2020 Velvet Buck Review

Recently on my social media I posted a photo each day of bucks that I photographed this summer on my trail cameras. This proved to be very popular so I am going to share a little more info here about each of those bucks as well as some other photos of them. Let me start by sharing an interesting fact that many of you are probably going to find surprising – None of the photos I shared came from my own property or from a leased property. Every one of these photos were taken on properties where I simply have permission to hunt. None of these properties have food plots or other deer management enhancements.

A lot of people think that my deer hunting is mostly done on strictly managed properties but that is absolutely not correct. Each summer I unleash an arsenal of trail cameras in search of velvet giants. This summer I had trail cameras out in 3 states including several different counties around my central Illinois home. I also had cameras on public land in 2 states. These are real world bucks that could just as easily meet their end at the hands of another hunter as fall to my own arrows.

My approaching to “chasing giants” is a bit different than most deer hunters. I do have a small 120-acre farm that I manage for big deer but I also cover a lot of territory looking for giants. Trail cameras are one of my most important tools that I use for doing this. I have had multiple years of trail camera history with every buck I have shot in the past decade or so. I find the biggest bucks I can and then go after them wherever they happen to be, whereas most deer hunters limit themselves to hunting the same few properties year after year.

Over time I have learned specific locations where bachelor groups can be found year after year so I return to these areas each summer to hang my cameras on the exact same trees as I did the year before. Not only do I have a number of these old reliable areas but I am also always looking for new areas as well. So, lets take a look at 6 of the bucks I got on camera this summer.

Buck 1

 

 

 

 

 

This buck was photographed in a new area where I have never hunted or had a camera in the past. He is a real dandy that I hope survives another year or two. I think his 5×5 frame with a few extra points would gross around 170”. There is really no way to accurately age such a buck but I think it is fair to say he is at least a 4-year old. I will not be pursuing this buck this season as I just have other, more intriguing options but you can bet I will be back in that same area next summer to see if he is still around.

Buck 2

This buck is a heavy horned 9-point giant that I believe is 4 years old. I have hung cameras in this area for over 10 years and always have a good bachelor group to photograph. I am guessing that this buck is a 4 year old based on past years photos of him. As you can see, I have his photo the last 3 years (note how his right brow tine was always bigger than the left one) and I believe the first year he has a 2-year old. This is a buck that I will likely never pursue as I seem to always have better options and a limited number of buck tags.

Buck 3

This old warrior is one that I know quite a bit about but have never hunted for him even though he is now at least 7 years old. I will probably put in a few hunts for this old buck this season as he has his best rack ever and is one of the better bucks I have found in terms of “age + score”. I have known about this buck for some time and have his photo the last 3 summers.

This old bruiser didn’t give me a good quality photo this summer but I did manage to get him on camera several times at various angles which allowed me the opportunity to carefully study his rack. His 5×5 main frame has several extra tines including a flyer off the back of each G-2. I feel confident he will score over 170” and may nudge 180. Of all the bucks I will be hunting this season, this buck will be one of the toughest for me to kill due to the area he lives and the limited access I have to properties within his home range.

Buck 4

This young “up-and-comer” has me real excited for the future. I am certain this buck is 3 years old because I have a number of photos from last year when he was obviously a 2-year old. He is one of the top three or four 3-year olds I have ever seen in over 40 years in the deer woods. A true 6×6 is a rare thing and it will be interesting to see how this buck develops as he gets older. He already appears to have a bump on one G2 where a sticker or fork is likely to grow on a future rack. If this buck survives and is around next summer I will have to come up with a name for him but for right now I know how vulnerable 3-year old bucks are to hunting pressure so all I can do is cross my fingers and hope that he survives.

Buck 5

This 7 ½ year old buck will also be on my hit-list and will probably be the easiest buck on the list for me to tag. He spends the fall and winter on my own property but summers a couple of miles away. In fact I know this buck well enough to know that he doesn’t show up on my farm until around October 15 but when he does get here he is a regular and doesn’t leave for long throughout the rest of the fall and winter. He has been a clean 5×6 for the last few years but this year he has his best rack yet and has added 2 small sticker points. I expect he will score in the 170s when all is said and done. One interesting side note – I planned to shoot this buck last year as a 6 year old but he broke off 3 tines while in velvet last summer. After investing so much time in him I didn’t see any reason to shoot him in that condition and opted to let him live another year. I will also note that should I kill this buck, there will be some very interesting side-notes to this buck and his life story that will be shared on a video of the hunt.

Buck 6

This very clean 4-year old 5×5 buck is very similar to the buck I shot on November 4 last season. He is even living in the same area so I suspect they are related in some way. I won’t shoot this 160-class buck this season but will give him more time to develop. At this point he is simply a buck to keep an eye on.

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So I am sure many of you are wondering “is that It?” or “do you have any other bucks on your hit list?” Well actually I am holding back a little. Due to obvious reasons I am not going to post any photos of public land bucks or a couple of other bucks I am watching due to the sensitivity of their locations. Things being what they are, some things are just better for a guy to keep under his hat until the buck is on the ground. I will keep sharing what I feel comfortable letting out and continue to help other hunters as much as possible but I have to stay on the right side of that fine line where saying too much can be detrimental to my own success.

One final note regarding the bucks shown here; I have thrown out ages and scores for most of these bucks and I am sure that some of those figures likely have many of you scratching your head. Keep in mind that I have dozens of photos of each of these bucks and in most cases years of history. I am confident about the ages and scores I have thrown out here. You may disagree based on these photos but rest assured what you see here is a small sample of the info I have to base my figures on.

As this season unfolds I will be sharing a lot more on my Higgins Outdoors facebook page, the Higgins Outdoors YouTube channel and the Chasing Giants podcast. Be sure to follow all of these venues for more whitetail info and entertainment. Best of luck this season!