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Alabama's Top Bow Buck... And From a WMA!
Randy Coffey’s Black Warrior WMA bruiser is Bama’s best bow-kill.
By Nick Carter
In a photo at the scene of the hunt in December of 2000 at Black Warrior WMA, Randy Coffee suspects, but doesn’t yet know he’s holding a new Alabama record for bow-killed bucks.
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As far as public land goes, there is not a piece of property in Alabama that produces big bucks like Bankhead National Forest’s Black Warrior Wildlife Management Area. Year after year, the WMA consistently produces trophy-class bucks, but none of them hold a candle to the buck Randy Coffey killed there in December of 2000.

In fact, no other bow-killed buck in the state comes close to Randy’s massive, non-typical, 6 1/2-year-old, 27-pointer. With a gross score greater than 231 inches, it netted 222 4/8 Pope & Young inches. Buckmaster scored it at 206 6/8 — not including a spread measurement, and Dennis Campbell’s Alabama Whitetail Records scored it at 231 5/8 without deductions for asymmetrical points. The authorities may not agree on how to best score a buck, but they all agree on one thing: Randy’s is the best bow-killed whitetail in Alabama history.

And historically, most giant bucks killed by hunters come with a pretty good story. Randy’s is no exception.

A lifelong hunter who was hunting exclusively with a bow back in 2000, Randy had what some people might consider a stroke of luck. The machine he worked at an Alabama paper plant closed, and he was sent home — with pay — at the beginning of deer season. Randy lives in Wren, which is minutes from Black Warrior in Lawrence County, so instead of spending most of deer season in a paper plant, he spent it in the woods.

A full moon the night before had Randy in the woods from 8:30 to 11:30 the morning of December 12, sitting in a different stand than the one from which he would eventually kill his state-record buck. The winds were high and blowing from the wrong direction for hunting that stand, but it would seem that fate was on Randy’s side. The high winds and a temperature of 23 degrees convinced him to go home for dinner, and after taking a nap on the sofa, he woke up and the wind had shifted.

He made his way back into the woods at about 3 p.m., planning to hunt a big, 150-class, 10-pointer he had seen in the area. Bankhead was in a devastating drought that year, the hard mast crop had failed completely, and signs of the rut were light. Randy hung his stand on a ridge near two scrapes — the only ones he found that season despite some intense scouting. There was also a good rub on a beech tree within sight of the stand, which he hung on the only climbable white oak in the area. There was a rushing waterfall that he could hear from the ridge, and he was just a few hundred yards from the nearest gravel road.

Because of a strain of Michigan deer released on Bankhead in the 1920s, the rut there is early, and typically petering out by mid December. Randy said he has taken three good deer during different seasons from Bankhead on December 12, 13 and 14, which he said is the tail-end of the rut for the area. The lack of sign was puzzling, but it forced him to focus on the one area where he found some good signs of rutting activity.

He was hunting that sign at about 4 p.m. when he heard the crack of a branch breaking.

“I was looking down at a big spruce pine hanging out on this logging road. I saw something coming up under that tree, and he stopped and just shook his head — you know, like a dog shaking when it’s wet,” Randy said. “I was like ‘Dad-gum! What in the world!’ I thought something was hung up in his rack.”

But there wasn’t anything but bone in that buck’s rack, and it made its way toward Randy’s stand with its head down, like it was trailing a hot doe. Randy would later discover that the buck had a drop tine off the back of its rack that poked into its neck every time it lifted its head. That’s why it had its head down.

“He’s got a hole dug in the back of his neck. Man, that thing’s like a gut hook, and there’s a spot where another one like it was broken off on the other side,” Randy said. “When he came up, I didn’t dare look at his rack. I’ve screwed up too many times doing that. I just focused on that spot behind his shoulder. All I knew was he had a lot of bone.”

The buck was 17 yards from Randy’s stand when it stopped near one of the scrapes.

“I went ahead and stood up and hooked my release when I saw him coming. I had so many clothes on, I was worried about drawing my bow. I didn’t shake, but the position I was holding my bow in, the tip of my arrow was just quivering. I couldn’t get a shot at him.

“He turned and looked straight at me, and he started tensing up. I was like ‘Oh, well,’” Randy said, sure that he had been busted. “He raised his tail and... he (defecated) in that scrape.

“I was sitting there looking at him, but I couldn’t draw on him because he was looking at me. It was probably 25 or 30 seconds, but you know how it goes, it felt like an hour. He got through, looked down and started pawing at that scrape.”

About that time, fate stepped in again and something fell from the waterfall making a splash. The buck turned its attention to the noise, giving Randy an opportunity to draw his bow and put the pin just behind the buck’s shoulder. Randy triggered his release and watched as the green-and-white fletching passed directly through the buck’s boiler room.

“He ran off like he wasn’t even touched. He just loped down the hill with his tail straight up,” Randy said. “I thought I heard him fall, but I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t worried, though; I knew I made a good shot.”

After about 10 minutes, Randy climbed down from his stand to find his arrow. It had good, bubbly blood on it, reinforcing his positive feeling about the hit. He took his stand down as quietly as possible and left to go find help. Just after dark, Randy returned with his brother, Gary Coffey, and a friend, Tony Myers, to track the deer, which Randy assumed was just a short distance away.

“We started tracking him, and we couldn’t find any blood — just a drop here and a drop there,” Randy said. “We got about 40 yards down there, and he had just opened up. It was like somebody poured it out of a bucket.”

Tony swept his light down the hill from where the three men were standing, and all three of them saw the buck before Randy broke into a run to get to the downed animal.

“Tony was like, ‘Son, what’ve you killed? It looks like you killed ol’ Bullwinkle,” Randy said describing his friend’s reaction. “He told me I might have killed a new state record.”

The state record now hangs on the wall next to eight other bucks. All of them score in the 120-class or better, and all but one of them were killed in Bankhead. Randy’s wife claimed one of the deer on her first — and, so far, her last — hunting trip. The rest are Randy’s.

And it may not be a stroke of luck this time, but because of a back injury for which he has had two surgeries, Randy is in forced retirement. He will again have plenty of time to spend in the woods this season, but he will probably be gunning for the Boone & Crockett Record Book this time. His back won’t allow him to drag a deer very far, and hunting with a rifle usually results in a quicker, cleaner kill.

He will also have to settle for getting into his stand a little late in the mornings, since he will be dropping the kids off at school every day during the week. But that does not bother the hunter much. Getting into the stand late certainly didn’t hurt his chances back in 2000.
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