By Travis Faulkner
You only have to talk with Jeff Foxworthy a few minutes to learn that he is completely eaten up with whitetail fever. In fact, you might not know that Foxworthy was a hunter long before he became a comedic superstar. Despite his overwhelming success and fame, Foxworthy is still just a humble country boy from Georgia who hasn’t forgotten his roots or lost his love for the outdoors and hunting.
Like many of us, Foxworthy was introduced to hunting by his father, who used to let Jeff tag along on those cool fall morning squirrel hunts. As a boy, Foxworthy collected squirrel tails from these trips and would tack them all over his bedroom wall. As you can imagine, this used to drive his mother crazy, but at this point, Jeff was already too far gone and had been completely captivated by hunting and the outdoors. His mother soon realized this was only the start of an addiction that would follow Jeff throughout his life.
Building a Sacred Bond
According to Foxworthy, hunting and fishing helped forge a strong and everlasting bond with both his father and grandfather. “Growing up hunting was probably the biggest connection between me and my dad. These father-and-son squirrel and bird hunting trips on the weekend kept us close and really got me hooked on the outdoors. In addition, my grandfather was a fireman and he would always take me fishing on his days off, which strengthened our relationship and only added to my obsession with nature and the outdoors. Spending time with my father and grandfather basically kept me outside and out of trouble.
“Without question, sharing these hunting and fishing trips with my family had a profound impact on my life and undoubtedly has shaped and molded the person I am today. I think it’s extremely important for parents to spend time with their children, and the outdoors offers a perfect avenue for building strong relationships and bonds that will last a lifetime. A wise person once said take your kids hunting today and you won’t have to hunt for them tomorrow. I think there is a lot of truth in this saying, and I try to take my girls with me whenever the opportunity arises,” explained Foxworthy.
Many hours in the field scouting finally paid off for Foxworthy with this huge buck on his own Georgia property.
Jeff used to spend weekends working on the family farm with his father in Georgia. Fate intervened one weekend when Foxworthy stumbled upon his first deer track on the property. That was all she wrote! A single deer print in the mud triggered a fascination with whitetails that lives within Jeff to this day. After seeing that track, Foxworthy was determined to learn all he could about whitetails and began to dream about the day when he would finally take his first buck.
Consequently, like many hunters, Foxworthy struggled in the beginning and hunted hard for nearly three years before seeing his first deer in the woods. “I’ll be the first to tell you, starting out I had no idea what I was doing, and I wasn’t very good at deer hunting at all. I can remember taking old pallets from behind the grocery store and would hang these makeshift stands from almost any good tree they would fit in. It’s funny because I really didn’t pay any attention to the wind direction and would often hunt in blue jeans and sweatshirts. It was a miracle for me to even see a deer during those days,” laughed Foxworthy.
However, Jeff’s luck would change about the time he turned 15 on a November gun hunt with his father. “My dad helped me in the tree that morning well before daylight, and I can remember being so excited. About 30 minutes after daybreak, I heard something in the leaves about 30 yards to my right. I was sure it was probably nothing more than a squirrel, because back then I hardly ever saw any deer on my hunts! It finally stepped out and my heart nearly hit the bottom of my stand. It really was a deer, and it actually had antlers! To this day, I can relive that hunt in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I will never forget that little dark-antlered 5-pointer that got me started and literally changed my life forever,” recalled Foxworthy.
All hunters can relate to how Foxworthy felt on that special morning. Everyone who deer hunts can recall that first hunt when something deep inside them changes for the better. With unbelievable accuracy, we can remember exactly how the fall woods smelled. The vivid images of crimson leaves and the sounds of nature still echo in our minds many years after the hunt has ended. These small and seemingly insignificant details are what keep us coming back.
Jeff remembers the excitement he felt during his first successful hunt. “I was as proud of that buck as any deer I have taken in my entire life. A couple weeks later, I was fortunate enough to drop a second deer on my uncle’s place. It was just a basket rack 8-pointer, but I thought I had shot the biggest buck in Georgia. In fact, this was the first deer I had mounted, and that same buck is still on my office wall today. After about 30 years, the mount was beginning to look pretty ragged and rough. However, I simply couldn’t bring myself to take it off the wall, so I had a taxidermist repair the 8-pointer. To me, this deer is a true treasure, and I have looked at that old buck probably a million times in my life and I just couldn’t let those memories go.”
Taking Deer Hunting To the Next Level
After those first couple of bucks in Georgia, Foxworthy decided to raise the bar and learn everything he could about deer hunting. He began reading outdoor articles, watching deer hunting videos and talking with other hunters to increase his knowledge about whitetails. A love for the outdoors, hard work and persistence allowed Foxworthy to improve his hunting skills over time. Today, deer hunting for Jeff is not just a hobby or fall pastime, it’s a way of life.
