Property manager sticks trophy while filming for Mossy Oak TV show
Jimmy Riley rarely hunts, even though he manages some of the most productive deer property in the state. In fact, he had only killed one buck in the past 15 years when he arranged his opening-day hunt.
Now, he’s added another Giles Island buck to his short list of accomplishments – and it’s a 180-class brute.
And the only reason the kill happened at all was because Riley needed to do a little publicity for Giles Island Hunting Club.
You see, the Mossy Oak Deer Thugs crew planned to be at the island to film for five days beginning Oct. 1 – and Riley was booked to suffer through the ordeal of being a TV star.
“I called (the property owner) and ask him if I should kill a management buck or go for a trophy,” Riley said.
After a short discussion, Riley received the go-ahead to take one of the property’s trophy bucks.
He knew just the animal he wanted.
A buck dubbed BTL – because it lived “between the lakes” – had been seen on two occasions last year, and it was a dandy.
“That was during the rut, and he was a 160-class deer,” Riley explained. “He’s one of those nocturnal deer, and he was only seen twice by bowhunters, but he never got within range.”
So about 1 ½ weeks before the Oct. 1 bow opener, Riley slipped into that same area and hung a trail cam on a persimmon tree that was dropping fruit.
He scored photos of the animal, but he honestly still wasn’t sure just how big the mature buck had grown.
“Trail cameras are great for knowing you have a deer of a certain caliber, that he’s in an area, but it’s hard to judge them and age them,” Riley said.
So he was still thinking BTL was in the 160 range. Not that he was disappointed, quietly setting up a lock-on stand about 30 or 40 yards from the persimmon tree.
“Then we stayed out of there,” Riley said.
As the film crew turned up, Riley was itching to sit the stand. But a quick check of the solunar tables convinced him opening morning wasn’t right.
“The tables said deer would be active between 3 and 6 a.m.,” Riley said. “I could just imagine slipping in and pushing him out.”
Instead, he planned for an afternoon hunt.
“I was hoping he would be bedded up so we could get in and get set up,” Riley said.
So after the LSU-Kentucky game wrapped up, Riley and a field producer Jon Tatum eased into position and sat, waiting.
For the longest time nothing happened. Not a deer seemed to be on the move.
And then about 6 p.m., Riley heard something walking in a slough near the persimmon tree. Riley could see deer legs, so he raised his binoculars to get a better look.
“I couldn’t find the deer,” he said. “Nothing.”
Confused, he lowered the glasses, and then he understood.
“A doe stepped out, and it was one we called the ghost doe,” Riley said. “It’s the most beautiful grayish color; it’s colored up like a blue healer.”
The old nanny walked right to the persimmon tree and started munching on the succulent fruit.
About 20 minutes later, however, the doe threw its head up and looked back toward the slough.
Riley followed the deer’s gaze, and adrenaline began spiking.
“I could see antlers spinning in circles,” Riley said. “A buck was shaking its head.”
The hunter didn’t have to do anything to get ready because he had eased his bow into position when the doe appeared.
“I was already locked and loaded,” Riley said.
A few minutes later, two bucks walked out. The first one that caught Riley’s eye turned right and paralleled the hidden men.
Riley began whispering to Tatum, asking where it was.
“He whispered back, ‘I can see it; I can see it,’” Riley said. “I looked back, and the camera was pointed to the left.”
A bit confused, Riley glanced to his left and his heart raced. The buck he was after was coming in.
“He beelined right to that persimmon tree,” Riley said. “He came in there and did laps gobbling up persimmons.”
That’s when Riley knew that his original estimate of 160-inches was a bit off.
“When he started coming into that persimmon tree, I got that feeling that this was a special deer,” Riley said.
When the buck reached the tree it was no more than 40 yards from the hunter’s position, but there was one problem.
“He never would get just right,” Riley said.
The deer moved around, stood facing the hunter or at a hard angle, and generally made the next few minutes tortuous for Riley.
But Riley decided he wasn’t going to take a low-percentage shot.
“I said to myself, ‘I’ve got four more days to hunt. I’m not going to push this thing,’” he said.
The groceries soon played out, and the buck decided it was time to leave. It headed in exactly the direction Riley wanted.
“There was a pipeline that offered a 20-yard shot,” Riley said. “When there were no more persimmons, he headed right for that pipeline.
“I knew it was gravy then.”
As the deer stepped into the open, Riley pulled his bow to full draw.
And the deer stopped, offering a perfect shot.
A 125-grain Swhacker broadhead slammed into the side of its chest a split second later.
“He ran about 80 yards along the edge of the slough,” Riley said. “I could see him struggling in the mud, and he collapsed when he came out of that mud.”
When he collected his trophy, Riley was stunned.
“I didn’t know he was that big,” he said.
The animal’s rack was incredible, with long, thick main beams stretching around 24 ¼ inches of air and sprouting a total of 15 scorable points and two redneck points.
“He’s a mainframe 10 with seven stickers,” Riley said.
The deer roughed out at 180 6/8 inches Pope & Young, he said.
“I’ve been on the island 15 years and killed two bucks (before killing BTL),” Riley said. “And they were both 180-inch deer, and both were 17 points.
“If I don’t kill but one deer every 10 years and they score like that, I’ll take it!”
JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.