PROFILE: The hunter
Published 2:43 pm Thursday, March 24, 2016
WILSONVILLE–Many people have heard the phrase “hunting is a way of life,” but not many people have gotten the opportunity to experience what Shelby County resident Bob Coker has seen and felt in his years of hunting.
Coker and his family have lived in Wilsonville for the last eight years and one step inside the Cokers’ residence, and it’s evident that hunting and the outdoor lifestyle is a big part of who they are.
Coker was instrumental in starting the annual World Deer Expo in downtown Birmingham 35 years ago and his TV show, Outdoors with Bob Coker, has aired on various outdoor and sportsman channels for the past 15 years. In the show, he is shown hunting in various parts of the world.
How a passion was born
Coker grew up in Mableton, GA., and began hunting at a young age. His interests in hunting grew more and more as years passed.
“My dad took me small game hunting when I was 10 or 11 years old, and then when I turned 13 he started letting me deer hunt,” said Coker. “Back then, there wasn’t a whole lot of deer, especially not in Georgia, and I hunted six years before I ever even saw a deer. The first time I saw one, it was just a doe and a yearling but it made my heart jump up into my throat. I was about 16 when that happened and I didn’t shoot my first deer until I was 17.”
Before he made a name for himself in the hunting industry, Coker had an interest in computers and graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and an associate’s degree in nuclear science.
“I put together a trade show for the industrial control industry about 36 or 37 years ago,” said Coker. “It was a non-profit organization and I was on a committee that put it all together. Me and another guy did 99 percent of the work and it was very successful and we made a lot of money for that non-profit. I thought ‘You know, I can do this and make a whole lot more money than what I’m making at my regular job, but I could do it in the hunting industry because at the time I was eat up with hunting.’”
From computers to television
After working in the computer industry for 21 years, Coker retired and switched his focus to hunting and the World Deer Expo.
Coker said ever since he was a teenager his long-term goal was to start a TV show, and the avenue that led him to beginning that career was through the World Deer Expo.
“Since I was 16, that’s what I wanted to do for a living was a hunting TV show,” said Coker. “The avenue that allowed me to do that was the deer expo because I had been doing it for over 17 years. Through that industry, I had developed a name with the manufacturers of hunting products. When I asked them to sponsor me I had already developed a relationship with them.”
Coker started the first consumer hunting show and today, the World Deer Expo is the oldest and largest three-day consumer hunting show in the world.
As far as his TV show, which began in 2000, Coker’s first 10 years included filming 26 episodes in a year and every single episode had a minimum of two kills, while some had four. To get that amount of footage, Coker had to hunt year-round to take into account when hunts weren’t successful. This included hunting all over the world, and Coker’s Wilsonville home has different rooms dedicated to different regions of the world and types of animals he has hunted.
Some of the animals include whitetail deer, turkey, elk, various animals from Africa, a mountain goat, a Russian brown bear, a lion and many more.
Go big or go home
Coker’s most memorable hunts have involved dangerous game.
“The most exciting hunts I’ve been on have been my lion hunt, my buffalo hunt and my Russian brown bear hunt,” said Coker. “Those were very exciting and they were dangerous. There were situations that got your adrenaline and blood flow up to the maximum. My elephant hunt was just as exciting even though I was not successful.”
Coker said one of his biggest accomplishments as far as taking an animal came when he killed his first mountain goat.
“I went four different times before I finally killed one and it’s a very grueling hunt,” said Coker. “You’re climbing the side of a mountain that takes seven hours to get to the top and you’re doing that every day once you spot one. It’s very taxing on your body physically and mentally, and it’s one of the biggest accomplishments I’ve made as far as taking an animal.”
In recent years, Coker has had celebrities on his show including the guys from the hit A&E show “Duck Dynasty” to guys from the “Lizard Lick Towing” reality show.
On hunts that don’t include dangerous game, Coker will incorporate some drama or comedy in his TV show, but he made it clear that when it comes to hunting dangerous game, extra precaution must be taken and the show only includes raw hunting footage.
“When I go after dangerous game, it’s dangerous enough without trying to put drama and other things going on,” said Coker. “It’s strictly hunting and there’s no drama or comedy or anything planned.”
Coker and his wife, Tami, have three daughters, Channing, Ciara and Savannah and all three have been heavily involved in hunting as well.
All in the family
Coker’s oldest daughter Channing and her husband Zack, are now in charge of the World Deer Expo, while Coker is still one of the biggest promoters for the event.
“I’ve been blessed with three daughters and I did my best to turn them into tom boys,” said Coker. “I think I did a pretty good job of it and all three of them bow and gun hunt. I strictly bow hunt. They’ve all been to Africa multiple times and they’ve all taken animals including whitetail deer, turkey and African animals.”
Coker ensures that when he goes on hunts around the world, the meat always goes to various families for food whenever Coker runs out of room in his own freezer.
“The meat always goes to a good cause,” said Coker. “Once my freezer is full, I have different organizations that I give meat to and I also have other families who I give meat to.”
Currently, Coker has trimmed down his TV show to four episodes a season while joining forces with another hunting TV show to cut down on travel time.
Coker envisions doing the TV show for a few more years and if it gets to the point where hunting becomes more of a chore than it is fun, that’s when he will stop filming.
Before that comes into play however, Coker still has a few things on his bucket list.
“I still have two major animals on my bucket list,” said Coker. “I want to shoot an elephant and a leopard with my bow and once I accomplish that I will have taken the big five with my bow.”
Coker has never considered himself a “city boy,” but when it comes to what Birmingham and Shelby County have to offer, Coker considers it the best of both worlds.
“Always having lived my adult life in rural cities, it was nice to be less than 30 miles from downtown Birmingham where you have the life and entertainment of being in a big city,” Coker said of moving to Wilsonville. “We’re able to still live in a rural environment where my closest neighbor is a hundred yards away but still in a short amount of time I can be looking at skyscrapers and taking in a dinner theater. The school systems, such as Chelsea, are also why we chose Shelby County. We love it here.”
The World Deer Expo is entering its 33rd year and will be held at the BJCC July 15-17 where Coker and his family will once again play a big part in.
For more information on the World Deer Expo and to see footage of Coker’s hunts, visit Outdoorswithbobcoker.com.