Velvet Buck Video: Does This Giant Whitetail Jump the String?

Marginal hits on whitetails will eventually happen to any veteran bowhunter. Some are pilot error, while others are difficult to decipher. What do you think happens here?

Velvet Buck Video: Does This Giant Whitetail Jump the String?

Kentucky’s archery deer season begins in early September, so bowhunters have a one- to two-week window of opportunity to tag a velvet-antlered whitetail buck. Not all bucks shed their velvet at the same time, but the vast majority have polished antlers by mid-September.

In the video below, Daniel Stallard from the YouTube channel Within Range is pursuing a mature buck he’s named Tank. Stallard is waiting in a high treestand on opening day, and joining him in the tree is a hunting buddy. Both guys have bows, and they have a number of big bucks on their hit list. They’re on the edge of a food plot and have a pile of corn well within bow range; baiting whitetails is legal in Kentucky.

The video isn’t particularly long, less than 9 minutes, and after you watch it, I suggest you rewind it to the moment Stallard takes the shot. I did so several times, hitting the play button and pause button as fast as possible trying to decipher what takes place immediately after Stallard releases his arrow.

In my opinion, Tank jumps the string a fair amount, which contributes to the high hit. Stallard doesn’t say what the range is to the corn pile, but it looks to me to be about 20 yards. So why does Tank jump the string, and could Stallard have done anything differently to have a quicker kill and an easier recovery?

Here’s my two cents. And FYI: I’ve hunted over corn a lot during the past decades on private land in Wisconsin. Depending on the county, you can place up to 2 gallons of bait to lure whitetails into shooting range. I’ve also hunted whitetails over bait on private land in Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas and Saskatchewan. (Note: It’s not legal to bait in every Wisconsin county; check the current regulations before baiting. It’s been illegal for the last handful of years where I hunt, but it was legal previously.)

In my experience, deer are more likely to jump the string under the following conditions:

  • Calm afternoon. As you can see in this video, there’s very little to no wind. Not only are the branches not moving, but even the leaves are still. Deer can hear a pin drop in these conditions, so the sound of a bow going off definitely gets their attention. The lack of wind also makes it likely that the whitetails can smell the hunters, even if they’re up high in a tree.
  • Dumped bait. Whitetails can’t think the same way people do, but something tells them to be especially wary around a bait pile. Sure, the lure of dumped corn is too much to ignore, but that doesn’t mean they feed on it with the same relaxed attitude as they would on acorns. For one, there’s probably some human odor around the bait site. And as shown in the video, Stallard has a scouting cam placed nearby. The deer know that humans have been on the ground in this area recently, so they’re already a bit nervous.
  • Dumped bait in a field. As explained in the previous paragraph, whitetails are commonly wary around bait piles, and this is magnified when bait is dumped on the edge of a field. Deer are more alert in the open than they are in forested cover. Place bait in the open and deer are doubly alert.
  • Multiple deer. In this video, Stallard has to hope that Tank doesn’t jump the string, but the same is true for all the other deer on the bait, too. You see, if one deer reacts to the bow firing, the rest will crouch low to flee, too. It’s a domino effect.

Of course, it’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback in any hunting situation. That said, videos such as this one are an excellent learning opportunity. Could Stallard have done anything differently? Let’s consider.

Because of the lack of wind, he could have skipped hunting. Believe me, I know — skipping opening day is almost impossible. Whitetails have been feeding in daylight for months, and there’s almost no better day to catch a mature buck on a predictable summer pattern than opening day.

A cellular trail cam placed months ago instead of a standard trail cam would have reduced human odor on the ground near the spot.

He could have hunted solo. I get it; capturing videos is mandatory for creating content for YouTube, but baiting is one scenario where self-filming is doable because the target animal is likely to stand in predetermined spot. More hunters equals more human odor.

There’s nothing Stallard could do to control the number of deer that show up to the bait, but he could have placed the bait pile back in the woods. Doing so would give him more cover (think shade) from the feeding deer, and whitetails would be more relaxed in cover vs. in the open. Also, sound doesn’t carry as well in the forest as it does on a field.

Finally, let’s talk about aiming points and shot angles. I know that some experienced bowhunters will say Stallard should have been aiming very low on the buck’s chest; i.e. aiming for the heart and not middle of the lungs, or aiming for the belly line and expecting the buck to drop. In my opinion, it’s reckless to aim for the belly line; this isn’t a vital kill if the buck doesn’t react/drop. The heart is obviously a vital hit, but it’s a small target. If you miss low by an inch, you don’t have a lethal hit.

One suggestion I would make in this scenario is to take the shot when the buck’s head is up rather than down. Click here to watch an incredibly interesting and informative video from Dr. Grant Woods of Growing Deer TV where he studies whitetail reaction time to compounds and crossbows. Woods shows that deer can jump the string (crouch to flee) faster when they begin with their head down vs. up.

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