The Largest Free-Range Velvet 8-Point Taken on Camera?

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

History tells us storytelling began in 700 B.C. That’s when the first known printed story was born. It was a tale that conveyed the deeds of a Sumerian king.

But I think storytelling began long before that. I think it started right from the beginning. Because we all tell them. We all relish in them. And culture doesn’t thrive or grow without them.

Where I come from, stories are everything. We live to live and relive the story of the hunt. Gathering at the table in hunting camp. Sitting around an old campfire at the end of the day’s hunt. Standing around a crowded tailgate after a successful harvest. The pride-filled trip to the check-in station. Every day, a new thread is woven into our story. While we live for the hunt, it’s the stories we remember. And it’s the stories that ensure those to come after us remember who we are, and what we stood for.

I’m an outdoor communicator by trade. My job is to tell stories, whether that be in person, with written words, photos or video. Whatever the medium, whatever the story, it’s my job to tell it. It’s up to me and all the storytellers who walk alongside me to protect and preserve all that’s holy about our hunting heritage.

But while we may not all be wordsmiths, we’re all storytellers. We all have a story within us that’s worth sharing.

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This is my story . . .

It all started on September 21, 2017. That’s when I received a trail camera photo of the Big 8 for the first time. It was mere days after I’d taken the big drop-tine buck and the first photo of this new deer was captured standing exactly where I’d filled my 2017 Kentucky tag. I immediately began making plans for the following season.

And that’s where the story began to take shape . . .

I kept close tabs on the deer all through the 2017-18 deer season. He made occasional appearances on trail cameras. I was pleased when I received photos of the deer in late January — confirming he made it through the season. That’s when I really began planning the hunt for the 2018-19 season.

We worked tirelessly during the off-season to prepare. In-the-field scouting. Looking for potential buck beds. Shed hunting. Hanging stands. Putting in water holes. Planting food plots. Scouting from afar. The whole bag of tricks.

I was relieved to see photos of the big deer when I pulled my cards for the first time this summer. Lucky for me, it appeared the deer was spending the majority of its time on the 50-acres I was hunting — the family farm where I grew up.

Opening day arrived and I chose not to hunt. The deer changed its pattern up a week before the season started. Instead of hunting, I chose to hang multiple cameras around the buck’s core area in hopes of finding the buck’s daylight pattern. It worked. On day three of the season, I received enough intel to feel confident.

On day four, I walked into the stand for the first time. I hunted that morning but didn’t see the big deer. I think he made it back to bed well before daylight. That afternoon, I trekked back in but sat a stand with more visibility in hopes I’d see the deer and learn a little more about his pattern.

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A small thunderstorm rolled through as I sat in the tree that afternoon. Maybe I should have climbed down and left, but I’m glad I didn’t. The big 8-point stepped out with several other nice bucks mere minutes after the rain ended. I watched the buck at 75 yards for almost an hour. It eventually made it into range, but never offered a clean shot.

But the hunt was exhilarating. And the encounter was pure adrenaline. I knew I’d be back the next day, but a slight change was needed.

On September 5, I decided to pack in my lightweight lock-on stand and climbing sticks and do a hang-and-hunt. I needed to cut the distance in half from where the deer came out the afternoon before to have a shot at getting within range. So, I eased in, very quietly hung the stand and prepared for the evening hunt.

It began to sprinkle lightly. And it didn’t take long for deer to start moving. And then, there he was. He came out in the same spot as the afternoon before. Only this time, I was much closer. Again, I had to sit and watch him for nearly 20 minutes until he broke and came walking in. I positioned the camera ahead of him, drew my bow, and allowed him to walk into the frame. A subtle mouth grunt gave him enough pause that I could release the arrow. It struck true.

There are rumors that this is one of the largest velvet 8-pointers ever killed in Kentucky — and one of the biggest ever killed in the state, period. I can’t confirm or deny any remarks regarding records. I haven’t really looked. That’s not ever been what it’s about for me. It’s about the pride I have in being a bowhunter. It’s about the healthy venison for my table. And it’s about the memory — the story.

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As I set here and reflect on this season, and seasons past, I think of the stories. I think of the times I’ve had in the field with family and friends. I think of the whitetail, the bowhunter, and the age-old dance that is deer hunting. It’s a sacred thing. Few things are more so.

See, stories are our past. That’s what stories are. Not the future. Not the present. But the past. It’s how we remember what we’ve done, where we came from, and who we are. Today, I think about how who I am, what I stand for, and where I go from here. How I’ll always strive to live each season like it’s my last. I’ll tell each story as if it’s the final chapter. We don’t know what the future holds. But we remember our past. We remember our story.

What’s your story? And more importantly, will you choose to tell it?

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