Tyler Jordan had been after a huge whitetail all season on Realtree Farms. But Wesley Tyus, who hunts a small farm down the road, had his eye on the deer, too
Wesley Tyus was born and raised in South Georgia, and he’s always loved being outside, hunting and fishing. “My love for the outdoors came from my father,” he said. “He’s a feather guy; a passionate quail hunter, turkey hunter, and dove hunter. But he’s never hunted deer a day in his life.”
That’s where Wesley’s interests diverge a bit from his dad’s. He’s been a dedicated deer hunter since he was 14 years old. “My neighbor took me deer hunting for the first time, and I was hooked after that,” he said. “Before I could drive, my mom would take me out, drop me off near my stand, and sit there and wait in the car, two to three hours while I was out hunting.”
Wesley became even more serious about deer hunting after college, and became especially interested in bowhunting trophy-class animals. “In the past 20 years, I’ve only taken a rifle to the stand twice. I just love the close-range nature of bowhunting, and I’ve killed a few decent deer.”
The property Wesley hunts most often is a 120-acre farm in Harris County that his friend purchased a few years ago. “For the past several years, I’ve had the honor and privilege to help him improve it for wildlife,” Wesley said. “I have two sons, and he has three kids, and he wanted a good place to get them into the outdoors. We plant food plots and have done controlled burns. The place is mostly open sage brush and pasture-type ground, but there are some woods, too. We try to keep a close inventory on the bucks and not shoot anything under 125 or 130, so the kids have some nice deer to hunt. Of course, we’ve lost some deer to the neighbors, same as you’d have anywhere.”
As a guest on his friend’s property, and with a focus on getting the children on nice deer, Wesley keeps his hunting pressure to a minimum. But this year, just before Halloween, a special buck showed up on camera, and it was all-hands-on-deck to try to get him.
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The giant whitetail was a regular on trail camera at Realtree Farms throughout late summer, but his patterns became erratic after he shed his velvet.
As Southern hunting properties go, few are more legendary than Realtree Farms. Bill and Tyler Jordan have taken some jaw-dropping bucks there through the years, including the 189-inch giant that Tyler shot in Fall 2021. The deer there are the result of years of intensive management efforts. But they’re not fenced in, as some people claim. They are free-ranging deer that wander onto neighboring properties.
In his years of hunting Realtree Farms, Tyler Jordan has seen very few deer with drop tines, but in late June, he was cruising around the property with a friend, checking out a dove field a few hours before dark, when three big velvet bucks caught his eye. “One of them grabbed our attention immediately,” Tyler said. “I saw these two huge drop tines. I’d never seen that deer before, and because that area is so close to the highway, we’d never hung many cameras in there, either. But that buck was incredible, and so we put a camera up in there. We got a picture of him on July 1.”
Tyler isn’t one to swoon over a big deer, but it was hard not to be in awe of the pictures of the double drop-tine buck — aptly named “Drops.” For most of the late summer, there were plenty of pictures to look at, too. “This deer was on that camera in the daylight every day in July through mid-August. And honestly, I was in disbelief of him. I’ve seen deer with drop-tines, but never anything like that. His ears always looked uncomfortable and out of position because of the drop tines, and it was on both sides. I was in disbelief that a deer like that lived anywhere, especially in Georgia.”
Regular as the buck was throughout late summer, his patterns changed in mid-August. He shed his velvet early, around Aug. 20, and became more reclusive and nocturnal after that. “We still had him on camera, but he was using the northern end of the property, right next to a really busy two-lane highway,” Tyler said. “He was coming onto us to feed in a cut corn field, but I started to think he was bedding on a different property across the road.”
The Georgia bow season opened in September, and Tyler was laser-focused on the big deer. But the buck’s habits were erratic at best. “It seemed like every time he’d show up, it’d be 30 to 45 minutes after dark, and there was no consistency to it,” Tyler said. “I was sure he was crossing the road, and I tried sitting a stand up on that end of the property. It was just constant road noise. I even tried an observation sit one night, where I could actually see the road, thinking I might catch a glimpse of him crossing. I saw a doe, but that was it.”
