Scott Fowler's Buck - The Complete Story

  (Perhaps no other whitetail in recent history has stirred as much interest in hunting circles as the Fowler buck has.  Read on to relive the exciting hunt for this trophy Missouri buck!)

                                                              by: TONY KALNA Jr.

     Rumors of a possible new state record bow-kill typical began flooding the internet when the story of a non-resident hunter who shot a giant typical whitetail from a public hunting area in northwest Missouri first appeared in a Chillicothe, MO newspaper in September 2004.  The hype about this possible new record book buck grew even larger when a Photo of the monster whitetail appeared in the Missouri  Department of Conservation’s (MDC) publication, the Missouri Conservationist.

     Could someone have actually beaten the 191 4/8-inch state record typical bow-kill taken by Aaron McCauley from St. Louis County in 1999?  With all of the gossip floating around about the Fowler buck it seemed as so it was going to happen.  In fact, there was more excitement and rumors being passed around about the Fowler buck than there was for the McCauley buck taken six years ago.

                                                                   The Hunter

     Not many folks in Missouri know who Scott Fowler is because he resides in Pensacola, Florida. After some investigative reporting I tracked Fowler down in Las Vegas, Nevada where he had last been working.  Here’s the real story on the Fowler buck straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

     “I am a bow-hunter not an archer,” Fowler said. “There’s a big difference between hitting a target on the range and a whitetail in the woods.”

     Fowler travels across the country working as a union electrician.  When he’s not busy on a job somewhere he is concentrating his efforts on scouting or hunting whitetail deer.

     Scott Fowler killed his first deer with a bow and arrow from a tree-stand in Florida at the early age of 12.  He has been bow-hunting whitetails ever since for the past 30-years. 

    Fowler comes from a family rich in tradition of bow-hunting and archery.  His father, Ed Fowler, was one of the four founding members of Florida’s Panhandle Bowhunter’s Club in Pensacola back in the early 1960s.  Ed Fowler even bow-hunted with the famous Fred Bear on St. Vincent Island.

     Scott’s mother, Janet Fowler, has also made her mark in the archery world.  Janet took second place as the Women’s National 3D Champion in 1967 and is also in the Florida archery hall of fame.

     Fowler’s father and mother both continue to hunt to this day at the ages of 70 and 67 respectively.  “Mom and Dad hope to make it to Missouri this fall with their crossbows,” Fowler said.  “Hopefully they’ll get a chance at a big Missouri deer too.”

                                                                     The Hunt

       Fowler first began hunting deer in Missouri while working on a job at a casino in Kansas City in 1996.  His search for a place to bow-hunt trophy class whitetails led him to lands north of the Missouri River.

       Fowler found a promising place to hunt in Livingston County.  The first year he hunted the property he arrowed a 130-inch, P&Y class 10-pointer.  He was now hooked on Show-Me State deer hunting but little did he know he was well on his way to instant fame in whitetail hunting circles in Missouri.

     While bow-hunting in Missouri in 1999, his fourth year of deer hunting the Show-Me State, Fowler met Aaron McNabb of Independence, MO.  The two bow-hunters began hunting together and have been friends ever since.

      McNabb owns a small tract of ground in Livingston County where Fowler parks his travel trailer while hunting.  The trailer becomes the home base camp for the two hunters throughout the season.

     Fowler first found evidence of a big trophy class typical in 2000. The tell-tale signs left behind by the buck were a set of shed antlers from the previous year.  The sheds  were estimated to score in the 140s.  This is what he had been hoping for, a chance at a buck that had the potential to make the record book.   

     Fowler first saw the buck that had lost those antlers the following year with a rack which was estimated to score in the 160s.  Fowler was able to determine the buck used a very small core area that was hard to get to.  Once the hunting season rolled around, the shy trophy class whitetail became even more elusive than usual.

     Fowler’s big buck was nowhere to be seen in 2002 or 2003 and Fowler himself was losing hope that the buck was still alive. 

     In July 2004, the buck made its presence known on two different occasions.  Both times Fowler was pre-season scouting and was armed with a video camera.  The buck was in a field about 400-yards away while the excited bow-hunter filmed the footage.

     Fowler had a lot to be excited about, not only did he learn that  the buck he had been hunting for several seasons was still alive, but he also found out that Missouri had changed the opening date of its bow-hunting season from Oct. 1 to Sept. 15.  This early opening date meant that Fowler would be able to hunt this elusive buck while it was still on a feeding pattern and before it became so evasive.

     “I was really looking forward to the early season opener,” Fowler said.  “This buck became extremely elusive during the hunting season and I knew I would have my best chance at him on an early hunt.”

     Fowler did not want to actually get into the woods just prior to opening day and do any scouting that could possibly spook the buck from its normal routine.  However, he did know that there was one soybean field that was planted a little later than the others and was still green compared to the others who had already turned yellow.  This green, soy-bean field would be the place he would try and kill the giant whitetail.

     Fowler anxiously awaited opening day but was disappointed to discover that the wind was simply wrong to hunt the green field, so he had to set up stand somewhere else for two days before the wind direction changed.

     On day four of the season, Fowler made his way into the soybeans for an evening hunt.  He would be hunting from the ground and cleared out a place in the weeds at the edge of where a CRP field joined the soybeans. 

     “I scratched out a place in the field by a bush and put my fold-up chair there,” Fowler said.  “I made it a point to position my chair to where I wouldn’t be able to see a deer until it was at least 10-yards out into the field.”

     Fowler said that it has been his experience that big buck entering a field will stop just before it enters the open area and stand there for 10 minutes or so examining its surroundings for danger.

     “I believe that deer can sense things such as hunters looking at them,” Fowler said.  “I’ve noticed this several times so I was going to make sure that when and if this buck came into the field that it wouldn’t sense me.”

     Fowler placed his ground chair near where he found the shed antlers.  This is the general location that he determined to be the trophy buck’s core area.  At first the wind was swirling in the wrong direction and Fowler thought that he might have to abandon his prime hunting spot.  However, as the evening wore on, the wind currents and fate turned in favor of the hunter.

     Eventually, Fowler spotted two deer about 70 yards out into the beans with their heads down feeding.  One of the deer turned out to be a nice 8 pointer but when the other deer raised its head he knew that he was the closest he had ever been to the trophy whitetail he had been hunting for five years.

     “If I had never seen this big buck before I probably would have had an “accident” on the spot,” Fowler jokingly admitted.  “That buck in those beans was a magnificent sight to behold.”

     The massive buck finally made its way closer to the bow-hunter and turned broadside at a distance of 48-yards.  The deer didn’t appear to be getting any closer so while the giant buck had its head down in the beans, Fowler drew back his Hoyt Defiance Supreme compound and released an aluminum arrow at the deer.

     “The buck just trotted off with the impact of the arrow as if it weren’t even hurt,” Fowler said.  “I knew I had a good shot left and right but the deer ran about 70-yards through the field and  disappeared into the woods.”

     Fowler calmed himself down and then called his friend McNabb on their 2-way radios.  Three hours later, at 8 p.m., the two hunters took up the blood trail of the monster buck. 

     The blood trail was decent but the hunters kept pushing the deer from its bed.  They found several places where the buck had laid down but when it got back up the blood trail couldn’t be found for about 15 yards or so.

     Eventually, Fowler and McNabb found the buck about one-mile into the timber from where he originally shot the deer at dusk.  “I just couldn’t believe I finally got him after I video-taped him in the fields in July and then getting the opportunity to come back to Missouri in September to hunt,” Fowler said.  “I couldn’t put the rack down or quit looking at it.  What calmed me down was dragging the buck out of the woods.”

     It took Fowler and McNabb four hours to finally haul that bruiser buck out of the woods and back to their truck.  The horse-like whitetail was estimated to field-dress at 230+ pounds!

