By Josh Boyd
The thought of taking a velvet buck ranks highly on the bucket lists of many die-hard bowhunters. Outside of the unique characteristics of a velvet-clad rack, much of the allure surrounding this feat centers around the difficulty which it often presents. A substantial amount of this difficulty is rooted in the fact that many states’ archery seasons do not begin until weeks after bucks traditionally shed their velvet.
Therefore, a significant number of those that dream of taking a whitetail buck in velvet must take a road trip to do so. While several states feature earlier archery season openers than others, abundant thought must be put into choosing a destination that presents you with the best possible shot at success.
The following states offer bowhunters a phenomenal chance at fulfilling their dreams of taking a velvet-clad whitetail.
The state of Kentucky offers bowhunters with a wonderful opportunity to chase velvet bucks across a diverse landscape. The state’s archery opener typically falls on the first full weekend in September, which generally offers hunters a period of approximately 1-2 weeks to take a buck, before the vast majority begin shedding.
The habitat in which a hunter can base their efforts is extremely versatile in the Bluegrass State. Far western Kentucky features large river bottoms and open agricultural ground, while the far eastern end of the state is rugged and mountainous. Kentucky is also the home to over 1.5 million acres of public hunting land, which presents a significant opportunity to those from out of state.
North Dakota is another gem that every hunter dreaming of velvet-covered antlers should know about. The state’s archery season traditionally opens during the final days of August, or the first few days of September, depending upon how the yearly calendar dates fall. This provides those in search of a velvet buck with a 2-3 week window for success.
Another point of appeal offered to hunters by the state of North Dakota is its abundance of public land access. Public wildlands can be found in virtually every segment of the state, with some of the highest deer densities being found in the state’s southwest region. Additional access is provided by the state’s Private Land Open to Sportsmen (PLOTS) landowner cooperative. Many private landowners in the state will also readily grant hunters permission on a handshake.
South Carolina offers hunters one of the lengthiest periods in which to pursue velvet bucks. Zones 3 and 4, which encompass over half of the state, offer a mid-August opener, with the 15th being the date to mark on the calendar for 2020. This gives those in search of velvet one-month plus to get the job done. Even more intriguing is the fact that firearm use is permitted during these early dates as well.
One factor worth considering before planning an August expedition to South Carolina is that the state is relatively limited in its public land offerings, and the management areas that do exist are often heavily hunted. This leads many out of state hunters to consider booking a hunt with an outfitter.
The state of Tennessee is a unique entry on this list. Only three years ago, those from the Volunteer State stood little to no chance of harvesting a buck in velvet. However, a newly enacted early velvet season has since come to fruition, allowing hunters to go afield for three days in late August. In 2020, this season will fall on the 23rd-25th.
However, this three-day season is only available to those hunting private land. Although this would seem to spell the end for many out of state hunters, permission for private land access can often be found by simply speaking with landowners. Trophy potential in the state has also begun to increase in the last few years, as Tennessee has limited its harvest to two bucks per hunter, as opposed to the three buck limit that was previously in place.
If you are in search of a velvet whitetail hunt unlike anything that is to be experienced in Midwest or southern locales, Wyoming is the destination for you. The state’s archery season begins on September 1st, presenting those willing to travel in search of velvet with approximately two weeks to pursue their goal.
The Black Hills region, found in Wyoming’s northeast corner, is a popular location for those in search of whitetails. Deer can often be spotted from great distances while feeding in alfalfa fields during the afternoon. A quality scouting scope and an afternoon of observation will likely give a hunter the insight they need to put themselves in the heat of the action.
Velvet or Bust
While it is true that you certainly cannot eat antlers, this fact does nothing to nullify the unique qualities of a majestic, velvet-clad whitetail. The thought of taking such a buck, for many, is the thing that dreams are made of.
Though the list of states where a hunter is presented with the chance to take such a buck is relatively small, such destinations do exist, and you are never further than a road trip away from scratching such a hunt off of your bucket list.