Story and Photos by Daniel James Hendricks
Over the course of my hunting career, I have been in a lot of trophy rooms, some of them very spectacular, and I have seen more than my fair share of big, impressive bucks hanging on the wall. One variation that is clearly missing from those collections however, is perhaps the most striking phase of a mature whitetails antler growth cycle. And that would be the velvet stage, a season that many think is the most beautiful segment of a buck’s antler growth. But, alas, when the buck is in velvet, the hunting season is yet to open making it impossible to take a whitetail in that particular antler stage.
Three of our ACF members and I thought that dressing our trophy room with a buck in full velvet was a grand idea; and to accomplish this feat, all we had to do was contact Northern Buck Preserves (NBP) in the upper Wisconsin and ask if we could each take a buck in velvet at their operation. The answer was, of course, a resounding yes.
Generally, a whitetail buck’s antlers stop growing around the middle of August at which time they begin to dry up. At this point in the cycle, the antlers lose their pronounced round tips and the hard antlers begin to work out of the velvet at the points. Then, usually somewhere right around Labor Day, the buck sheds its velvet by rubbing it off on underbrush and trees. Once the velvet has been shredded away, the polishing process begins. The final color of a whitetail’s antlers is determined by the variety of tree that buck uses to polish its rack.
Our band of velvet seekers began our hunt on the 13th of August and as luck would have it, we found the antlers to be at peak growth, but still tipped with the desired rounded tips. The timing was perfect and all that was left was to find the particular animals that we wanted to display in our homes that represented the whitetail deer in its peak velvet stage.
The members of our crew consisted of Gene Strie from Belllingham, MN. Gene is a seasoned veteran of the HBM Hunt Club, but had a serious objective of obtaining a white buck. He had seen the photos that I had taken at NBP the year before and was amazed to see that the velvet of the white bucks was also white. At the very moment he saw the photos, he said we have to line up a velvet hunt for 2013, thereby making him the driving force that made this hunt happen.
Our other two hunters were Jim Kempf from Scorpyd Crossbows in Coralville, IA and his associate, Rex Eisenhower. Jim and I have been good friends for a long time, but we had never shared a hunt together. When the topic of a hunt for bucks in velvet was mentioned, his ears perked up and he thought that was exactly what he needed to bolster his collection of big whitetail trophies. And of course, Rex needed no encouragement to join in the fun.
Now since the principals from Scorpyd were half of the hunting team, Jim suggested that we all use Scorpyd crossbows to make the hunt just a little more unique and memorable. Jim said that the bow he had made especially for me was ready and that he would be bringing it, so I gladly volunteered my current Scorpyd bow to Gene, who had been very anxious to get his fingers around for some time. So it was agreed, we head into the woods to hunt for velvet bucks all armed with a Scorpyd crossbow.
We gathered at Palmquist’s the Farm, the home base for NPB and settled into the spacious log lodge, got our gear unpacked and then headed for the range to assure that we were ready to head into the woods the following morning.
Jim asked if he could make a formal presentation of the special bow he had created for me and video it for future use. Of course I agreed since I feared that if I did not agree he would withhold a crossbow that I was more than just a little anxious to get my hands on. Once the presentation had been made and filmed, we hit the range and fine tuned our bows so the each of us was shooting tight groups at 40-yards.
Over the course of the next three days, each hunter was successful at introducing their Scorpyd to a velvet-clad buck. Each hunter required only one shot to close the deal. Gene’s buck ran the farthest before collapsing at about 75 yards. Jim’s ran the shortest distance piling up in just twenty yards before expiring.
Jim shot the biggest buck, a non-typical that grossed 203 after a 2% deduction for velvet under the Boone and Crocket guidelines. It was a striking beast that had Jim as giddy as if it were his first big buck ever.
Rex came in second by downing a 184” typical that was every bit as impressive as Jims. Both bucks had perfect velvet and were destined to be the talking point of the men’s already impressive trophy collections.
Geno went for the gold and brought down a handsome typical white buck that scored 172”. Gene had dreamed of taking a white buck for five years, however never dreamed that it would be this big. A long term objective had been reached by him and it had been made even better by the fact that the buck was adorned in snowy white velvet.
The buck I took was the smallest of the group, but was a symmetrical 8-pointer in perfect velvet that would be the very first shoulder mount in my hunting career. I prefer the European mount, but for probably the only velvet buck I ever will take in velvet, only a shoulder mount would do it justice.
We headed home, thrilled with the results of the hunt, each and every one of us! NBP had provided the opportunity and had served our needs in a pleasing, satisfying and very professional manner. We were all perhaps a pound or two heavier from the bountiful and delicious meals that Helen served up, but that is what we have come to expect from the country style hospitality of the Palmquist Farm dining room.
In just a few months, each of us will have in our possession unique mounts that were made possible by NBP and that will be the main talking point in our trophy rooms for years to come. Our team would like to thank Helen, Jim, Herb and the Northern Buck Preserve for their wonderful hospitality and their willingness to make our dreams come true. It is an adventure that all of us will fondly remember for as long as we are capable of remembering.
Jim and Gene put the finishing touched on the ground blind that Gene would use the following day.
Jim presents DJH with a custom-made crossbow that had been designed specifically for him.
There were plenty of nice bucks that filtered through the stands throughout the entire day.
Jim Kempf with his 203” non-typical buck that fell victim to the Scorpyd.
Rex Eisenhower with is 184” typical buck toppled by the Scorpyd.
Gene Strie with his 172” dream buck, the very first animal he had taken with a Scorpyd.
DJH with his 8-point buck, taken with his one-of-a-kind Scorpyd crossbow.