All summer long, deer hunters across the country drool over the pictures of the velvet bucks that are showing up on their trail cameras. How cool would it be to harvest one of those big bucks while it is in full velvet? Look at your wall…all the deer have October/November capes and are hard horn. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a buck on the wall with that beautiful short hair, summer cape, and a rack completely covered in fuzzy velvet?! The reality of it is, if you live in a state with a late opener, and do not like to travel to hunt, you might never get the opportunity to harvest a whitetail that is still holding its’ velvet.
Aside from the rare occurrence, most deer will shed their velvet starting in late August and most will be clean by the 2nd week of September. Over the past several seasons we run trail cameras across several states in the Midwest and they all tell the same story. If you want a good chance at harvesting a velvet deer, you need to hunt in a state that opens before September 15.
North Dakota for example, opens Labor Day weekend each fall. When we roll into camp and check trail cameras, I would say that it is par for the course that 50% of all the bucks we have on camera are velvet, and 50% have shed velvet. By the 2nd week of season, I would say 20-30% are velvet, and by the 3rd weekend it is very rare to have any bucks on camera still holding velvet.
If you are looking to get a crack at a velvet buck, here are a few of the states you might want to target. Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky, and Nebraska all have early openers. Most right at the beginning of September. All offer great opportunities for a chance at early velvet whether you book with an outfitter, or go on a DIY hunt on public ground.
Other states in the midwest like Wisconsin, South Dakota, Missouri, and Ohio open in mid/late September. Although the chance is there to see velvet, you might be better off scratching Lotto tickets.
And then there are the states like Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan that don’t open until October. Many of those residents have lost hope for ever harvesting a buck in velvet, and for good reason.
Some people might not have a care in the world to harvest a velvet buck. I can say that I’m not included in that group. These states that offer an early opener are a blessing for a whitetail nut like myself. The chance to get back in a tree stand a month ahead of when I can at home is reason enough for me to drive miles on end to another state. The chance at seeing, and harvesting a buck in velvet is simply the cherry on top.