Foxworthy has been fortunate enough to be around some very knowledgeable deer hunters over the years like Jackie Bushman of Buckmasters and Bill Jordan and Michael Waddell of Realtree. Sharing deer camp with top-notch deer hunters like these guys has enabled Jeff to take his deer hunting to the next level. In the process, Foxworthy has also taken some phenomenal bucks on hunts in front of the camera with both Buckmasters and Realtree.
Jeff Foxworthy is pictured here with the late Andrew Toole at the 1999 Buckmasters Disabled Life Hunt at Alabama’s famed Sedgefield Plantation. Andrew had been diagnosed with liver cancer. This special hunt with Foxworthy allowed him to fulfill his dream of taking his first buck.
For example, on a hunt with Realtree in Kansas, Jeff shot an absolute bruiser buck that sported a 25-inch inside spread with 17 points. “When you see a deer like my Kansas buck, it makes you come unglued. This undoubtedly was the biggest buck I had ever seen in my entire life. In fact, I was so shook up that I actually missed my first shot before gaining my composure and drilling this brute with a second shot. It’s funny how deer hunting and seeing a monster whitetail can make a grown man completely lose it,” Foxworthy continued. “I don’t know of any other activity that can even compare to deer hunting or duplicate the overwhelming feeling I get by being in the woods.”
Since then, Foxworthy has taken a number of trophy-class bucks and has built quite an impressive trophy room. Last season, Jeff took one of his favorite bucks on his own farm in Georgia. He had actually rattled this buck in a couple seasons before and elected to pass because the deer was only about 4 years old and showed great potential. Not many hunters would let a 150-inch-plus deer walk, especially in Georgia. However, Jeff’s decision paid off a couple years later when he rattled the massive buck up again, this time taking the shot.
The buck scored a staggering 178 6/8 and weighed well over 250 pounds. This buck means a great deal to Jeff due to the time and effort he logged before finally closing the deal. Foxworthy had found the buck’s shed during the spring before and had managed to capture several shots of the deer on one of his trail cameras prior to the season. He had to hunt the deer relentlessly that fall, and finally all the scouting and hard work produced one of his personal best bucks. To Jeff, deer hunting takes year-round dedication. He spends a lot of time scouting, growing food plots and managing his property.
Giving Something Back
Back in 1999, Foxworthy teamed up with Jackie Bushman and Buckmasters for a special deer hunt that deeply touched his heart and would become one of his fondest deer hunting memories. It was a disabled hunt that took place on the Sedgefield Plantation in Alabama, where Jeff shared deer camp with a courageous young man named Andrew Toole. Andrew had been diagnosed with liver cancer and wanted more than anything to take an antlered deer. Foxworthy and Buckmasters were going to do everything in their power to make this last request come true.
“I woke up early that morning, laid in bed and prayed, ‘God I don’t even know if you do stuff like this, but whatever luck you were going to give me this season, please give it to Andrew instead.’ That morning, Andrew and I went to different stands and, surprisingly, I didn’t see a single deer, which has never happened at Sedgefield. When I returned to camp, there was this giant 8-pointer on the back of a tailgate, and I remember thinking somebody had shot a monster. Sure enough, my prayers had been answered. It was Andrew, and he stood there beaming beside the deer and was grinning from ear to ear, looking so proud of his first buck,” recalled Foxworthy.
Unfortunately, Andrew only lived about five months after his hunt at Sedgefield with Foxworthy and Buckmasters. However, Andrew Toole’s story should provide all of us with a lifetime of inspiration. It teaches us just how precious and fragile the gift of life is and that we should all make the most of each day we have been given. In this sad situation, hunting allowed Foxworthy to provide someone with a moment of hope and happiness by creating a temporary escape from a dark reality.
Hunting has the power to forge everlasting relationships, create memories that cannot be erased by the hands of time, and even make the dreams of a boy who only had a little time left come true. This is what deer hunting is all about.
Jeff Foxworthy is much more than a comedic superstar or a celebrity deer hunter. He is the real deal. Jeff is an accomplished deer hunter and a true friend to all outdoor enthusiasts. He continues to take a stand in support of hunting and protecting our heritage, despite the advice of Hollywood agents and publicists who feel hunting is far too controversial.
Foxworthy realizes that hunting is much more than harvesting an animal; it’s a passion and family legacy that has the potential to change your life forever.
-- Reprinted from the November 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine