Kentucky and Tennessee (along with a few other southern states) offer the unique opportunity for bowhunters to kill stud bucks in velvet every year. Velvet season was no disappointment this year, as many hunters filled their tags on early-season monsters still packing the fuzzy stuff.
All whitetail bucks that are killed ethically are trophies. All big bucks are special. But big whitetail bucks still in their summer velvet? Those deer deserve a little extra attention. And so, here are five awesome September and August bucks from Kentucky and Tennessee.
Kyle Culbreth’s All Nighter Buck
Buck Score: 171 3/8 inches
Date of Harvest: September 5, 2022
Location of Harvest: Edmonson County, Kentucky
Kentucky resident Kyle Culbreth watched a big deer throughout the 2021 deer season. The summer of 2022 rolled around, and the 4 ½-year-old deer blossomed into a big-racked buck. Culbreth has hunted this family farm since his childhood. He bagged his first buck there, and two nice bucks in 2009 and 2011. Knowing the area well, he was confident he could tag the buck before it shifted to a fall pattern.
The buck was commonly frequenting a morning spot, but Culbreth knew he couldn’t get there without spooking the deer. So, around 10 p.m. on September 4, he was dropped off at his enclosed blind, and spent the night there.
On September 5, and the third day of the hunt, he was presented with good conditions for hunting the buck. With a southeast wind, he was ready and waiting in the box blind overlooking a 2-acre food plot split between soybeans and radishes.
As daylight neared, Culbreth could hear deer around him. Once it was light enough to see, he noticed the buck feeding within range of the box blind. A 6-pointer and doe were in the plot, too. Once legal light ticked by, and when there was enough light to shoot, Culbreth drew back on the big deer. He settled his pin and took the 22-yard, quartering-away shot. He struck vitals, and the deer took off.
After giving the buck some time, some of Culbreth’s family and friends helped him recover the deer. The trail was paved all the way to where it laid.
“It was all hugs and high-fives,” Culbreth says. “We all share pictures all year and we were all amazed on how big the deer was once on the ground. It’s a way of life for my family. We enjoy the time in the woods but also enjoy the work that goes into hunting these animals. A lot of sweat equity involved.
“This deer hits a soft spot being from our small family farm,” he continued. “I took my first deer on this place over 20 years ago. Now, to be able to get a buck of this caliber in the same place is a true blessing.”
READ NEXT: 10 Amazing Photos of a Buck Shedding Velvet
Kelton Wells’ Third Chance Buck
Buck Score: 168 ⅛ inches
Date of Harvest: August 27, 2022
Location of Harvest: Robertson County, Tennessee
Last season, Kelton Wells shot a buck high in the shoulder, but the deer lived. Five weeks later, the deer returned. Wells got another shot but sailed an arrow over the buck’s back.
Fast forward to this season. The buck returned, and Wells game planned to close the distance. On August 27, 2022, the day brought 90-degree temps and high humidity. That’s not exactly what you hope for as a deer hunter, but that’s what Wells had to work with. So, he headed afield.
Hunting rolling hills and soybean fields, he set up in the corner of a 75-acre bean field with an island of trees. The afternoon sun started to dip lower. He hoped the big deer would show itself. It wasn’t long before a small 8-point, a fawn, and several does entered the open. Soon after, a 6-pointer and more does followed suit. A few does got his wind and continued to act squirrely for several minutes.
“All at once, they turned their heads and looked toward the fencerow behind them,” Wells says. “I knew the bachelor group was coming. The first buck was a 9-point that had been running with the big deer, so I knew he was out there, too.”
Five bucks walked into view, and the group started toward Wells. A few minutes later, and the big deer ended up right under the treestand. “I chose not to shoot straight down,” Wells says. “He eventually looked up at me. We locked eyes and he blew, turned, and ran.”
Thinking the hunt was over, he unclipped his release and leaned back against the tree. All the deer ran about 50 yards or so. Then, incredibly, the big buck started back toward him. It milled around, trying to figure out what was going on. Eventually, he presented a 20-yard shot opportunity. Wells took it, aimed for the heart, and buried the arrow. The buck ran off with 8 to 10 inches of arrow protruding.
After the shot, Wells called his father with the good news. Then, he contacted his friend and hunting buddy, who also had shot a great buck. Then, after giving the buck some time, he took up the blood trail. It ran 160 yards to where it expired.
“Hunting has got me through a few tough times and always brings me closer to God,” Wells says. “There’s plenty of time to sit and think and talk to him. Aside from my family and my friends, hunting is my main deal in life. It’s what I look forward to. It’s why I save my vacation time at work. It’s what I was brought up doing and I can’t thank my dad enough for that. I’m very blessed to have been raised on a farm and to have a backyard big enough I can hunt.”
Jesse Lipscomb’s Recurve Buck
Buck Score: Unknown
Date of Harvest: August 28, 2022
Location of Harvest: Cheatham County, Tennessee
Jesse Lipscomb of Tennessee says this season was the first time ever traveling out of Indiana to deer hunt. He’d been on the property during turkey season, though, and became familiar with the area. The fellow who gave him permission to turkey hunt allowed him to return for deer season.
On August 28, the temperature hovered around 80 degrees with a barometric pressure of 30. The wind blew out of the Southeast around 15 mph. Easing into position, he planned to spend the morning hunt on a ridge line near a pine thicket.
“To my left the ridge line ran down into a large ag field approximately 250 yards from where I was leaned up against a tree,” he says. “On my right was the main ridge line that was covered with a pine thicket that went as far as my eyes could see.”
