By Jim Atkinson
Scott Fowler could hardly believe his eyes. An 11-point buck was slowly making his way to the edge of the woods across the Missouri soybean field. A mature animal, he took a few minutes to check out the deer that were already feeding and sort out the various odors filling his nostrils. The hunter from Pensacola, Fla., was immediately confronted with the old bird-in-the-hand dilemma and for several minutes fought his instincts to shoot. After all, who would not be thrilled to take such a buck? But he knew there was a much larger buck regularly feeding in the field, and he decided it would be that deer he brought back to the Sunshine State or none at all. So he passed on the monster in front of him.
Scott had been hunting this particular tract of public land in Livingston County since 1996. Over the first few years, he saw several nice bucks and managed to take a couple that any bowhunter would be proud to put on the wall. But during the 2000 season, he witnessed one he knew he would spend most of his time hunting. The buck appeared to be about 3 1/2 years old. Later that year, he found what appeared to be its sheds and, by adding a reasonable spread measurement, came up with an approximate score of 140 inches.
Scott hunted the buck almost exclusively for the next three years but, as happens in many cases with big deer, did not see it during that time. Each year he asked everyone around if they had seen the deer or heard of it being taken by a hunter. A few had seen it, but no one knew of it being shot. Of course, it also could have died of old age. The buck had vanished.
During the summer of 2004, Scott decided to do a little scouting and see if he could find the old buck. If he could discover where it was feeding, he might have a good chance of taking it early in the season before the sounds of traffic and humans pushed it into hiding.
Scott’s first few days were fruitless. Then one afternoon while he was watching a soybean field, the bruiser walked out like it owned the place. Scott not only got to see it, but he also filmed it on two occasions. To say his fires were stoked would be a gross understatement. Interestingly enough, he saw it only a short distance from where he found the sheds several years earlier.
Bow season in Missouri rolled around and Scott was determined he would find the monster and do whatever he could to get a shot. After seeing him that summer, subsequent scouting revealed that a large buck had been feeding in the field regularly. So Scott decided to concentrate his early-season efforts there.
The only problem with hunting the field edge was there were not any trees large enough for a stand. Scott’s only option was to construct a ground blind and hope the wind currents would not betray him. He located a good spot facing into the prevailing winds for that time of the year, backed off the field a little so he would have the tall weeds to partially hide his position and built a blind. All was ready for opening day.
Mother Nature sometimes plays cruel jokes on hunters, and for the first two days of the season Scott could not hunt the blind because of a shift in the routine wind direction. However, on the third day, the conditions were ideal and he made his way to the blind about midafternoon.
As the day progressed into late afternoon, deer started coming onto the field to feed. Does and small bucks were the first to appear, but not long before dark, the big 11-pointer mentioned earlier came in to feed. Scott’s struggle with temptation tugged at him until it was too dark to shoot, but he knew he had made the right decision. There were so many deer on the field at dark that Scott called a friend and asked him to drive up to the field edge so he would not scare them as he left for the night.
The next afternoon, Scott hunkered down once again in his makeshift blind on the edge of the bean field. The conditions were perfect.
Nothing much happened during the afternoon until shortly before dark. The usual small bucks and does had started filtering into the field a little earlier, but about 15 minutes before the end of legal shooting hours, a good 8-pointer stepped into the beans followed by the buck Scott had been hunting all those years.
The tall weeds in front of his blind gave him the perfect cover he needed to conceal his movements. As the big buck became comfortable and started feeding, Scott drew and settled his pin right behind the shoulder, and the arrow was gone as if released by magic. When the arrow hit, the big buck wheeled and fled.
When Scott thought he had given the deer enough time to go down, he left his blind and made his way to the spot where the deer had been standing. It was 48 long steps.
Scott waited for his hunting partner to come get him, and they started trailing the bruiser. They found where he had laid down after going about 150 yards. There was good blood to that point, but the deer had gotten back up and headed farther into the woods. They were now trailing him mostly by tracks. The blood from the wounds had obviously started to coagulate when he lay down, and it took awhile for them to pick up the trail again.
After tracking for the better part of a mile, they finally found him, but he was still alive. The buck managed to move another 15 yards, before Scott put him down for good.
Scott Fowler’s four-year quest was well worth the wait. The buck was indeed an 11-pointer — 7 1/2 years old — that went on to measure 155 4/8 as a Typical by Buckmasters’ yardstick.
-- Reprinted from the July 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine