By John E. Phillips
If you pay attention to deer tracks on dirt roads, you might see their makers.
Bobby Cook’s days of shedding boot leather to look for buck sign are long gone, but that doesn’t seem to have hindered the 66-year-old deer hunter from Carbon Hill, Ala.
Ever since he and his motorcycle were struck by a hit-and-run driver in 1974, Bobby - paralyzed below the waist - has been confined to a wheelchair. He gave up hunting for the next 10 years.
In 1984, eager to return to the woods, he purchased a four-wheeler with hand controls.
“I had difficulty hunting from the four-wheeler and using ground blinds,” he said. “I got so cold that (I) was miserable.”
When Bobby’s twin brother, Billy, who drove an old International Harvester truck back and forth to work, decided to sell it, Bobby bought it. With his older brother Charles’ help, they completely rebuilt the truck, outfitting it with a used Chevrolet engine and transmission because no International Harvester parts were available.
Bobby and Charles then installed hand controls, added a propane heater to the floorboard, jacked the frame up for more road clearance, and added all-terrain tires “to go anywhere there was an opening.”
With Bobby’s customized truck, he could drive down logging roads, back the truck into the trees and brush, and hunt. With a lot of work, he could also cut shooting lanes to enable him to see out the windows of the truck for at least 120 or 130 yards and up to 500 yards on the edges of clear-cuts.
Bobby practiced shooting his .300 Magnum until he was consistently accurate out to 500 yards. He rested the fore-end of his rifle in the palm of his hand and laid his hand on the rolled-down truck window for a steady rest.
Today, Bobby uses eight trail cameras on places where he’s seen deer tracks crossing logging roads, hoof prints leading to greenfields and tracks going in and out of clear-cuts. From his trail camera surveys and the 15 years he’s hunted that Fayette County property from his modified truck, Bobby has learned the deer’s habits and favorite trails between feeding, bedding and mating sites.
During the 2013-14 Alabama deer season, Bobby didn’t hunt very much due to back problems. When he was up to it, he invited two friends from Pennsylvania, Wes McDonald and Pete Skrgic, to come and hunt the last few days of the season with him.
On Jan. 24, 2014, Bobby drove his truck down an old logging road where he’d found a fresh trail deer were using to come down a hill and cross the road to reach a hardwood creek bottom. Some continued walking for about 100 yards to reach a greenfield where they liked to feed after dark.
Bobby had hunted that same trail for five years, and he’d taken eight bucks and six does there, with one buck tallying 152 inches and another 158. Bobby, his family and friends consistently harvest mature bucks on that tract.
Bobby never gets out of his truck when hunting, so he never leaves human odor anywhere. He always hunts with the wind in his face, too.
“Here’s another advantage I have,” Bobby says. “I sit perfectly still in my truck, leaving some of the truck’s hood exposed on the road and positioning it 120 to 130 yards from the spot where I expect the deer to appear.
When the deer come down the trail and step out on the logging road, they’re not threatened by the truck, but they usually look at it, while standing still and broadside to me.”
On the fateful day, Bobby had backed his truck off the road behind three cedar trees and cut a shooting lane through the branches, making him almost invisible. At 3:30, he spotted three does coming down the trail to the logging road. When the does stepped in the road, Bobby saw a huge buck standing behind them.
“Instantly, I knew this buck was a shooter,” Bobby said. “I didn’t have time to look at antlers and count points. I aimed through my scope at the doe standing in front of the big buck.”
When the does resumed walking, Bobby had a clear shot at the buck.
Before he could squeeze the trigger, the buck raised its head and spotted the truck. Bobby could tell from the animal’s posture that it was about to leave posthaste. So he aimed for the deer’s shoulders, hoping the knock-down power of the .300 Mag would break both and put the buck down quickly and efficiently.
At the report of the rifle, the buck didn’t fall. But it flinched before running off the road.
“After the shot, I sat in my truck for a little while, not wanting to disturb anyone’s hunt,” Bobby said. “Once I reached the place where the buck had been standing, I saw hair and blood and knew I’d made a good hit. I assumed the deer would go toward the little creek in the bottom.”
The hunters all carried cell phones. Bobby called Skrgic and told him he’d shot a nice buck but to remain in his stand until dark. He also called a friend and his brother, who were hunting with him that day, and asked them to come trail and drag the deer out to road.
Once Bobby finally saw how big the 13-point buck was, he was elated. He doubts he’ll ever be able to top it.
Hunter: Bobby Cook
BTR Score: 177 5/8
– Photos courtesy Bobby Cook
This article was published in the Winter 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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