Toby Burdette traveled from Ohio to Kentucky for the September bow opener, and was rewarded with a 180-inch velvet buck
|Rack Report Details|
|Time of Year:||September 2, 2023|
|Place:||Lawrence County, Kentucky|
Ohio hunter Toby Burdette learned that this buck was on a Kentucky property that he has permission to hunt only a few hours before dawn on the same day that he arrowed it. Image courtesy of Toby Burdette
Of the many bucks featured in the Realtree Rack Reports over the years, most were taken by hunters who knowingly pursued them for at least a season or two. The buck that Ohio’s Toby Burdette arrowed on September 2 this year, however, is an exception. “I didn’t know he existed until about 13 hours before I took him,” Burdette said about cellular trail camera images that pinged his phone before daylight on September 2.
Until then, it had looked like slim pickings on the 100-acre Kentucky property that Burdette’s friend had given him permission to hunt. He made his initial trip to the property on the last weekend in August to scout.
“To be honest with you,” he said, “things didn’t look very promising. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to hang a trail camera. However, I decided to put out some minerals and a little bit of corn, and then I hung a cell cam over it. For a week, I got nothing but pictures of a 3-pointer, a doe, and a fawn. That was all.”
Based on the measly trail camera intel, Burdette had no intentions of hunting Kentucky’s opening weekend. At around noon on September 1, though, he had a strange feeling. Was a larger buck skirting his camera? he wondered.
“I felt like there had to be something else around there,” he said. “So, I left home at 11:30 p.m. on Friday night. I drove about 4 hours to reach the property. I was sitting in the truck at about 3:30 a.m. and decided to open my phone. I use a Tactacam Reveal camera, and my phone started receiving pictures left and right. When I saw that a huge velvet buck had come in, I could hardly believe it.”
How excited would you be if you suddenly learned that a 180-inch velvet buck was on the property you hunt? Image courtesy of Toby Burdette
Burdette hunted from a climber on opening morning and left at around noon. He saw the usual three deer, but the velvet giant didn’t show. He got lunch and was considering leaving since it was 99°F, and because the buck had just showed up on camera that morning. Wisely, he elected to stay around and hunt the afternoon.
“I walked back in to hunt that afternoon,” Burdette explained, “and I was sweating the entire time. I carried a cover scent from Ohio Ridge Outdoors, and I sprayed myself down with it about every 30 minutes. I hoped to cover my scent since the wind was wrong, but it also felt nice each time the mist hit my face.”
A little before 6 p.m., the 3-pointer showed up. Burdette had carried a bucket of Lucky Buck Mineral and dumped it out before climbing his tree. He hoped it, too, would help cover his scent and entice every deer in the vicinity to come in.
“I’d stashed the bucket behind the stand and covered it with leaves,” he mentioned. “The 3-pointer followed my tracks to the bucket. He started head-butting and kicking it. He snorted at it. He even flipped the handle up and tossed the bucket with his antlers, which freaked him out. He ran up a ridge to my left and then stood there stomping and snorting. He came back to the bucket and then went back up the ridge. This carried on for 15-20 minutes.”
Meanwhile, Burdette caught a glimpse of some movement about 125 yards away through the timber. He spotted four different bucks working toward him. He couldn’t distinguish sizes but knew that they all were bucks.
This is Toby Burdette’s first velvet buck and his first buck taken outside of his home state. Image courtesy of Toby Burdette
“As they approached, the largest buck was in the back,” he said. “The first three bucks went toward the 3-pointer and ran him off. They milled around eating acorns about 15 yards away. They had no idea that I was there even though the wind was blowing right to them. When the last buck started getting close, “I realized that it was the big one.”
Burdette recalls thanking the Lord for allowing him to see the deer on the hoof. He also remembers praying for a shot opportunity and that his arrow would fly true.
“The buck came in, and at about 10 yards, he turned broadside,” Burdette recalled. “I normally stand to shoot, but with all the bucks around, I remained seated and drew my bow as smoothly as possible. I put my 10-yard pin near the bottom of his chest. My arrow got both lungs and clipped his heart.”
The buck jumped, went a little way, and then stopped and was biting at horseflies. His tail started flickering, and then he laid down and expired as a shaking Burdette stayed in his climber for 40 minutes.
“I was giving thanks and praise to God,” he said, “and to be honest with you, I couldn’t really move. I’m thankful that I didn’t know of that buck until that morning. Too often, we make plans and hunt when everything seems just right. We probably miss a lot of opportunities because of that. It was nice to just go hunting and see what the Lord had in store.”
The buck was Burdette’s first buck in velvet, as well as his first taken outside of Ohio. He also has quite a season planned. He’ll be hunting hogs and whitetails in Florida, and he has tabs on a big buck in Ohio. In October, he’ll be hunting moose in Canada. Finally, he’ll be assisting other hunters in recovering deer with his Legend's Big Game Recovery service. Sounds like a full schedule to us.
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