Smith tried calling with a grunt tube and used every trick in his book to get the deer’s attention. But it showed no interest in him—as did the other bucks or even the doe—and with rut activity increasing, struck Smith as strange.
“That deer couldn’t care less. The other bucks were out there bumping and nudging does around and running all over him, but he couldn’t care less about them or anything I was doing,” Smith says. “So I watched him move up into the woods and for about an hour, I gained and lost sight of him, but he just seemed to be roaming around. He wasn’t chasing or scraping or anything.”
Smith watched the deer for two more days thinking it was going to cross a little creek and play into his setup, but it never did, and while he wavered on moving his stand, he was running out of options. On Saturday, after seeing more activity farther away in the woods, he moved his stand twice to get closer to where he saw the deer roaming.
“Around 8:15 Sunday morning, the velvet buck came walking straight to me. I think he was just coming in from feeding and going to bed, walking a used trail that I had a good feeling about,” Smith says. “I first saw him when he was about 40 yards out, and I was able to make the shot at 32.”
While confident in the shot, Smith began second-guessing his decision in the time between the shot and recovery.
“While I waited out the shot and packed my stuff back to the truck, I became nervous because if the deer wasn’t in velvet like I thought, I wasn’t going to be happy with him. He wasn’t a very impressive deer otherwise. In fact, as I lowered my gear to the ground, a huge 10-point deer walked through my setup,” Smith says. “But when I walked up on him, I was just blown away. The velvet fibers were ½ inch long in some areas. I called my dad and kept saying ‘I got the velvet 8-pointer! I got the velvet 8-pointer!’”
Noted whitetail expert, author and 30 year wildlife management professor at West Virginia State University, Dr. Dave Samuel says Smith’s deer is rare, but not unprecedented, and its features are likely the result of low testosterone issues.
“Testosterone helps whitetail bucks do two things, shed velvet and shed antlers,” Dr. Samuel says. “And testosterone problems start and end at the source—the testicles. Bucks with this condition either lost a testicle or two somehow, catching the barbs while jumping a fence would certainly do it, or more commonly, they just don’t descend out of the body cavity. There are also cases where they’re really small for some reason, but that’s even more rare.”