The men stared. It wasn’t often that a
pair of great-grandmothers wearing blaze
orange jackets showed up with a trunk full of
big buck in their family sedan. Some of the
other hunters gathered closer to the Skylark
for a better look. Others slipped their own
freshly cut deer racks behind their backs.
One stepped quietly to the side, hiding the
spike buck lying in his truck bed.
One hunter remembered the sisters
from previous seasons. Since 1999, they had
brought in several deer apiece.
“How do you do it?” he asked, eying
the 16-inch antler spread of Hazel’s 6-point
buck. Cora’s 8-point was a bit narrower at 13
inches but still impressive.
“What do you mean?” Cora answered.
“Just be patient – then shoot.”
INTER HAS COME and gone since
that day in 2005, and Hazel sways
quietly in her porch swing and idly rubs the
edges of a thick leather photo album. Cora
sits beside her and slowly turns the pages.
“We tried crafts for about 10 years,” explains
Hazel. “But that got boring.”
She points to a picture of the two of
them in blaze orange coats, posing with
deer rifles. They don’t own any camouflage.
Instead, they hunt in simple jeans or sweats.
In place of a truck, there is an overstuffed car
trunk with old rugs protecting its paint job
from sharp antlers. Then there are the sisters
themselves. Perhaps the stares in the parking
lot of Deb’s were more about the hunters
than the size of the antlers.
“They didn’t believe they were ours,”
Cora remembers, looking at their antler
mounts from last year. “They said somebody
baited them in for us. They didn’t even
believe we pulled the trigger.”
Although they hunt in Greenup County,
a local newspaper columnist heard about their
feats and wrote the sisters up. Even today,
people in their hometown of Olive Hill are
still talking about the two fine bucks that
Cora and Hazel brought in opening day.
Hazel Garvin’s impressive garden.
16 Kentucky Afield Fall 2006
It would be nice to say that the size of
the antlers doesn’t really matter to these two
women. But that just isn’t the case.
“Mine are bigger than yours,” Hazel
reminds her sister.
“Yeah, but I got mine first.”
These weren’t easy shots, either. Each
sister took her buck at 200 yards and
counting. Cora shoots a .270-caliber rifle.
Hazel prefers a softer shooting .22-250. It’s
easier on her pacemaker.
They each have their own strengths when
it comes to hunting – Cora never misses a
shot, but Hazel sticks it out until she brings
something home, even if it means shivering
for days in a shooting house built by her son,
“We were worried about Hazel a couple
of seasons ago,” says Cora’s daughter,
Phyllis Tackett. “I called Joe and he said,
her husband died in a clay mine, she raised
six children on her own and fed them from
the land she worked.
By a modest estimate, Sally delivered
over 1,000 babies in the hills of Carter, Lewis,
Rowan and Elliott counties. With no hospital
nearby, she would set off on horseback when
needed, and stay with women for days until
they could manage on their own. When they
could not pay her $5 fee, she took food in
exchange for her services. Sometimes she
accepted no payment at all. Her nickname,
however, had more to do with spirituality.
“Mom went to the barn to pray,” recalls
Cora. “She prayed so loud, all the chickens and
the horses could hear. She walked three miles
to church every Sunday, no matter what.”
Perhaps it was her mother’s faith that
helped Cora survive polio as a child. She not
only lived through a crippling disease that
claimed thousands of lives in those days,
but also managed to teach herself to hunt
along the way. Cora learned to shoot a .22
alongside her younger brother Napoleon
when they were young children.
“We would shoot the clothes pins right
Below: Hazel Garvin poses with a doe as
sister Cora Bocook holds her hunting rifle.
“We tried crafts for about 10 years,” she says.
“But that got boring.”
Photos courtesy of Cora Bocook and Hazel Garvin
‘she’s staying until she shoots something.
She won’t leave.’ ”
The sisters tap Joe for help field dressing
and dragging out their deer. But what hunter
wouldn’t accept the hauling help of a friend?
Besides, bringing up eight kids between
them ought to earn them some strongbacked help.
These women know hard work. They
were raised with it. Born in Middle Trough
Camp, a tiny community near Olive Hill,
they shared a one-room house with four
brothers and sisters on a farm where the
chores were never finished.
“Everybody had a job to do,” remembers
Cora. “We worked the fields, hoed corn, set
tobacco and cut hay. We learned lessons kids
don’t learn anymore. It was a good life.”
“But it was a hard life,” adds Hazel,
tapping her sister’s leg. “We learned
everything the hard way.”
Their mother was
Sally Bond, known as
to her many
Hayley Lynch photo
off the line,” she says. “Then we’d go out and
get rabbits. Mom peddled produce in town,
and we shot everything on the place while
she was gone. We were taught that if you
killed something, you processed it – so we’d
skin it and put it down in the well to keep it
cool until dinner.”
Hazel helped her husband Tom trap
rabbits. “He’d set the traps and send me out
later to check them. I think I got the bad end
of that deal,” she remembers with a smile.
“But I could skin a rabbit like a man.”
Cora nods. “There’s nothing like her
fried rabbit,” she says. She squints her eyes
and leans forward. “That’s good eatin’.”
Hazel did plenty of cooking, raising six
children of her own. In addition to her work
at Jones Finishing Company, a greeting
card factory, she milked cows, fed hogs and
cooked breakfasts and dinners. Her days
began at dawn and the work wasn’t done
until dark. Cora put in her own days at
The sisters didn’t find time for deer
hunting until just seven years ago, when
Hazel was 84 and Cora, 75. At a time in their
lives when most people are through with
Left: Cora Bocook took an 8-point buck
during the 2005 hunting season.
Above: Hazel Garvin poses proudly with
The Sally Bond homestead.
hunting, they discovered a new passion.
“They’ve always said they wanted to hunt
deer,” recalls Joe Garvin. “But they never felt
that they could.”
So Joe bought them a pair of binoculars
and wide-angled scopes for their rifles. He
taught them where to aim and set them up
in the small shooting house where he hunts.
Joe and his wife, Roxanna, help spot deer
that are far away. But then it’s all up to Cora
“They’ve got no problem hitting them,”
says Joe. “Now, they can shoot.”
Joe’s concern in recent years is getting
his mother to slow down a bit.
“We found her up a ladder one day,
cleaning the gutters,” he says. “We try to
keep her from doing so much. My brother
Harold tried to limit her to 50 feet of cord
for the weed eater, but she snuck out and
bought 200 feet. Now she wants a new hoe
for the garden. You can’t stop her.”
As the afternoon begins to cool down,
the sisters stroll through Hazel’s bountiful
garden. They speak of meals they have made
from it; pounds of vegetables to go along
with Hazel’s famous deer steaks. Enough to
eat for days.
Cora still cooks on her old woodburning stove. But in the past year, her health
has faltered. Last fall she spent three weeks
in the hospital. She couldn’t stay down too
long, though – it was deer season.
“The doctors told me not to go,” she
remembers. “But I took a double-dose of
pain killers. I wasn’t going to miss the season.
Bringing down a buck like that – it’s the best
medicine there is.”
She stops walking for a moment to rest
against her cane and looks seriously at Hazel.
“Now listen,” she says. “When something
happens to me, I want a bunch of these
flowers on my casket. And I want those deer
horns sticking out.”
Hazel laughs and looks fondly at her
sister. “She’d get up out of her casket to go
deer hunting.” n
Fall 2006 Kentucky Afield 17