Bob and Suzie Smith of Lexington, Tennessee, joined the Mossy Oak GameKeepers ProStaff in May 2017, when they were recommended by another ProStaffer, Jason Patterson.
Bob and Suzie Smith’s property is right on the edge of the Forked Deer River.
“If we have a 3-inch rain, the river will get out of its bank and flood 65 percent of our property,” Bob said. “This causes deer not to bed or live on our property. When high water comes, they know they’ve got to move. The same is true of turkeys and most of the wildlife we have. But over the years, we've built levees and tried to harness the water, and we've created corridors where the deer can cross from one farm to another farm.”
At one time, Suzie had 20 horses but not now. She was constantly researching the best grass and feed for the horses, and she tried to learn how she could feed the horses as economically and nutritiously as possible. She took the knowledge she’d obtained about raising horses and applied it to raising deer, turkeys and ducks.
“When we first started putting out trail cameras, we’d only see one or two bucks all year long,” Suzie said. “But in the 2017 season, after managing our property for wildlife, we got trail camera pictures of 22 different bucks on our property.”
By creating travel corridors and food plots for the deer, the Smiths realized that they drastically could increase the number of bucks coming to their property during deer season. They also instituted a no-kill policy on the does.
“We realized that if the does felt comfortable to come and feed on our property, they’d bring the bucks with them, especially during the rut,” Suzie explained. “So, we decided that we’d take care of the girls, make them happy, make them welcome, make them feel safe and keep them fed. Then during the rut, those does would bring the bucks to us.”
The Smiths run about six trail cameras on the key travel areas and food plots on their land and have a good inventory of what deer are coming through their property during the day and at night. From their trail-camera surveys, they discovered a really fine, tall, wide-racked buck that they named Swamp Monster.
According to Suzie:
“He was just a beautiful deer! I decided to hunt the Swamp Monster. For two weeks, I sat in the Buzzard Box. (We gave the stand that name because buzzards roosted there). I was betting on my does to bring the Swamp Monster out of the woods. Just after Thanksgiving, I discovered that my neighbor, who never ever hunts deer, went out on Thanksgiving Day and took the Swamp Monster. I had watched this buck develop his antlers all summer long. I had him patterned, and I knew all I had to do was to wait on a doe to come into estrus, and she would pull the Swamp Monster onto our property where I could take him. I had actually hunted that deer for two years.”
The last two years the Smiths also put out mineral licks and did everything they possibly could to keep the Swamp Monster on their lands. Instead of only getting two or three pictures of this buck during the rut of the 2017 season, they were getting daily pictures of the Swamp Monster.
“From our trail camera pictures, we could tell that Swamp Monster was feeding on our land daily,” Bob said. “We really believed that the 2017 season would be the year that Susie would have the chance to take the Swamp Monster.”
The Smiths have learned that they have two does that actually live on their farm and raise their fawns there. But the other deer that they see on their trail cameras are coming off of the four farms that border their property. All but one of the farms that adjoins their land is mainly timber. The other farms are river-bottom hardwoods.
Bob and Suzie Smith hunt about 500 acres that they manage for wildlife. Using Mossy Oak GameKeepers resources, they’ve learned how to attract deer, ducks and turkeys to their hunting land.