Mississippi Outdoor Videographer bags trophy buck on national forest
Published 11:08 am Saturday, October 7, 2023
VICKSBURG — Scooter Whatley harvested an 11-point buck on the Homochitto National Forest Tuesday morning before he could get cameras set up to film his hunt. Whatley is a native of Vicksburg and graduated from Warren Central High School.
He grew up hunting and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1986 launching a career in videography. His first job out of college was with the news department at WLBT in Jackson.
Whatley works as producer, director and videographer for the Mississippi Outdoors TV and marketing for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. He has manned a camera at sporting events for ESPN for the last 15 years as well.
Friday, He will film an alligator hunt in Louisiana for the winner of Mississippi Outdoors Drawing. The gator hunt will be a guided hunt with one of the cast members of Swamp People. The gator hunt is the reason Whatley had Tuesday and Wednesday off.
Tuesday was a special day because he snapped a hunting drought with an 11-point buck.
“It is the first rack buck I have killed with my bow in many years. I was going to try and self-film my hunts this year. I have a few go pros and a camera arm, but I didn’t have time,” Whatley said. “He just showed up.”
Whatley went into the Homochitto National Forest with a friend and an Ole Man Climbing Stand with no expectations. His friend had a meeting at 11 a.m., so they didn’t have long to hunt.
He was hunting blind in an area, so he found a high ridge overlooking a creek bottom and another ridge. Deer would funnel through the area coming from a cutover. Checking the wind, he climbed the hill. Does were behind him and left the area.
Turning in the stand, Whatley saw two bucks coming out of the cutover in the opposite direction and working up the ridge. At 22 steps, Whatley grunted to stop the 11-point buck at a perfect broadside and let an arrow from his Hoyt Torrex fly. The deer went as far as 75 yards before going down.
Whatley said it was special because his 18-year-old son Connor Whatley, a student at Hinds Community College, is three to four years into bow hunting. Connor has not killed a deer with Scooter’s old Bowtech bow yet but has had a few close calls.
“It happened in a minute from the time I saw the buck. It was that quick. I want Connor to learn from the experience. I want him to have that same thrill. It was so unique. We had no idea what was there,” Scooter said. “You get nervous if you have time to watch a deer. You try to not make noise and move at the right time. It happened so quickly. I just stood up, got my bow and it moved so fast there was no time to get nervous. It’s a process. You stand up when he doesn’t see you, draw when he can’t see you, pick a spot to stop him and shoot.”
Nerves overcame him about five minutes after the shot. His knees were shaking, so he had to take a seat in the stand with his safety harness on. The time was 7:30, first light was around 6:20, and he spent maybe an hour in the tree stand before the buck walked through.
“The good Lord was with me,” he said.
Scooter said the first person he texted after the shot was his wife Annette Whatley. He called his 93-year-old dad Harold Whatley, and he then called his son Connor to share the news.
“My dad is 93, and he taught me everything I know about hunting. He was elated,” he said.
Heat delayed his archery practice until August as he started getting his sights right, shooting a few arrows each day. He shoots once a week once the pins are dialed in, and he is accurate at 40 yards.
Over the summer, Annette told Scooter he needed to practice more. She is the archery teacher at McLaurin and is proficient with a bow. Whatley said he practiced the same amount going into the season.
The buck will be skull-mounted. He bought propane from the store to start the boiling process today.
“I know it is not the biggest buck in the world, but I’m super proud of this deer,” Whatley said. “I haven’t seen a buck during bow season in a while. The hunting club I’m in has strict rules about antler size. This deer would have made it there, but on public land, my friend said this was a trophy. Especially for the national forest, it gets a lot of pressure.”
He utilizes public land mostly during the turkey season.
Filming the outdoors
Bert Case, a legendary news anchor at WLBT, liked to tell different stories. Whatley told him he was going to take off to hunt deer. Case asked him to film the hunt.
At a deer camp, Whatley set up a camera on a metal tripod in a box stand. A group of deer came by the stand. A nice buck stopped on a sandbar. He was a shooter, but Whatley filmed the buck until he left.
“Case made a show out of it. They interviewed a conservation officer for the story. I think they ran the footage for 10 years,” Whatley said. “It was the only deer footage they had for a long time. Even after I left the station, I would see it. I have always hunted. I grew up hunting as a kid, so the filming just meshed together with the outdoors.”
He left WLBT and filmed for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, the Golf Channel and the Outdoor Channel. Work kept him out on the road so he decided to take a step back and stay home. February 2024 will mark the 20th anniversary of Whatley working for the MDWFP and Mississippi Outdoors TV.
“I love it. I get to spend my time on the job in the outdoors 90 percent of the time. I’m filming fishing or hunting trips. I am working on a law enforcement series right now. I love the job,” Whatley said. “I can be creative and try new things. They let me roll with it. I’ve done this for so long that they trust my judgment. When I am thinking, filming and producing new shows I want to do something different.”
One year, he filmed a 100-mile canoe trip on the Mississippi River over four days. Another project involved filming bald eagles across the state. He filmed at Wolf River in South Mississippi to eagle nests over catfish ponds in the Mississippi Delta.
Whatley said he filmed the bald eagles on the nest with the chicks hatching and growing up. He filmed them learning how to fly and growing up.
Cameras are getting smaller, lighter and easier to use. Whatley said he has great bosses and editors who trust him.
He is excited about his work on a Law Enforcement series, called Magnolia Law, documenting the work of Game Wardens and MDWFP’s Special Response Team. He enjoys filming the Super Hunt each year. Super Hunt is a hunt for kids facing challenges. The kids hunt on properties across Mississippi.
“It will be at the end of this month. They take these kids hunting and the kids are so happy. They look forward to harvesting a deer,” Whatley said. “They really look forward to it and I look forward to it. You see kids you met in years past and are excited to see them again. They are outgoing and have a great time. It is a really big deal.”