With over 16,000 archery tags issued in the state of Utah for mule deer each year, the odds of harvesting the largest buck in state were less than .000062 %; not exactly numbers worth betting on in Vegas. Then combine that with the odds of taking a muley with a bow that would go in Utah’s all-time top ten and the odds get even worse, at .00002%. Any way you do the math, you’d have to be one lucky guy to fill that tag. On August 19, 2007, because of the help of some great friends, I beat the odds and punched that winning lottery ticket with a buck we had named Superman. Early on in the summer, I began backpacking into the rugged mountains of Northern Utah with my good friends Trent Thornton and Duane Keetch. Initially we were hoping to find the same buck I had missed the year before. In 2006 I had stalked to within 22 yards of the huge 200 inch four-point only to miss the shot when my arrow fell off of my arrow rest. Twice more that year I got within bow-range of the buck, but never got another chance to draw my bow back on him again. Having what I thought would be the new state record typical four point within easy bow range only to miss the shot was a hard pill to swallow and during the off-season it seemed like I thought of it every day. My hopes were high as we set out in early July to try and find him once more. After a few unsuccessful scouting trips I decided to try another location in a different area that looked promising. Our first morning in the area, Trent spotted a deer way up above us in the rocks and cliffs. We quickly traded our binoculars for our spotting scopes, and soon found ourselves looking at the most impressive buck either of us had ever seen. His massive rack with numerous extra points had so much character and was so unique that the only name we could think of that was befitting a buck of his caliber was Superman. Knowing we still had almost two months before the bow-hunt began, Trent, Duane and I did all that we could to keep track of the big buck. We hiked into the area at least twice a week, usually starting our hike three hours before daylight. Morning after morning we found him hanging out in some of the roughest and most vertical country I had ever encountered and we all knew that taking him with a bow would be tough. He completely disappeared for two a two-week stretch at the beginning of August and I was nearly pulling my hair out after hiking in six different times without seeing him. We were wearing ourselves out and seemed to have lost him. Fortunately we found Superman again in early August and we were able to follow him from there on out. The night before the hunt found Duane and I sitting high upon a rocky spine above Superman’s location. We had backpacked up to the top of the ridge-line with the intent of hunting from there for the next three days. Earlier that summer I had luckily found a natural seep from which we could filter water and eat Mountain House Meals/Dehydrated food. The hardest part about hunting this high mountain country was having to pack in all of our own water. This was one of the few drainages in the area where there was no water. Knowing how many calories we would burn hunting the up-and-down vertical mountains, we would not be able to hunt very long without water. Initially I had thought we’d have to pack in all of our drinking water, which would be incredibly difficult. So finding the small hidden seep proved to be our saving grace! Because the ridgeline was too steep and rocky to set up our tent, we had to sleep under a tarp which we had strapped between some trees and lay nearly vertical on the 60-degree slope. After dark came the winds and rain, which pounded us all night. Neither of us got much sleep. When morning finally came the rains and wind did not let up. Duane and I still tried to hunt and search for Superman, hoping to somehow spot him bedded beneath the trees and rocks below us. Unfortunately we could not find him that morning and eventually took a break for lunch. Our luck changed in the afternoon when the weather finally cleared and I suddenly spotted Superman as he emerged from some cover a few hundred yards below us. I made a mad-dash effort down through a thick mess of trees and rocks to try and get in position before the rains came again. As fortune would have it, I got to within forty yards of the buck. But he gave me only a marginal shot opportunity and I decided to let him walk. It was tough not to take the shot, but I knew the last thing I wanted to do was wound this buck. Little did I know that in less than 15 hours I would be back within bow range of Superman! The next morning we split up. Trent, who had been hunting from our base camp with the help of his brother, Tye, had decided to meet up with Duane on a spotting point that offered great visibility. I decided to hike up into the ledges, approaching Superman’s hang-out from a different direction; one that I hoped would put the wind in my favor. Shortly after daylight I glassed back to Trent and Duane, only to find that Trent was frantically trying to get my attention. He signaled to me that Duane had located Superman and that the buck was headed in my direction!!! Because I still had some cover, I moved into what I thought would be a good position and hoped that my ambush set-up would work. After about fifteen minutes of anxious waiting, I half-stood to try and locate the buck. As I did so, his enormous rack materialized over the hillside below me. He was casually heading in my direction and was completely unaware of my presence! Luckily the wind was blowing hard in my direction so I felt confident Superman would not smell me. After moving in and out of cover as he fed along, he finally stepped into an opening and offered me the window I had been waiting for. I pulled back my bow, quickly took aim released! The arrow struck him hard in front of his flank, angling up into his rib-cage. Superman jumped at the impact of the arrow and ran into a patch of quakies before lying down. It seemed that the Grim Reaper Broad-head had done its job and I knew then that he was in trouble. One hour later I moved in on the buck to find that he had expired. I simply could not believe that we had taken this incredible deer. He was over 34” wide, had ten points on one side, seven on the other, a gross score of 230.” Sixty-days later would officially net score 220.” I am so grateful to Duane Keetch and Trent Thornton for their help in harvesting Superman. Trent was the one that originally found Superman earlier that summer and Duane was the one that spotted him the morning we harvested him. Taking this trophy buck was a total team effort in every way and I hope that someday I can repay them for their help. They are two of the greatest guys I know and two truly great friends, something much more valuable than punching a winning lottery ticket…..even at odds of .00002%!!!!!
BEATING THE ODDS by Kip Fowler
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