Rack Magazine

Towering Tines

Towering Tines

By Mike Handley

Former Alabama coal hole yields tall-racked whitetail worthy of a long-naked wall.

Randy Hayes of Peterson, Alabama, never expected to take another whitetail to a taxidermist, not after a tornado gutted his home and carried 15 irreplaceable mounts to Oz in 2011.

The 57-year-old, semi-retired welder now realizes he was too pessimistic.

He’s not sure which is more surprising, that he’s springing for another glass-eyed memento, or that he shot it so close to home in Tuscaloosa County.

“The deer around here rarely get above 120 inches,” said Randy, who has hunted all over the country.

He knew this deer was the exception since finding its 2013 sheds in 2014. He saw the first antler beside a road, and its mate was lying a mere 2 feet from it. Best of all, neither side had been chewed by squirrels.

Discovering the antlers was exciting, and finding them has turned him into an antler-seeking machine during the spring, but actually seeing the deer is what cemented his obsession with it.

Randy almost hit this tall-tined buck – then a clean 5x4 – with his truck in 2015. So intent on keeping its eyes on a doe on the other side of the road, the 9-pointer never even looked up or acknowledged the vehicle 5 feet from it.

“It flipped me out,” Randy said, “because it was going onto MY property. I recognized it immediately.”

Thus began Randy’s quest.

“I hunted that deer so hard in 2015, I got hemorrhoids,” he laughed. “My wife even commented she was concerned about the gasoline I was burning while making two trips a day to hunt.”

In 2016, the buck was passing in front of a trail camera lens almost nightly. Randy saw it once at daylight, but he wasn’t comfortable taking the shot.

On the cool morning of Nov. 29, Randy was joined by his son, Tyler, and Tyler’s girlfriend, Sadie. He let them keep vigil inside a shooting house, while he used a climbing stand to get 20 feet up a tree in the mostly piney woods.

The 48 acres the Hayes hunt is mostly reclaimed strip mines, replanted in pines. Except for a few gaps in the trees affording unobstructed views to 70 yards, he could see only 40 or 50 yards in most directions.

“Shortly after daylight, it was like this buck just popped up out of the ground,” Randy said. “When I saw it through one of those holes at about 70 yards, it was making a scrape and facing me.

“Because it was looking my way, I wasn’t going to play around. I shot it straight through the chest,” he added.

Tyler texted his father immediately.

“What, did you shoot the first deer you saw?” his message read.

Randy got down a few minutes later. He thought he’d hit the deer, and he was eager to confirm it. Had he been shooting his own custom rifle, he would’ve been more confident, but he’d carried his son’s .270 that morning.

He and Tyler looked for blood for an hour, but they found no sign of a hit whatsoever. After that, Randy drove the 20 miles to take Tyler and Sadie home.

“He thought I’d missed. And I was beginning to think the same thing, but I wasn’t going to stop looking,” Randy said.

He returned to search alone.

“After two hours of circling, I was about to give up,” he said. “I decided to give it one more try in the opposite direction. I had been looking where the deer should’ve gone. So I went to where Tyler had walked earlier, and that’s when I stumbled upon it.

“The buck was maybe 10 steps from where Tyler stopped, about 150 yards from where I shot it,” he added. “I don’t know how it ran that far. Everything inside it was busted, its heart and everything else. The body cavity was one big bruise.

“But that explains why there was no blood trail,” he added. “There was no exit wound. All the damage was inside.”

Although the deer had been dead for no more than three hours, coyotes had found it. They’d chewed into a hind quarter.

“They’re bad here,” he said. “On any given night, you can hear five or six different packs sounding off.”

This article was published in the December 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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