My good friend Russ Maas used to tell me, “when the velvet comes off, the brains go in.”
What Russ is talking about is the dramatic change in big buck behavior that occurs after the velvet is shed . This is not a subtle or gradual shift in behavior, but an instantaneous and dramatic shift. This change in behavior literally takes place overnight, like the flipping of a switch.
Throughout July and August the bucks have been coming out into the crop fields like clockwork. Sometime around the first week of September we’ll notice the first shreds of velvet coming off the larger buck’s antlers. Within a day or two, buck we’ve been watching all summer seems to vanish into thin air.
The fact is, the bucks are still there, but will now become very secretive until the rut is in full swing. A lot of hunters call this the “Transition Period”. It is the time of the year when testosterone levels in the buck begin to rise and they try to establish a pecking order. Adolescent bucks begin to challenge the older deer, much in the same way that adolescent human males challenge old men. Big bucks are wary and timid by nature and generally give the younger bucks some space, preferring to save their energy for the rutting season. The bucks are becoming more nocturnal, more solitary, and sometimes move off to different food sources altogether. The comradery and friendship of the bachelor group has vanished, not the deer.
For those of you who have been patterning a big buck with the hopes of arrowing him in the coming archery season, the race is on. If you don’t stick him before the velvet comes off you will more than likely have to re-patterned him. Sitting on the edge of a crop field after the velvet comes off is hit and miss at best. Remember you’re only going to get one, maybe two shots at it before shift happens.
Good Luck and Good Hunting,
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