no deer, it started to get late and I continued to have that instinct to hurry down the mountain. Finally listening to myself, I shuffled quickly down the mountain to glass the bottom before dark.
"I was excited as ever. I knew that I had just killed my biggest velvet buck to date."
As I got to the bottom, I came to an opening and was surprised to see a couple elk feeding on the far edge. Focusing on these elk, I failed to initially see the buck standing 20 yards away, feeding in the tall sagebrush. As I moved to get a better look at the elk, the buck picked his head up from the movement. When I finally got a decent look of the buck, I realized it was one of the bucks I scouted earlier in the year. I slightly alerted the buck, causing him to take a couple bounces away to get a better look at what I was. I quickly knocked an arrow and pulled out my range finder. The buck stopped broadside looking back at me. Ranging him at 50 yards, I drew my bow back and touched off my release sending my arrow perfectly through the lungs. I was excited as ever. I knew that I had just killed my biggest velvet buck to date.
At about the time I shot my buck, the rain started to come down and darkness quickly approached. I went to search for my arrow to confirm a good hit, and found it exactly where I shot him - a perfect pass through! After waiting for 30 minutes in the dark, and the rain, I decided to start to look for my buck before the blood and tracks were washed away. It was too late, I had a really hard time following his tracks and the blood had already been washed away. Making a difficult decision, I left back to camp for the night anxiously awaiting the morning to come.
That morning I returned to the site where I shot my deer. With little to no tracks left and no blood at all, I went to the area I last saw my buck. Making a grid pattern, I started to search for my buck. Luckily, I only went another 100 yards and my buck was piled up in a small wash. The excitement rushed back as I ran over to my buck and admired the awesome velvet covered antlers. Although it was not the biggest buck I had scouted this season, it was my biggest archery velvet buck to date and I was happy to harvest him. This was a hunt I will forever remember and a story that will long be told.
Bryan's King Camo Gear of Choice:
Hunter Series Short Sleeve T-Shirt in Desert Shadow