By Tim Beaumont
On March 16, 2008, Bill Coe of Conover, Ohio, was told by his doctor that he could no longer hunt with a compound bow. Although Bill values his health, he lives to hunt. At 72 years young, the retired plumber was devastated.
"I've always hunted with a bow, and I couldn't imagine giving it up," he said.
After neck and back surgeries, Bill knew his health was a priority, so he promised his wife he wouldn't shoot his bow until September.
"On Sept. 1, I was in the yard shooting my bow," Bill said. "I had to lower the draw weight to 47 pounds, but I knew it could still be fatal."
While hunting in 2007, Bill saw a whitetail approaching his stand that made him say, "Oh my God! Look at that." The giant long-tined buck was following a doe.
"The buck walked within 20 yards of my stand and stood broadside without so much as a branch between us," Bill remembers. "I don't know what happened. I must have been looking at something other than my target."
After the shot, the big deer ran about 30 yards.
"I kept waiting for the deer to fall over. I could see my arrow sticking out of the ground. But after watching the buck rubbing trees 200 yards away, I knew I'd missed," he said.
Back surgery leaves aches, but Bill's pains began to subside after spotting the buck of his dreams again during the fall of 2008.
"I saw the monster early in the archery season, and there was no doubt it was the same one I'd missed in '07," he said. "It wore the same tall tines and mass, and the rack was really wide.
"On Oct. 28, I started hunting hard for that deer. The rut was approaching, and I knew my chances were better," he said.
Bill is a firm believer that if you hunt where you're seeing does, you're eventually going to start seeing bucks. His theory proved correct, too.
He was given plenty of opportunities at big deer, but he refused to shoot anything less than the buck with tall tines.
John Hielman, one of Bill's favorite hunting companions, couldn't believe the size of the bucks Bill was ignoring.
"I thought he was stupid," John said. "This big 10-pointer I had seen on a trail camera was really beautiful, but Bill kept passing it up."
"I explained to John that he hadn't seen the big one yet," Bill grinned.
On Nov. 4, 2008, Bill climbed into his stand half an hour before shooting time. Soon afterward, he heard the unmistakable sound of whitetails heading his way. Although it was still dark, he was able to decipher a very large rack atop one of the deer.
"When you see something like that coming, you don't mistake it for anything else," he said.
There was the buck he wanted to shoot, one of the largest he'd ever laid eyes on, and it walked right underneath him while it was still too dark to shoot.
"The buck didn't hang around long enough for daylight to break," Bill said.
Disappointed but hopeful, Bill waited until 11:00 before getting down from his treestand, which was tucked about 30 yards into a small patch of woods flanking a field.
"There aren't many distinct trails in the woods, but deer always travel through there," the hunter said. "They seem to feel safe because of the cover."
Bill was confident he'd chosen the right spot.
On the mild morning of Nov. 5, he found himself in his favorite stand, 20 feet high, waiting for the day to unfold.
"The morning hunt lasted until about 11:00, and I saw lots of deer in my little section of woods. Some were bucks, but not the big one," he said.
Bill was aloft again about 2:00, a bit discouraged after running into the landowner.
"He told me he'd been near the woods shooting guns," Bill said. "The farmer didn't think I was coming back, and he apologized for messing things up."
The landowner's impromptu target practice had little effect on the resident whitetails. Long before sunset, four bucks and several does filtered through the woodlot. One of the bucks was the same beautiful 10-pointer Bill's friend had wanted him to shoot. But Bill was determined to stay focused on the big buck.
Just after 5:00, he heard heavy footsteps.
"I looked over my left shoulder, and there it was," Bill said.
He first saw the giant antlers as the buck made its way toward his stand. When it was 5 yards closer than it had been the first time hunter encountered hunted, Bill drew his bow.
"I was replaying the previous year's shot in my head," he said. "I didn't want to mess up this time."
The deer was at 16 yards when Bill's sight pin locked onto a spot behind its shoulder. The broadhead cut it a second later.
"The arrow's fletching was sticking out of the deer. I prayed it was deep enough to be fatal," he recalled. "The buck ran about 60 yards and stopped. It took a few more strides out into the field before collapsing."
Bill couldn't get his cell phone in his hand fast enough!
"I called John to tell him the good news. In fact, I was so excited I didn't realize I'd called him four times before I even got down!"
While standing over the enormous 300-pound whitetail, Bill was aghast.
"Oh ... my ... God. What have I just done?"
Shock, however, quickly turned to giddiness.
Hunter: Bill Coe
Official Score: 185 2/8"
Composite Score: 205 7/8"
-- Reprinted from the September 2009 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.