One buck was in full velvet; the other had peeling velvet
Hunting in Barnwell County, S.C. Mark Haslam of Savannah, Ga. killed a mature buck in velvet on Aug. 28. And before climbing down from his stand to retrieve it, he killed another mature buck with an even bigger rack.
“A lot of people don’t like to hunt in the heat, but it’s a great time to do it because mature bucks are traveling in groups. And they are on a pattern that will change once the weather begins to cool,” said Haslam.
Haslam was on family farmland that he has hunted for many years. They manage it through timber cutting and various other ways, including hiring a trapper to keep the coyote population as thin as possible.
The memorable hunt actually started the day before on an afternoon hunt that he soon abandoned in the early evening for a chance to do some scouting in a nearby field. His hunch was right. He saw 15 to 20 deer feeding. And even though the waning light made it difficult to tell, he was confident that a bachelor group of six to eight bucks was part of the crowd.
He made a plan to intercept those bucks the next morning with his climbing stand. It worked like a charm.
“August mornings are often slow in the whitetail woods. But if you can catch them traveling back to bed after feeding all night, you may have an opportunity,” he said.
Haslam has thought often of that theory, but said he had never actually pulled it off successfully before. He made up for it on this hunt.
Getting above the undergrowth played a big role in this hunt
Early on Aug. 28, he climbed a mature loblolly pine tree just outside a dense forest of young pines. The tree he climbed was in a stand of mature trees that have been on a controlled burn cycle every three years. He said this is a key to early-season hunting.
“This allows deer to feel safe within the natural browse height. But when you’re 25 feet up a tree, you can easily see them,” he said.
Not long after first light, a couple of small deer showed up and browsed their way past Haslam’s stand. Then he saw movement about 150 yards upwind. It was a buck, and it was big enough that Haslam raised his 7mm magnum rifle.
Listen to Haslam’s story in his own words here:
“A tanker of a whitetail in full velvet at 150 yards was slipping through timber at a good pace. Within 15 to 20 seconds, he presented a safe window to shoot, so I pulled the trigger,” he said.
The buck disappeared. Haslam was confident he’d hit the deer, but couldn’t tell if it had dropped on the spot, or stumbled behind some brush. Some other bucks had come into his field of view. And instead of running off when hearing the shot, they went about their business as if all was normal. As he watched them, more bucks began showing up and casually moving through the area.
The bucks keep coming
“At that point, I realized this was a pretty big group of bucks. They weren’t necessarily on the same trail, but were kind of traveling the same general direction,” he said.
Haslam watched these deer while also keeping tabs on the buck he’d just shot. And then, another mature buck showed up.
“A second mature buck just stepped out in an open lane,” he said.
This buck was standing broadside at about 130 yards, offering Haslam a good, clean shot. And its rack, which was peeling velvet, was wider than the rack of the first buck. He pulled the trigger, and the excitement of this hunt raced through his mind.
He watched this buck fall, and was astonished that even more bucks were meandering into his field of view, including four more mature ones. And none of them seemed at all concerned about his most recent shot. They hung around for another hour or so, browsing along until they’d moved out of sight.
Finally, Haslam climbed down and found both deer pretty quickly. The full velvet buck was an 8-pointer, and the one with peeling velvet was a mainframe 8-pointer with a ninth point growing out of its G2.
He’s planning to have European mounts done on both deer and mount them on the same board to commemorate what he called an incredible hunt unlike any he’s ever experienced.
We first found Haslam’s story on our Bag-A-Buck forum. Have you entered yet?