For the story of any whitetail hunt to be truly appreciated for what it is, it must be put into context and seen through the appropriate filter. The context here is first unveiled by stating that this was, in fact, a southern buck — one that grossed 216 inches. This is impressive in itself. To further gain perspective, the filter narrows by stating that the buck did not come from the fertile regions of the South’s crop lands or delta regions; rather, it came out of the thin-soiled, piney, rocky slopes of the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas — even more impressive.
To hone our perspective even one more degree, this buck was killed on public land in the Ouachita National Forest of Scott County and is the new Arkansas state-record muzzleloader buck. To tag a net Boone and Crockett buck in mountain country, on public land, is truly an epic feat. Add to this that the beast was felled by a seasoned Arkansas hunting veteran and the story steps off the grid of normalcy.
However, don’t let the geographic context distract you from the real heart of this tale. Behind every harvest stands a man or woman who pulled the trigger or released the string. In this story, that would be Stacy Fowler of Danville, Arkansas. And often, behind the scenes are other people that played a critical a role in the harvest. In this story, that would be Stacy’s 17-year-old-son, Cole.
The story begins on October 19, 2010, when Stacy and Cole decided to hunt together, which wasn’t a new thing. Stacy has been taking Cole hunting in the mountains near their home since he was old enough to walk.
“I had worked all night, and I didn’t want to go hunting that morning, but Cole had taken off school so we decided to go.” Stacy recalled. “It was a Tuesday and it was misting rain.”
Shortly after a gray, hidden sunrise, the duo parked the truck and began to walk the edge of a seed-tree unit (or young clear-cut), still-hunting. When they gained full view into the clearing, they immediately spotted a large antlered buck standing at 75 yards. When the hunters came into view, the buck turned to run.
With a muzzleloader in hand, Stacy knew that he had better make his one shot count. He shouldered the Remington, and like a veteran, patiently placed the crosshairs on the running buck’s shoulder and squeezed off the shot. Stacy called it luck, but maybe it was a lifetime of handling a rifle that guided his dexterity and mental resolve as he squeezed the trigger. Regardless, the sabot connected with the monstrous whitetail. How well, they didn’t know.
Cole, who was standing beside his father, had a clear shot too but didn’t fire. “I don’t know why I didn’t shoot and I didn’t know if Dad was ever going to.” Cole said. Stacy’s patience on the running shot was noted.