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.
We’ll harvest about 75 bucks per year off Giles Island. We classify our bucks as management bucks or trophy bucks – all shooter bucks. Less than half the bucks we take are management bucks. We define a management buck as an older-age-class buck with antlers that will score less than 125 on Boone and Crockett. We classify a trophy buck as a buck that scores more than 125. Also, a trophy buck is different than a shooter buck. Any buck with 8 points or less has to be a 4-year-old buck to be harvested and will be classified as a management buck or a shooter buck. Any buck that’s 5-years-old and older and has 9 points also is a shooter buck. We have a 4-month deer season on Giles Island. Three months are bowhunting only, and one month is rifle hunting with either blackpowder rifles or modern rifles.
We tell our customers that if they want to hide from the critters to wear Mossy Oak camo. I've been wearing Mossy Oak ever since the first Bottomland pattern was produced and brought to the marketplace. I enrolled in Mississippi State University the year that Toxey Haas, the founder of Mossy Oak graduated. Then he started Mossy Oak not too long after he graduated. I've been wearing Mossy Oak ever since then. I’m totally convinced that if you sit still in a tree stand or a ground blind while wearing Mossy Oak, and a deer looks straight at you, then if you don’t move, you won’t spook the deer.
I'm often asked, “What’s the biggest buck that Giles Island has produced during the 18 years you’ve been the lodge manager?” The Rock that gross-scored 248 is always my answer. He was one of the smartest deer on the property, and I’ll tell you why. I was the first person to see the Rock on Giles Island. We offer one-on-one guided hunts on Giles Island. A guide sits on the stand with a hunter, and the guide videos the hunt and helps the hunter pick out the bucks he or she legally can take on a hunt. During a hunt on Giles Island, a hunter can take one trophy buck, one management buck and a doe each day of his hunt.
I was sitting with a gun hunter in a box stand overlooking a green field on Thanksgiving weekend. I told my hunter, “I just saw a buck - but only one side of his rack. If the other side of his rack matches the side I saw, he’ll score more than 200 inches.” The buck stayed in the thicket and didn’t come into the green field. When we got out of the stand and started walking along the edge of the green field back toward where we had left the truck, I stopped about halfway and looked back at the thicket. I could see the buck standing at the end of the field. Although it too dark for me to see him with my naked eye, I got a good look at the buck. He had a huge rack on the left side of his antlers, but the right side of his antlers was one long main beam with only a couple of small points coming off the main beam.
I made that buck off-limits for harvest that year. I felt if we let him grow one more year that the left side of his rack might develop to be as good as his right side. I also called the three adjacent landowners that bordered our property on the north side. I told them about the buck, and why we weren’t going to try and take him this year. I asked them if they would follow the same policy. Then, the following year we would have a chance to take the buck when his antlers were better, and they might also have an opportunity to take the buck. They agreed to let the big buck survive and see if he couldn’t grow the left side of his antlers to be the same or better than the right side of his antlers. That year our hunters saw this huge buck regularly.
The first time after I had seen Rock, we had a bowhunter named Rock Dickey who was the first hunter to see the deer after me. We named the buck the Rock after Dickey. The following year, we were all looking forward to seeing the Rock and hopefully taking him. Many of our hunters knew about the Rock and wanted to hunt the area where we had seen this big deer. The Rock wasn’t seen in October or November by anyone. On December 22 that year, we had rain. Normally, we didn’t hunt over our food plots in the mornings. But because of the rain, we decided to put our hunters in box stands over food plots. The box stand that one of our hunters drew was the Boogaloo food plot stand - the same stand where I’d spotted the buck the year before. This hunter saw the Rock chasing a doe on the edge of the food plot and took him. The Rock rough-scored 248, and had 20 points as a non-typical buck.
Perhaps the Rock had patterned our hunters and was showing up at a time when he knew there shouldn’t be any hunters at that stand site. We only hunted there in the morning that day due to the rain. However, because we were hunting during the rut, and the Rock was chasing does, I believe that’s why the Rock was there. Once the rut starts on Giles Island, big deer show up in strange places where you may not see them ever at any other time of the year, which is one of the reasons we don’t shoot does over our food plots. During the rut on Giles Island, you can take a trophy buck just as you walk out of camp or put up a stand where you’ve never seen a buck previously. Our trophy bucks seem to go berserk when the rut starts.
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.