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Secrets for Producing Trophy Bucks Each Year with Giles Island’s Jimmy Riley


Editor’s Note: Giles Island in the middle of the Mississippi River is famous for two reasons. On a sandbar on Giles Island is where the famous Jim Bowie, who fought in the battle at the Alamo in Texas, earned his reputation as a knife fighter, and where the legend of the Bowie knife started. Giles Island is also a legendary place to hunt and take big bucks. The lodge manager for Giles Island is Mossy Oak Pro Jimmy Riley, who lives in Natchez, Mississippi, and has been guiding and hunting deer for 39 years. Riley also co-hosts Mossy Oak’s “Deer THUGs” TV show.

Let me explain from the beginning, taking trophy bucks whether they’re on Giles Island or anywhere else involves a lot of luck. The management system we have in place for our deer herd is the reason many of our hunters are so successful. First of all, we want to make sure we have plenty of deer for the hunters to hunt, and we want to be certain no one harvests our bucks, until they reach maturity. We want our deer to reach their maximum antler potential. One of the ways we do this is we have one-on-one guided hunts. Our guides are in the woods with a client throughout his or her entire stay at Giles Island. They know which bucks are mature and which bucks need another year or two of growth. Then, we can better manage the size of our bucks harvested each year. 

doe_llAnother management system we employ is we try to get our herd as close to a one-to-one (buck- to-doe) ratio as we can. From our surveys, if we think the number of does in our herd is increasing a little faster than we’ve predicted, we’ll up our doe harvest to try and bring the buck-to-doe ratio more in line with one-to-one. For the last 4 years, we’ve been harvesting about 120 does per year and 75 bucks. Our deer season opens October 1, and that’s when we start our doe harvest. Our hunters can take one doe per day. One of our other secrets to having big bucks is that we don’t shoot our does on food plots. We only take does when our hunters are in the woods away from our food plots. When the owner of Giles Island brings his family to hunt during the Thanksgiving weekend, if we haven’t harvested the number of does we’ve intended to harvest, the owner asks his family to harvest does on Thanksgiving weekend. If we’re still running behind on the number of does we need to take, I’ll ask my guides to go out on Sunday afternoons to try and harvest does. On a good Sunday afternoon, the guides will often bring in 8 to 10 does.  

We don’t harvest does on the island’s food plots, since we want does coming to the food plots. We want to make eating out of our food plots a habit for the does and this enables us to keep the hunting pressure off our food plots. Then bucks will be much more likely to come to the food plots during daylight hours. Once the bucks see that the does are calm and relaxed while feeding on those food plots, they’ll follow the does out into the food plots. When a deer is taken on a food plot, the hunter gets out of his stand and goes to find his deer. This pushes the deer farther away from the food plot. Once we find the deer, we’ll go back to camp and get a truck or a 4-wheeler to load the deer up and bring him back to camp. So, you're leaving a lot of human scent, making a lot of noise and creating a disturbance on the food plot every time a deer is harvested on a food plot. Also, if you don’t take does on your food plots, by the time the rut kicks in, the bucks know that the food plots are the best place to find their does. So once again, we have a minimum amount of hunting pressure on our food plots, if we only harvest mature bucks off those food plots throughout the year. 

Most of our doe hunts are conducted in the morning hours. We also have stands that we hunt in the afternoons that are well away from our green fields where our hunters can take does. Almost all our morning hunts are done in the woods where the hunter has the chance to take a buck and/or a doe. We have 150 ladder stands scattered throughout the property. With only 12 hunters on the property every 3 days, we have lots of places to take does without having to take them on our green fields. 

To contact Jimmy Riley and Giles Island, call 877-944-5374, go to the website at, or friend him on Facebook The photo album on the Giles Island website has pictures of bucks harvested there since 1999.

Day 2: Why Giles Island Has So Many Big Bucks and the One Named the Rock

Tomorrow: What Causes Hunters to Not Take Trophy Bucks with Giles Island’s Jimmy Riley

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