NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE

Bowen bags 18-point buck of a lifetime

By DARRYL WILLIAMS

District Conservationist

USDA NRCS, Crestview

My definition of hunting is applying the fair chase doctrine when pursing game. The Boone and Crockett Club defines it as “the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.”

Frank Bowen exemplifies this hunting ethic. When it comes to hunting, there is no substitute for experience and Bowen has decades. A truly experienced hunter has these traits, or he or she would not be a successful and long-time hunter.

If you talk with Frank, you will quickly learn he shares his knowledge freely through very detailed and colorful stories, describing a particular hunt. Of course, you better have the time to talk hunting because he certainly has plenty of stories to share, and everyone who has met him knows he is the consummate story teller around the Laurel Hill community. 

Recently, I asked Frank at what age he started hunting and he said he took a wild hog when he was 8 years old while hunting with a friend. Of course, he was very excited and couldn’t wait to get home and share his excitement with his family. He told his granddad about his first kill and then he was told to clean it. He thought for a few seconds and then asked how do you clean it? He granddad told him he’d figure it out, which he did. Ever since, he’s been hooked on hunting.

As a Laurel Hill native, hunting for him is part of his heritage and lifestyle. Wild game has been an important food source for his family for generations. His son, daughter-in-law, grandson, and other family members follow in his footsteps. He has taught them how to scout, plant food plots, study wildlife movements, follow a blood trail, and all about processing game for the dinner table.

The big one

Now for the story on this year’s biggest buck harvest. You see, Frank missed a giant buck last hunting season which he said was the result of a bad scope. He decided that he would hunt this trophy until he got him in his hands.

He got in the stand before daylight that fateful morning, hoping the deer would show up. 

“When it got light enough, he was out in the green field eating. I couldn’t get a bullet into him fast enough!” Bowen said.

He shot this bruiser at 96 yards and this giant came in with 18 points and weighed in at 180 pounds. The green measurement score was 170 and the buck was estimated to be 7- to 7.5-years old. For North Okaloosa County, a buck of this caliber is rarely harvested – or should I say – made known. Mission accomplished!

I asked, “Well Frank, how do you describe this hunt, which is a buck of a lifetime for many?” 

“Pure luck,” he replied with a chuckle. Sure, enough he did put his new scope (a Vortex Hog Hunter line optic with a red dot) to the test. 

After the shot, he sat back and thought about the shot placement. He picked up his rifle to look through the scope for his deer and noticed he didn’t have the red dot on. It was the biggest buck he ever shot and he didn’t have the red dot on. He added that the scope was meant to help him with his bad eyesight, and now we are back to his “pure luck” theory. Frank told me this story with a lot of animation and laughter in a way that only Frank can incorporate in a story.

Bowen has accomplished much with his determination and grit to finish a task and bring a smile to all who have heard his story. It is a fact that a good hunter has the experience, the patience, and finally the persistence to bag a buck of a lifetime in his own backyard. Congratulations, Frank!

Frank Bowen of Laurel Hill nabbed this 18-point, 180-pound buck from 96 yards.

Frank Bowen of Laurel Hill nabbed this 18-point, 180-pound buck from 96 yards.