Posted on September 05 2016
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