True Blue Kentucky Velvet

True Blue Kentucky Velvet

Early bow season in Kentucky produced some outstanding velvet bucks in 2007. Here are the stories of three Kentucky velvet bruisers.

Hurley Combs, Jr. arrowed this awesome 18-point velvet buck in Casey County on opening day of the 2007 Kentucky bow season. The big buck scored 205 6/8 non-typical points. Taxidermy by Mark Thomas.

HURLEY COMBS' VELVET GIANT
Shortly before the opening of Kentucky's 2007 bow season in early September, Hurley Combs, Jr. made a remarkable discovery while checking trail camera data. Included among the numerous deer images were several photos of a truly giant buck in velvet! "The big deer's rack was massive with exceptionally long tines," Hurley noted. "I couldn't begin to estimate what the antlers might score, but there was no doubt that the deer was definitely the buck of a lifetime. Amazingly, another big deer, a typical 10-pointer, apparently was traveling with the giant buck. Both deer were often captured in the same photo."


After completing a quick survey of the photo's recorded times, it became obvious that the big whitetail had two predominant periods of activity, midmorning and late afternoon. A few photos were recorded after dark and at other miscellaneous times, but these incidents were widely scattered.

In addition to managing the 84 Lumber store in Somerset, Kentucky, Hurley actively participates with the city's youth football program. Because of this, he did not hunt opening morning of bow season. Instead, he spent that Saturday helping to coach his two sons, Jacob, 7, and Kalob, 5. Both boys won their respective games and got the weekend off to a great start.


CAN'T MISS OPENING DAY
Shortly after noon, however, Hurley showered, loaded his equipment and left for his hunting tract. Understanding the importance of eliminating as much human odor as possible, the hunter opted to keep his Scent-Lok hunting clothes in a sealed bag until arriving at his destination. Additionally, after applying an odorless cover scent, he sprayed the bottom of his boots with a small amount of raccoon scent.


By 2 o'clock, the hunter had climbed into his tree stand and was settled in position. Located on an old farm site, the tree stand that Hurley was in was situated in a shallow hardwood drain about 40 yards from the edge of a grown-up field. The wooded drain continues downhill, where it eventually intersects a much larger hollow that partially circles the hilltop where the hunter was positioned. A barn and several old farm fields cover the upland area.

Deer commonly use the drain as a travel corridor to reach the fields and to visit a nearby old salt lick. This was one of the trail camera locations where the big whitetail frequently had been photographed. Another trail camera site the buck often frequented was in one of the old fields, approximately a half-mile mile away.

Two hundred yards downhill from the hunter's stand, near the junction of the drain and hollow, stands a dense thicket of briars, brush, saplings and vines. Hurley was confident that deer were using the thicket as a bedding area. This meant that his stand location could only be hunted with a favorable wind direction.

AN UNCOOPERATIVE WIND
Hurley sat there, waiting patiently, for over three hours. During that time he was ever hopeful that the afternoon might be productive. One bowhunting truism is to always expect the unexpected, and shortly after 5 o'clock, the hunter experienced just such a happening. The wind direction suddenly made a dramatic shift.

"It wasn't a good situation at all," Hurley said. "I seriously considered climbing down and leaving. However, having studied the recorded times on the camera photos, I knew I was at that point of the afternoon when I might expect to see deer activity. I decided to stay, hoping that my odor-eliminating measures would keep me from being detected."

An hour and a half passed without any sign of deer movement in the surrounding woods. Try as he might, Hurley couldn't help but wonder if the afternoon breeze had revealed his presence. Suddenly, as an answer to his unspoken question, Hurley detected a distant sound, a subtle noise that seemed to stand out from everything else. Within seconds, there was the additional sound of a branch breaking.

"Almost immediately, I could hear deer walking in the leaves down the hill behind me," Hurley said. "Glancing over my shoulder, I immediately spotted both of the big bucks that I'd seen on the trail camera photos. They were about 80 yards away, walking up the drain directly toward my location at a quick pace. The giant buck was in the lead, and the 10-pointer followed several yards behind."

