October 20, 2022
By Hunter Schmittou
The mountains of Tennessee are rarely known for big deer, but Bryce Slaven was able to put an arrow through a giant, Tennessee velvet buck. Growing up in Fentress County, Tennessee, Bryce always dreamed of harvesting a giant buck; but he never believed it would happen. “In a county full of cattle fields and big timber, we never seemed to have the agriculture that it takes to grow bigger deer,” Bryce says.
Several years back, Bryce and his cousin were fortunate to pick up a 230-acre lease located on a mountain. The lease is mostly big timber with one small field that used to be an old home place. With the local community talking about a big deer in the area, Bryce was excited to see what his cameras had to show. To Bryce’s disappointment, the cameras showed no sign of this buck that was becoming a local legend. With Tennessee’s early velvet season starting at the end of August, hunters can hunt early enough in the year that the bucks are very patternable.
Though Bryce had no sightings of the giant buck, he decided that he was going to give it a shot on opening day to see if he could gain any knowledge on the buck’s habits.
When the opening morning alarm went off, Bryce got ready and prepared for the 40-minute walk to his spot at the top of the mountain. Just 20 minutes into his ascent up the mountain, Bryce started to get tired as he came upon the old home place roughly 1/4-mile from his spot. There was a tree stand just 20 yards away from him overlooking the small field, and after thinking about the 1/4-mile trek still ahead of him, Bryce decided to climb up in the stand next to him.
“It was me being lazy and not having a picture of the big buck that kept me from climbing that hill,” Bryce recalls.
To Bryce’s surprise, about 45 minutes after daylight, he saw a buck stand up out of the waist-high grass just 40 yards to his right. With one glance Bryce knew it was the giant buck everyone had been talking about.
As Bryce rushed to get into position to make a shot, the buck headed toward the timber. Right before the buck entered the timber, Bryce steadied his crossbow and squeezed the trigger.
The arrow found its mark, and Bryce was full of excitement and began making phone calls to his friends and family to come help get this legend off the mountain. After a short recovery, Bryce was in disbelief as to how big this buck was. Supporting a 10-point frame, this Tennessee mountain buck has a green, gross score of 176 7/8.