     The hunters drove to town and bought four bags of ice to cool the buck’s carcass down with before heading back to the travel trailer for some rest.

     “Once I laid down sometime after 4 a.m., I realized that everything in my body hurt from dragging that deer out,” Fowler said.  “Even my toes were aching from pulling that deer!”

     The next morning Fowler called Livingston County conservation agent Dennis Ritter to tell him of the big deer he had taken and suggested that he might like to see the deer for himself.  Ritter obliged and came over to field check the animal for Fowler.

                                                           Unanswered Questions

     There are some questions that need to be answered concerning this huge Livingston County whitetail.  Did the Scott Fowler buck indeed break Aaron McCauley’s record bow-kill typcial taken in St. Louis County in 1999?  No.  The Fowler buck fell 13-inches shy of a tie for first place with an official net typical score of 178 4/8-inches. 

     Is the Fowler buck the biggest whitetail ever recorded taken from Livingston County?  Yes.  Fowler’s buck measures 20-3/8 more inches of antler than the old Livingston County record of 171 1/8 inches taken by Dick West with a firearm in 1986.

     Fowler’s buck has some impressive measurements, the most noticeable being the 24 4/8-inch inside spread.  The buck’s main beams were 26 4/8 inches on the right side and 26 5/8 left.  The brow-tines or G1s measured 8 5/8 inches on the right side and 7 3/8-inches on the left.  The buck had one small sticker point, a G5 on the right antler that measured 1 1/8-inch.  Here’s the rest of the measurements:

G2s 12 3/8-inches right and 12 5/8-inches left.

G3s 10 7/8 inches right and 10 4/8-inches left.

G4s 5 3/8-inches right and 5 5/8-inches left. 

Circumference on the right antler 16 6/8 inches and 16 7/8 left.

     The Fowler buck’s gross score was 183 6/8-inches and netted 178 4/8-inches as a typical.  Fowler’s buck ranks 7th in Missouri for typical whitetail deer bow-kills.

     Finally, where exactly did Scott Fowler kill this huge Livingston County buck?  Original reports surrounding the story of this bow-killed giant suggest that it was taken from the Poosey Conservation Area but at this time, Scott Fowler is not telling where it is that he actually harvested it.  Who could blame Fowler for not telling of his secret hunting ground?

     Is it possible for such a large racked buck to come off of a public-use land that gets so much hunting pressure throughout the deer seasons?   

     “When the story came out about an out-of-state hunter shooting such a buck from Poosey, I had my reservations about where it came from,” said Mitch Miller, Regional Wildlife Supervisor for the MDC.  “Why would someone tell the world about their secret hunting spot?  It just doesn’t make sense.”

     Whether or not the Fowler buck came from this public use area is up for speculation.  One thing that isn’t up for second guessing is Fowler’s skills as a bow-hunter.

     Scott Fowler’s Missouri giant isn’t his first deer in the record books.  In fact, he has three whitetails entered  in Florida’s state record book.  Two of those deer he took with a muzzleloader and one with a bow.

     “In retrospect, if I would have went in and scouted this deer just prior to the season opener I would have blown it,” Fowler said.  “You have to do your scouting for these big bucks well ahead of the season.”

     Fowler even took additional measurers to avoid disrupting the buck’s pattern by not hunting in the morning and limiting his time in the woods to late day hunting only.

     “I waited until the evening to hunt this deer so I could find the bucks out in the food plots on their feeding pattern,” Fowler said.  “I am also a stickler on hunting the right wind direction and will never hunt a bad wind.”

                                                                      Summary

        Although not quite a Missouri state record, Fowler’s buck is indeed an impressive whitetail.  The symmetry and mass of the rack and the enormous body size of the buck are eye-popping.       Wherever Fowler hunts in northwest Missouri, you can bet the farm that if the wind is blowing in the right direction that he will be back again this year to try his luck again.

                                                                          END