Since the bucks were moving slightly uphill, following the natural terrain of the drain, Hurley's position was well within the deer's natural range of vision. Because of this, the hunter was reluctant to make any attempt to stand up for fear that one of the deer would spot his movement.

STARE-DOWN TIME
"I was sitting there with the bow between my legs, having a mental battle with myself trying to figure out how I could stand up without blowing the whole hunt," Hurley said. "With the big deer only 10 to 15 yards behind me, I finally decided to remain still and let the buck walk completely by my location."

As the buck was passing the stand, Hurley cautiously glanced backward, attempting to locate the 10-pointer. At that moment, the huge deer abruptly stopped and looked directly up at the concealed hunter.

"I didn't move, but I wasn't wearing a face mask," Hurley said. "I remember thinking, 'It's over. This deer is about to be gone.''‚"

But amazingly, instead of running, the big deer seemed to relax, turning his head to look back down the hollow in the general direction of the other buck. Unfortunately, this pause proved to be only a momentary lapse in the deer's concentration. Within seconds, the buck jerked his head back around to stare directly at Hurley. Moments later the big deer also began to stomp his foot.

"At this point, I was trying to figure out why the giant buck hadn't run into the next county," Hurley said. "Surprisingly, I had managed to stay pretty calm, but now I could feel myself getting anxious. Mentally, I decided that I was going to stand and draw at the deer's next move, whatever that happened to be."

A moment later, as the big buck turned his head slightly to look back toward the 10-pointer, the archer quickly rose to his feet and came to full draw. Only yards away, the giant whitetail detected the movement and bounded into the air.

"I'm thinking the buck is gone for sure th

is time," Hurley noted. "But after five jumps, the deer stopped behind several trees about 20 yards away. Although I was in shooting position, all I could see was the buck's nose and rear end."

A NOW-OR-NEVER SHOT
Unsure of what the deer would do next, Hurley continued to stand and hold the bow at full draw. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the buck cautiously took a step forward.

"Four or five steps moved the buck out from behind the trees," Hurley said. "The instant I had an open shot opportunity, I touched my release and watched the arrow disappear just behind the deer's shoulder."

At the shot, the buck lunged forward and quickly disappeared into the brush. The hunter remained standing, listening to the distant sounds of the deer running across the hillside.

"Having seen where the arrow hit, I couldn't believe how far the buck ran. However, I was pretty sure I heard the deer go down," Hurley related. "Just as I started to sit down, I heard something move behind the stand and spotted the big 10-pointer slipping back down the drain. In all the excitement, I had completely lost track of the second buck!"

Until now, the hunter had managed to remain relatively calm. But with the hunt now over, his nerves and excitement level made it necessary to sit for several minutes before attempting to climb out of the stand. During that time he called his wife, Jackie, to tell her the good news.

After reaching the ground and retrieving his arrow, Hurley attempted to follow the deer's blood trail. However, the thick ground vegetation made the going extremely difficult. Wanting to find the buck before dark, the hunter finally decided to leave the trail and walk to where he had heard the deer fall.

"By this time, I had gotten hot, in addition to being excited, and somehow had managed to get completely disoriented," Hurley said. "After ending up in an area of woods far removed from where I was trying to go, I walked back to my stand and took a couple of minutes to calm down."

A STORYBOOK ENDING
The hunter's second search attempt ended successfully as he located the big whitetail lying just over an adjacent ridge top. Amazingly, the buck had traveled over 150 yards after being shot. While Hurley was certainly aware of the buck's size, seeing the velvet rack up close for the first time was an entirely different experience.

"Words really can't describe my feelings at that time," Hurley said. "I just sat there holding the rack, trying to believe what I had done. I was very thankful to a great many people who had allowed me to experience that moment."

The buck's impressive antler statistics include 18 scorable points, 11 of which make up the 6x5 typical frame. The long main beams tape 26'‚7/8 and 26'‚5/8 inches, and the antler spread is 20'‚4/8 inches outside and 18'‚1/8 inches inside. The rack also exhibits great tine length, with brows (G-1s) of 8'‚1/8 and 6'‚5/8 inches and paired G-2s and G-3s that measure between 12'‚6/8 and 9'‚2/8 inches. Antler mass is also exceptional, with basal circumferences that exceed 5 inches, plus measurements of 6'‚1/8 and 5 inches midway along the main beam.

