Think Ducks, Grow Big Bucks

Rivers Cathey has five of the 10 largest bow bucks ever taken in Hart County, but growing big bucks isn't the first thing on his mind.

Mike Bolton | August 8, 2022

Rivers Cathey killed this big Hart County P&Y during the 2021 season. It netted 138 6/8.

Rivers Cathey has taken five of the 10 largest bow bucks ever taken in Hart County, including two that qualified for the Pope & Young record buck. All came from the family’s 350-acre farm in Hartwell.

You’re probably assuming that the farm has a magnificent wildlife management program, and you’d be right, but it’s not what you might think. The property is managed for ducks.

“We have what we call corn ponds,” the 24-year-old from nearby Anderson, S.C. explained. “We plant corn in the ponds and let it grow until we flood the ponds for the duck season. That attracts the ducks.”

The operation is called Skeeter Branch Duck Hunting Preserve. Rivers said attracting paying duck hunters is the family business, and that is part of a somewhat odd combination of factors that makes it a perfect place to take big bucks with his bow.

“We’re technically a duck hunting preserve, and we have 10 impoundments we plant corn in and flood,” he said. “We’re surrounded by some neighbors who have row crops and several deer hunting clubs. Those clubs have cover like pine thickets, the neighbors have food that attracts the bucks, and we have the food source that attracts does.”

With that, we asked Rivers for an explanation.

“Throughout most of the year, we only get does on our cameras,” he said. “We have a lot of does. But when the rut starts in October, the bucks explode. They come to our property and they chase does throughout December. You may see a buck chasing three does at Christmas.”

Rivers Cathey with his first P&Y buck, taken in 2012 when he was just 13 years old.

He said the duck hunting operation creates an unusual situation where the deer are accustomed to a lot of nearby shooting, and gunshots don’t alarm them.

“When I took my first Pope & Young buck in 2012, there were duck hunters shooting just 100 yards away,” he said.

It is interesting to note that Rivers began bowhunting at age 8 and was just 13 years old when he took his first Pope & Young buck in 2012. That buck scored 128 3/8 making the Pope & Young minimum of 125 inches. He missed taking other Pope & Young bucks by just fractions of an inch in 2015 (124 0/8) and in 2020 (124 3/8), but he rebounded with his second Pope & Young and biggest buck ever with a 138 6/8-inch buck in 2021.

A farm with plenty of ducks and fawns also attracts predators. Rivers insists that an important part of the farm’s management plan is trapping.

“We’ve trapped more than 120 coyotes and 30 bobcats in the past few years,” Rivers said.

Hart County’s Best Bow Bucks Of All-Time

1143 7/8 Warren Hershberger2020HartBowView 
2140 4/8 Jared Whiting2023HartBowView 
3138 6/8 Rivers Cathey2021HartBowView 
4134 7/8 Jason Fain2008HartBowView 
5129 6/8 Zach York2018HartBowView 
6128 1/8 Rivers Cathey2012HartBowView 
7127 2/8 Michael Turner2019HartBowView 
8124 3/8 Rivers Cathey2020HartBowView 
9124 2/8 Josh Osborne2022HartBowView 
10124 Rivers Cathey2015HartBowView 

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