Acorns began falling around Oct. 1, and there was a heavy mast crop in Georgia. The buck appeared on camera in daylight two days in a row — Oct. 1 and 2 — gobbling up acorns in a creek bottom. Tyler was out of town at the time, but he said the winds in that creek bottom are notoriously sketchy anyway. “Drops showed up down there in the last 20 minutes of daylight, but even if I’d been home, I don’t know that I would’ve risked hunting him there in those swirling winds.”
In mid-October, Josh Sparks, with Midwest Whitetail, was in town to hunt with Tyler at Realtree Farms. Late one evening after supper, Sparks was driving home down the busy two-lane when Drops trotted across the road right in front of him from the neighboring property and into Realtree Farms. It confirmed Tyler’s suspicion that the buck was bedding across the road, while also providing little hope that the deer would appear during shooting light anytime soon.
“My best guess is I made 25 sits trying to get Drops, but by that point, I figured my only real chance would be during the rut, when he hopefully started moving in the daylight more often,” Tyler said.
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Wesley Tyus with the buck nicknamed Drops.
As the rut gets closer, Wesley Tyus checks his cellular trail cameras first thing in the morning. A massive cold front swept through the Southeast in late October, and the weather in the wake of it was decidedly “rutty.” When Wesley checked in early on Halloween morning, the giant whitetail that he saw, with double drop tines, took his breath away.
The buck had appeared in the middle of the night before, but had been captured on two trail cameras. “The first time I saw him, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness!’” Wesley said. “We know that we’re close to some of the big landowners, like Realtree and Jeff Foxworthy, that have done such a good job managing the deer on their places. And we’ve always held out a little hope that one of those tremendously gifted deer might wander over onto us. And that’s what happened.”
Wesley immediately notified his buddy, the landowner, who went out hunting with his son and daughter that evening. They didn’t see the buck, and given the middle-of-the-night appearance, Wesley didn’t figure the chances of killing the deer were that good.
But then the buck appeared on camera again the next night, and suddenly, the chances seemed better.
Wesley was keeping the buck relatively quiet, even though he’s friends with Daniel Thomas, long-time producer of Realtree Outdoors. Wesley’s son is good friends with Daniel’s son, too, and of course, Wesley had shared pictures of the giant drop-tine buck with his boy. During a Halloween party, the boys started talking deer hunting and trail camera photos — and that’s when word got to Daniel that Wesley was onto a giant drop-tine buck, across the road and about a mile away from where Tyler Jordan had been hunting Drops on Realtree Farms.
“I got a call at around noon on Nov. 1, and when I saw it was Daniel, I knew what he was calling about,” Wesley said with a laugh. “He said the boys had been talking about the deer, and said that Tyler Jordan had been hunting him all season. He asked that if I happened to shoot the buck, would I let them come see it in person? I said of course. I know what it’s like to get obsessed with a big deer and then see your neighbor kill it. I was thrilled that they asked me — but honestly, I thought there was zero chance that I’d kill this deer.”
Still, Wesley made plans to hunt that evening. He came home from work, showered, shot his bow a bit, and got dressed. He thought of heading out with just his bow, but quickly thought better of it. The Georgia rifle season was open, and so he carried his .270 as well.
“I’m thinking my chances of getting this deer are about like the chances of winning the lottery, and I don’t play the lottery,” Wesley said. “But I got into the buddy stand at about 4:30 p.m. Based on where the deer was in the trail camera photos, I had a good idea of where he was bedding. The spot was up in the timber; your typical mix of hardwoods. I was just sitting there, enjoying the hunt, and I saw the first doe at about 5:30.”
At around 6 p.m., Wesley decided to try a rattling sequence. “Two of the biggest deer I’ve ever seen, I rattled in,” he said. “And I thought if the buck was bedding close, I might be able to at least let him know, ‘Hey, there are other bucks over here.’”
