Giles Island GM kills 200-pound buck while filming for Deer Thugs

Published 12:19 am Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jimmy Riley, right, poses with Mossy Oak cameraman Jon Tatum with “BTL,” a 200-pound buck killed at Giles Island Hunting Club in Ferriday. Riley shot the buck while filming for Mossy Oak’s show Deer Thugs on Oct. 1. (Submitted photo)

ferriday — Jimmy Riley describes himself as a lucky hunter, and that description is certainly apropos when talking about the success he’s had hunting at Giles Island.

Riley, who is general manager of the Giles Island Hunting Club, has hunted twice on the island and both times he has killed a trophy buck while a film crew from Mossy Oak’s Deer Thugs TV show was rolling, the most recent being on Oct. 1.

“I just feel like the luckiest hunter in the world,” Riley said. “And it’s sheer luck. I don’t claim to be better than anybody else. There are so many good hunters in this country and especially in this area. I just can’t believe it. I really can’t believe it. I’m living a dream.”

Both the bucks Riley has killed on Giles Island had 17 points and both had a green-gross score of over 180, Riley said. The first deer was shot in 2000, and the second was shot on the first day of bowhunting season this fall.

The hunting camp was forced to remain closed for the first week of hunting season this fall due to water damage in the cabins caused by the flood, Riley said.

Riley and the crew at Giles Island said it would be a perfect time to get some footage for Deer Thugs, so the film crew came down for the first weekend in October. But the story of Riley’s big buck really began over a year ago.

“Over a week (before Oct. 1) I set trail cameras on a persimmon tree that had persimmons dropping and the first night we got a big buck on (camera),” Riley said. “I recognized the deer as one we captured a little video of last year. We named him BTL. He lived on the land between the lakes, so that’s where we got his name BTL, between the lakes.”

Riley knew BTL was nocturnal, and he did not want to go to that spot early morning Oct. 1 for fear of scaring BTL out of the area. Instead he went to a different location on Giles Island that morning and saw very little success.

“We didn’t see anything but a fawn,” he said. “But that was OK, because I was really more or less burning the hunt up that morning to get to the afternoon hunt.

“We suffered through the agony of Mississippi State losing and left during the LSU game when it looked like they had it wrapped up.”

It was approximately 3 p.m., Riley said.

“We went and got in the spot where BTL resides, and it was a sweet set up with the persimmon trees on the edge of a slough, and we could see about 50 yards of water behind it.”

Riley and cameraman Jon Tatum waited approximately two hours until approximately 6:15 p.m. when they heard some movement in the water behind the persimmon limbs.

Riley said he looked and saw deer legs, but when he picked up his binoculars he could not find a deer. Finally it walked out and it was a deer known as the “Ghost Doe.”

“She’s a brilliant ghostly color,” Riley said. “This is the third year we’ve seen her, and we won’t let anybody shoot her. She’s covered up like a blue healer, and she gets prettier every year. She gobbled up all the persimmons like a vacuum cleaner.”

After approximately 20 minutes of watching the “Ghost Doe” chow down on the persimmons, Riley said he noticed her raise her head. She was aware of something going on across the slough, Riley said.

“I looked across the slough, and I saw horns spinning in circles,” Riley said. “I couldn’t tell what buck it was, all I could see what antlers.”

Riley raised his bow in preparation for the buck’s arrival.

The buck came busting out into the water and began walking through the slough. Once he cleared the branches of the persimmon tree, Riley knew which buck it was.

“I knew what he was then,” Riley said. “It was BTL, the one I had on the trail camera. And I had misjudged him. He was a little bit bigger than I thought.”

BTL ran the “Ghost Doe” out of the area and began searching for persimmons of his own. But, “Ghost Doe” had helped Riley out by eating almost all of the orange treats.

BTL began doing figure eights around the trees, and Riley could not get a good shot.

“It was about 30-35 yards, and he never would get just right,” Riley said. “He was either always facing away, coming to me or moving behind limbs. He never set still real long because the mosquitoes were bothering him real bad.”

Riley knew he did not want to waste a bad shot on a deer the magnitude of BTL.

“I thought, ‘man, this is the deer of a lifetime. If I don’t get a good close shot at him that’s fine, somebody else can get him,’ so I waited for the confident shot.”

Patience paid off for Riley as BTL ended up walking right past Riley’s tree stand.

“He walked right in front of me about 20 yards, and that’s when my knees went from shaking to knocking” he said. “I got drawn on him and as soon as my sights settled down he stopped for me.

“Getting the 20-yard pin set on an animal is a good feeling for any bowhunter. You know there’s hardly any way to miss.”

Riley said BTL took off back toward the slough, stumbled and collapsed just past the persimmon tree. When the hunter got to his kill, he was still impressed with its size.

“There was actually ground growth, not ground shrinkage on this deer,” he said. “The first thing you recognize is the width.”

Riley said BTL was a 24 1/4-inch inside spread buck that weighed 200 pounds with a green-gross score of 180 6/8.

Riley said generally guides at Giles Island are not allowed to hunt trophy bucks; they are usually saved for the paying customers. But he and the owner of Giles Island, Speed Bancroft, wanted to prove that Giles Island houses big bucks, and that the deer were not chased off by the record Mississippi River flood.

“All the credit goes to Giles Island,” Riley said. “The whole staff, the guides and Mr. Bancroft. It’s a team effort to raise these deer to be all they can be. All I was was the man behind the release.

Riley said soon after he posted pictures of BTL on Facebook his phone started blowing up.

“The next day it went viral, and my phone ever since then has been running dead four times a day, so I have to keep it on a charger. He’s not a record book deer, but he photographs real well.”

Riley said he started hunting when he was approximately 9 years old. He got his first deer at the age of 12 in Homochitto National Forest. After graduating from Mississippi State in 1986 and working for nine years at Marshall Durbin Poultry Processing, he became general manager of Giles Island.

“I am just living a dream,” he said. “It really is. I just pinch myself every day.”

Riley can be seen regularly on Deer Thugs. He has killed deer in Texas, Oklahoma and Giles Island on the show. His kill of BTL will be aired next summer, he said.