About an hour after shooting light started, two bucks walked toward him along the trail. One was a 4-pointer, and the other a much larger buck.
“I knew I couldn’t watch the deer the entire time he was walking in, or I would be in too big of a mess to make the shot,” Lipscomb said. “I leaned my head against the tree, closed my eyes, and began to talk myself through what I needed to do. After getting my nerves under control, I opened my eyes, and to my surprise, the deer was walking down the trail that would put him just under twenty yards in front of me. I took a deep breath, drew back, hit my anchor point, and released the arrow.”
The buck ran 60 yards and crashed. Lipscomb immediately called some friends, who were incredibly happy for him. Then, he took in all that was happening around him, and what had transpired.
“I had full intentions to harvest any deer in full velvet that presented me a shot,” Lipscomb says. “I released an arrow on what has become the biggest deer I have ever harvested with a bow and do it with my recurve just absolutely blows my mind. This hunt seems almost too good to be true. It still doesn’t seem real to me. It’s like I’m living in a dream world of whitetail hunting.”
Trace Taylor’s Kentucky Tank
Buck Score: 155 inches
Date of Harvest: September 3, 2022
Location of Harvest: Edmonson County, Kentucky
Last season, Trace Taylor had trail camera photos of a 130-inch 4-year-old buck. This year, the deer returned, and Taylor hoped to get a crack at him. On September 3, 2022, he got his chance.
It was a cool morning but warmed up as the day went on. The area he was hunting was rolling hills and hollows with three large soybean fields. The back field has a narrow area they refer to as, “Dog Leg,” and they planted a food plot there. His hunting spot included the food plot in front of him, a hollow behind him, and soybeans to the right.
Soon after first light, he heard something walking. “I heard crunching behind me working its way to the food plot in front of me,” Taylor says. “It was still very dark at this point, and I saw a body come out into the plot but couldn’t see what it was. I heard another deer coming behind me and saw the dark body come out in the field as well.”
After sitting there for several minutes, it got light enough to see. He realized it was his target buck, grabbed his rangefinder, and ranged the deer. A nearby doe started to leave, and so did the buck.
“He spun around right behind her and started to walk,” Taylor said. “I drew back, and the yearling stopped in a non-shooting lane and my dream velvet buck stopped right at the edge of my open lane in the plot.”
The 18-yard, quartering-away shot struck the vitals, and the buck took off. The buck ran about 200 yards before expiring. His uncle, Jason, spotted it first.
“All that hard work paying off overtook me, and I was speechless,” Taylor says. “The trail cam pics did not do him justice. He was much larger than what I initially thought he was. The hunt was one that I will never forget.”
Hunter Wood’s Deer for Dad
Buck Score: 155 inches
Date of Harvest: September 3, 2022
Location of Harvest: Pendleton County, Kentucky
Hunter Wood hunted a big 6-year-old buck this season. He has its sheds from the 2019 and 2020 seasons. After not seeing the buck at all last fall or winter, he could only hope to get a shot at him this year. Fortunately, the buck returned. Wood’s father was a big hunter, but he passed away when Hunter was four. He hoped to get a shot at the deer and honor his father’s memory as an outdoorsmen.
“Deer hunting is where I feel most connected with my dad and God,” he said. “To do something my dad loved so much is extremely special to me. I enjoy just sitting out there in God’s creation and enjoying it how my dad used to. I just love being out there.”
Wood followed the buck on cell cams and by glassing from afar all summer. The deer made 25 daylight appearances. Obviously, he had a solid pattern on the buck.
September 3 brought rainy weather, but it lightened up for the afternoon sit. He settled in around 3 p.m. “I remember hearing the rain hit the leaves,” he says. “I remember how happy and appreciative I was just to be back in the stand for the first time all year. It was so peaceful, and I just sat back and took it all in.”
Hunting in an open hayfield, he watched for movement. He knew deer wouldn’t come from behind him, as it was a cow pasture with little to no cover. The timber to his left was full of deer, though, and that’s where the parade started. The temperature continued to fall, and anticipation rose. The cool weather got deer on their feet, and bucks poured into the open.
“I had a lot of corn and mineral supplement,” Wood says. “I know a lot of people don’t believe in baiting, but it is legal here in Kentucky. And if you aren’t doing it, your neighbor right across the fence is. So, you almost have to.”
It worked, as numerous bucks and does fed into the hayfield. Some of them hit the corn pile, while others milled around. Then, after some time, the deer started acting weird and looked toward the woods. “I saw him through the trees about 80 yards away,” he says. “I knew he was headed my way. Suddenly, all the small bucks that were at the corn took off running and I saw a big-bodied deer hop the fence. It was him.”
The buck trotted in to 13 yards. Wood drew, aimed, and let the arrow fly. The arrow struck true, and the buck ran up the hill and disappeared.
“I was freaking out, shaking, and honestly crying tears of joy,” Wood says. “I prayed that he was down. I called my grandpa, girlfriend, and buddies to let them know I might had just killed the biggest buck of my life.”
Worried about the rain washing away the blood trail, he gave the deer about 45 minutes, and with the help of several friends, started tracking. The buck had dropped just out of sight.
“The feeling that came over me when I saw that he was down is indescribable,” Wood says. “It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I will cherish every moment of this hunt for the rest of my life. Especially all the family and friends that came out and looked at him and celebrated with me. I bet there were 40 people who came out and looked at my buck and celebrated with me. It’s amazing how hunting can bring so many people together. They were freaking out almost as much as I was. They were so happy for me.”