John Hall and Company’s Hoke Smith started the first weekend of deer season in Alabama, scoring a trophy whitetail buck in Elmore County. On top of that, Hoke’s sister got her first buck archery hunting.
We asked Hoke a few questions.
When did you start deer hunting?
I was born into an outdoorsy family. My dad was a big wing shooter. My mother was raised on a farm in south Alabama. Dad started taking me to the hunting camp to spend weekends with all my cousins around the age of 5. I killed my first deer when I was 8. I’ve always enjoyed the hunting camp atmosphere, spending time with the people I love, and quality time with friends and family.
Hunting was our reason for spending the weekends in the woods. It is a lifestyle. And it is one of the things I enjoy doing the most.
How do you prepare for whitetail deer hunting season?
That answer can change from year to year, but it’s typically a year-round thought process. I’m always thinking of the seasons to come during the ongoing season. There can be a never-ending list of projects I want to get completed. However, what gets done in preparation for the season vs. what actually gets finished is two different things.
Preparation for hunting season can be intense, or it can be simple.
We do the typical planting of food plots, prescribed fires, etc. Some people go all out and spend tons of money feeding the wildlife year round, planting summer food plots, so on and so forth, dreaming of a trophy buck. I typically take the simple route because I don’t want hunting whitetail deer to be a job.
It may not be the best preparation route, but I like to tell myself a low-pressure, natural, and native habitat is what wildlife prefers. So, sometimes, preparing for hunting season can be as simple as scouting, hanging a stand, and hunting.
What did you think when you first saw the trophy buck?
I put a few trail cameras out in mid-August to see what kind of deer were hanging around. Pleasantly, and to my surprise, this fellow had been calling the property home! I tried not to get my hopes up because I figured he would leave and change his home area as fall approached.
As the season started, I told my wife I had never been so nervous to go deer hunting. I had so many negative “What if” thoughts running through my mind.
“What if the neighbor gets him.”
“What if I make a bad shot or spook him.”
After spending a few hours in the stand and not seeing anything the afternoon of the hunt, my confidence was diminishing. I saw a small buck that I knew was familiar. My mentality switched, and it was game time. I got ready, thinking the chances were high that he could be with the small buck.
Sure enough, in the next few seconds, I saw A LOT of antler coming through the woods!
Excitement, nervousness, shaking, heavy breathing, and all the symptoms of what deer hunters call “Buck Fever” officially kicked in. As he cautiously made his way into bow range, I unintentionally calmed myself down and became more nervous about not screwing up this opportunity.
The buck finally committed and presented a perfect 25-yard broadside shot, and at that point, my almost 20 years of bow hunting experience kicked in like instinct.
Wham, Bam, Thank you Mam!
I immediately called my best friend, who was hunting a few hundred yards away, and my wife!
When my buddy “Gator” arrived, we began tracking the deer. He ran further, and the recovery took slightly longer than expected. By the time we recovered the deer, my wife, daughter, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and best friend were all there to celebrate the recovery of this deer!
It was a memorable evening and one that I won’t ever forget. I will continue to pursue these animals season after season, but having a moment like that and harvesting a deer like this will be hard to come by!
What are your favorite counties in Alabama to hunt?
I have been fortunate to hunt at different places all across the state. Most counties have diverse landscapes and habitats just within themselves. It is hard to pick a single county that is my favorite. I may be biased because it is close to home, but Montgomery, Lowndes, and Bullock are hard to beat. I love the diverse properties with open land, hardwoods, creek bottoms, and rolling topography. It creates great habitat and diversity for wildlife of all kinds. Whitetail deer populations are strong, and you never know when you may come across a trophy buck!
Here are a few tips for new deer hunters on our blog- Click HERE.
Current properties ready for hunting-