In regard to scoring, the 11-point typical frame grosses 187 and nets 175'‚5/8. The rack also includes 7 abnormal points, totaling 30'‚1/8 inches. When added to the net figure, the abnormal points bring the final non-typical P&Y score to 205 6/8.

MICHAEL SKIPWORTH'S FIRST BUCK BY BOW!
The 2007 archery season was particularly meaningful for 17-year-old Michael Skipworth, because it marked his first attempt to take a deer with a bow. After spending opening day watching a strip of woods bordering a small cornfield, the hunter decided to move to a second stand he had positioned in a block of woods between two power line rights of way. A well-used deer trail passed within shooting range of the stand. In addition, several old buck rubs from the previous fall were scattered through the nearby woods.

For several hours, the warm afternoon was uneventful. Even the squirrels appeared to be inactive. However, just as the late evening light began to fade, the hunter detected a slight noise in the leaves on the hillside above the stand.

"I could hear something walking, and eventually spotted a buck moving through the woods about 45 to 50 yards away," Michael said. "The deer was following a narrow farm road that angled through the woods. But when he reached the intersection of the deer trail, he abruptly turned and headed in my direction."

At 20 yards, the buck suddenly stopped and looked back, presenting a perfect broadside target. Unfortunately, a tree blocked the hunter's view of the deer's shoulder and chest.

"I was at full draw when the buck stopped," Michael said. "Somehow, I managed to maneuver to the stand's edge and lean far enough outward to shoot around the tree." Even in the rapidly fading light, Michael could see the arrow pass completely through the buck. After a brief run of about 60 yards, the deer went down.

"The whole experience was really crazy," Michael said. "Having never bowhunted before this season, my plan was to take the very first deer that presented a good shot opportunity. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that my first bow deer might end up being such a huge buck."

Without question, Michael will have a tough task trying to top his first trophy whitetail. The buck's near perfect 10-point velvet rack includes main beams that exceed 24 inches and long paired G-2 and G-3 tines, all of which tape between 12 and 10'‚2/8 inches. After grossing 164 inches, the giant rack nets a final typical P&Y score of 160'‚1/8.

A BOOK BUCK FROM THE MOUNTAINS
Bowhunter Robert Dunaway anxiously waited for daybreak. His stand was located on a wooded hillside directly downhill from a steep rocky point, approximately 200 yards above several acres of CRP fields in the Cumberland River flood plain. The previous afternoon, the hunter had watched two impressive 8-pointers as they fed under a nearby white oak that was raining acorns. Both bucks were tempting trophies, but Robert decided to wait and see what might appear at the same site the following morning.

At first light, the hunter spotted a deer slowly making its way down the steep hillside about 70 yards above his location. Initially, he thought it was one of the 8-pointers returning. Then a huge set of velvet antlers loomed into view.

Robert's nerves and composure were put to the test when the big deer paused briefly behind a tree only 20 yards away. The buck's wide rack stood out on either side of the tree. Seconds later, the buck stepped forward. Then he suddenly stopped and looked directly up at the archer.

"At that point, I had just started to draw my bow," Robert said. "It felt like the deer was staring a hole through me. But of all things, a big horsefly began pestering the deer, and when the buck turned its head to swat at t

he fly, I quickly drew, aimed and released."

At the shot, the big deer whirled, ran under the stand and quickly disappeared. Several hours later, Robert located the buck at the bottom of the hill in an adjacent hollow. At that moment, his excitement level went off the chart.

The buck's size and appearance certainly justified the hunter's reaction. The huge 4x4 frame was wide and high, with long main beams of 26 and 25 inches, and an outside spread of 23 4/8 inches. The inside spread of 18 5/8 inches along with several 12-inch tines contributed to the giant buck's net 8-point frame of 160'‚1/8 inches. After adding in 12'‚1/8 inches of abnormal points, Robert's beautiful velvet buck netted 172'‚2/8 non-typical P&Y points!

Three great early-season bow bucks by three deserving hunters.'‚.'‚.'‚. There's nothing quite like the smooth texture of Kentucky velvet!

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