A few minutes after rattling and making a few grunts, Wesley spotted a deer’s legs moving through the timber 80 yards away. “I grabbed the binos and saw his rack come out from behind a tree, and immediately saw the drop-tines. I was about to hyperventilate. I knew there was no way I was going to get him with my bow, so I threw the rifle up in his direction. There were some little sweet gums in the way, but I found him in the scope. He was still slow walking, but I shot, and I knew I had it placed on the right spot. But he turned and took off. I tried to listen for him to crash but didn’t hear anything. I had no inkling of how far we went, and I’m a nervous wreck, playing mind games with myself.”
As he waited, Wesley saw a deer moving in the same area. He quickly chambered another round and shouldered his rifle — but it was a young buck, not Drops. “I gathered my stuff up and tried to wait for a bit, but I didn’t last long,” Wesley said. “Maybe eight minutes. Maybe just five. I walked up to the area where I’d shot him and started looking for blood, but I didn’t find any.”
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Wesley and Tyler Jordan show off the giant whitetail.
Tyler Jordan was in his stand about a mile away on the same evening, and he heard the shot. “Daniel had told me another guy was hunting the deer on a neighboring property,” he said. “Said he’d had the deer on camera two days in a row, and when I looked at the property on the map, I thought it seemed like a good place for Drops to be bedding. It was cold that day, Nov. 1, and I just had a feeling Wesley would shoot that buck. Up to that point, he and I had never met.”
After hearing the shot, Tyler texted Daniel and asked him to check in with Wesley to see if he had shot. Sure enough, he had, and Daniel sent Wesley’s number back to Tyler. Tyler called and introduced himself, and Wesley confirmed that he was sitting on a log, taking in the evening, and looking at a giant Georgia buck with double drop tines, dead at his feet.
“He said he’d wait for us to get there before putting hands on the deer,” Tyler said. “I really couldn’t believe it; he didn’t have to do that at all. But we gathered up and in seven minutes, we met Wesley at the gate.”
Wesley’s parents drove almost two hours to join in the celebration.
The initial angst from not finding blood had faded quickly. Wesley walked ahead a few steps and saw the buck lying dead just 40 yards away. “Soon as I saw those drop tines, I was overcome,” he said. “I just sat down for a moment, and almost as soon as I did, my phone vibrates. It was Daniel Thomas, asking if I’d shot him. And it wasn’t 10 seconds later, Tyler called. He’d heard me shoot. He was so generous and kind, but deep down, I know it was crushing him.”
With the Realtree cameras rolling, the two hunters admired Drops in person for the first time. “I haven’t been on social media, but I do enjoy watching some YouTube hunting shows, and I have watched several of their (Road Trips) episodes,” Wesley said. “But I hadn’t seen the ones where they’d talked about Drops at all. I had no idea Tyler had 30 hunts in after this deer. But having the camera guys from Realtree there filming, and dragging that buck out together, that was really cool.”
Tyler invited Wesley to hang the deer in a walk-in cooler at Realtree Farms overnight so they could get better photos the next day. Wesley sent pictures to his folks, who didn’t hesitate to drive an hour and a half the next morning to see the deer themselves. “My dad isn’t a deer hunter but he’s picked up hundreds of sheds out quail hunting, and it was incredible to have them there with us to celebrate, and just be in the presence of a deer like that,” Wesley said.
“Other than pulling the trigger myself, I got everything out of that experience that I possibly could have,” Tyler said. “To see him and his dad embrace like that, I got a tear to my eye. It’s true, we have an amazing property at Realtree Farms. But it’s also true that most people don’t have the time and money to do something like that. To see a deer like this show up on your 100 acres, and to get a shot at him — every deer hunter in America dreams of something like that happening. I couldn’t be any happier for Wesley Tyus.”
A biologist green-scored Drops at 184-7/8. “My biggest buck up until this year would’ve been about 135,” Wesley said. “My son shot a 140 two years ago, and so for a while, he actually had a bigger deer than Dad. But not anymore!”