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.
A major mistake that hunters make is what I call the fudge factor. They’re walking into their stand, and they realize the wind is blowing from the wrong direction for them to hunt from the stand where they planned. So, they say to themselves, “I'm almost to the stand. If I go to another stand where I have a favorable wind, I can’t get there as early as I want to be in my stand. I’ll just fudge a little and believe that all of the odor killer I’ve put on and my camo clothing will keep the deer from smelling me.” This is the wrong decision, especially if you're hunting a mature buck.
Although you only may have a day or two to hunt, and you know if you hunt that stand, you'll have a great chance for taking an older-age-class buck, don’t hunt when the wind isn’t totally in your favor. If you hunt with a wrong wind, and the buck you’ve been looking forward to taking the entire year smells you, then you may not see him the rest of the season at the stand where you’ve planned to take that buck.
Another tactic that I feel is vitally important to taking mature bucks is controlling the hunting pressure on every part of the land you hunt. For instance here at Giles Island, we've divided the entire island into 18-different hunting segments, each made up of 300 to 500 acres. Because we only take 12 hunters at a time, we make up tags for each hunting area. Each hunter gets to draw out of the hat the hunting area he’ll be hunting for his 3-day stay. This means there will be five areas that aren’t receiving any hunting pressure. In each hunting segment, we’ll have put up from 10 to 15 stands. Each stand site faces a different direction. So, any day our hunter hunts, he always can hunt from a stand site with a favorable wind.
Anytime our hunter/guide teams decide they want to change areas, we allow them to draw a new region from the five hunting places that haven’t been hunted. When you figure we have 12 hunters hunting over 15 square miles of property, you can see that we’re not really putting much hunting pressure on our deer.
If you’ve have leased property, and you want to reduce the hunting pressure on that property, consider the possibility of dividing that land up into separate hunting areas. On weekend hunts, allow the hunters to draw for the portion of property they hunt that weekend. This way, you reduce the deer hunting pressure, and some portion of the land isn’t being hunted. If you have out multiple stands and have designated stand sites where the hunters can hunt with a favorable wind, you're reducing the amount of hunting pressure on the entire property. The wind is our master, and we are slaves to the wind. Each morning, the wind determines where we can and can’t hunt. If you'll be a slave to the wind, you'll find you'll see more deer and harvest more mature bucks.
To contact Jimmy Riley and Giles Island, call 877-944-5374, go to the website at www.gilesisland.com, or friend him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gilesisland. The photo album on the Giles Island website has pictures of bucks harvested there since 1999.