When this Kansas brother-and-sister bowhunting team hits the deer woods, there's no telling which one will come out with the best buck! (August 2007)
Paula Wiggers is mighty proud of her 2005 bowkill, a huge Kansas 10-pointer that tallied 187 2/8 B&C points!
Photo by Marc Murrell.
You often read or hear about brothers who hunt deer together or father-son duos taking to the woods. But it's not often that you hear about a brother and sister who enjoy the same outdoor activity. And the chances of them killing huge whitetail bucks in back-to-back years might be even more remote.
But that's exactly what Kansas siblings Paula Wiggers and "little" brother Matt did during the 2005 and 2006 archery deer seasons.
Just to see Paula, a 38-year-old schoolteacher, walking down the street, you wouldn't necessarily assume that she was head over heels in love with bowhunting. Her long home-sewn dress and the black prayer covering on her head identify her as of the Mennonite faith; her polite, quiet demeanor draws no attention to itself.
Although she'd killed plenty of deer by means of a rifle, she wouldn't consider any of them huge. After years of trying it with one method, she decided to try archery hunting for several reasons.
"I was a little bored with rifle hunting and a little disenchanted with the cold weather in December," she admitted. "And since I was teaching school, it gave me a little bit more time with a longer bow season, warmer weather, and a new challenge."
Matt, who had bowhunted for years, helped Paula get started. "We went out to Bass Pro one February and he bought me my first bow," Paula said. "He set me up with a bow and all the equipment, and we practiced all that summer."
Anxious to start her first season, she would have to miss the eagerly anticipated opener.
"Matt got married in Wisconsin on Oct. 3, so I didn't get to go," she laughed. "But I had asked off from school for a week thinking in the back of my mind that I would get home a day or two early and have some time to hunt."
Paula returned to Kansas late one evening with plans to go to her stand the next morning. She climbed into the tree about 10 a.m., and it wouldn't take long for her first arrow loosed at a live animal to find its mark. "I shot a doe at 12 o'clock," she said with a laugh.
Paula added another doe to her tally, and so her 1999 season became a memorable one in her bowhunting career. She spent her 2000 and 2001 seasons out of the country teaching missionary children in Belize, but picked up right where she left off when she returned for her 2002 Kansas archery season, arrowing a beautiful record-book buck.
"The next year I didn't take anything because nothing looked quite that good," she said, adding that she quit shooting does on their property, owing to low numbers. "And then in 2004 I hit one (which was even bigger than the year before) that we lost and didn't find until March when we were shed-hunting."
That was a tragic loss, but the buck had escaped detection after he got down in a creek.
Even though Paula doesn't fit the stereotypical bowhunter image, she can converse as an equal with anyone interested in the sport. And if the talk turns to the deer she killed during the 2005 Kansas bow season, all ears strain to catch every detail.
That successful encounter with a once-in-a-lifetime whitetail will likely be etched forever not only in her memory but in that of her favorite hunting partners, her father Orlin and her brother Matt, as well -- and rightly so, as it's likely the biggest typical whitetail killed by a female bowhunter, and one to be proud of regardless of the hunter's gender.
"Matt and I always have this fun competition going and he always ends up shooting his deer before me," Paula laughingly remarked. "I always say I wait until he shoots his, as I don't care how big mine is -- as long as it's bigger than his."
So with the good-natured ribbing of close siblings, she entered "180" on her cell phone screen and would show it to her brother almost any time. "I put it on there to harass him," she said. "And it was all in good fun."
Paula's new bowhunting interest gives her plenty of time in the woods. "It's a good hobby because, being Mennonite, I don't do television or movies, so after school I could go get in my stand for a couple of hours. I just wanted to shoot something nice. And because of my not finding my buck the year before, what I wanted more than anything was a clean kill, so I was going to wait for the perfect shot and wouldn't shoot unless it was under 20 yards."
Both Paula and Matt had their minds set on an absolutely huge 8-pointer they had on a trail camera. "That was an incentive to sit back, relax and wait for something nice to walk by," she said. "I saw the 8-pointer about a week before I took mine from the same stand, but he was about 60 yards away, bedded in the grass, and I didn't figure I could get close to him. So I just let him walk."
After spending more than 50 hours on stand in the 2005 season, Paula's patience and persistence were about to be rewarded. On Nov. 23, she finished with school and -- being a stickler for eliminating anything that a deer's nose can detect -- rushed home to shower with scent-free soap and don her Scent-Lok suit. She arrived at her stand at about 3:15 p.m.
"I was sitting in a shelterbelt by a food plot where we left standing corn," she said. "It wasn't really a good move to hunt that stand, as the wind was blowing from me to the cornfield."
Paula experimented with some doe bleats, and it wasn't long before she caught movement over her shoulder as a mature doe walked the edge of the field.
"I got my bow off the bow hook and hoped there would be a buck with her," said the lady bowhunter. "But after 52 hours in a stand, my confidence was just a little bit low."
The doe walked past, downwind of the hunter, but never noticed any human scent. "She was just so relaxed I just knew there wasn't a buck with her," Paula remembered. "And then, all of a sudden I saw antlers coming over my shoulder and that's when I clipped my release on my string loop. I knew right away I wanted to shoot as it was a very nice deer."
The buck stopped and looked into th
e shelterbelt where Paula was perched. He took a few steps toward her and worked a small scrape.
"He sniffed the scrape and stuck his head back and did the lick-branch thing and his old antlers just went way back on his back," she recalled. "And then he turned to follow the doe and I drew, but all I could see in my sights were just a few tiny twigs."
Paula was worried he would hurry to follow the doe but waited as she followed the buck with her sight pins, hoping for a clear shot.
"He was almost broadside at 10 to 12 yards and I shot," she said. "I thought I hit a shoulder, as I knew I didn't get a total pass-through as he went into a dead run I could see my fletching."
The buck never slowed as he left, and she quickly lost track of him as he ran down the shelterbelt. She thought she may have heard him crash but convinced herself otherwise. She waited a few minutes and called Matt on the cell phone.
"I told him I thought it was a shoulder shot, and he was very reassuring, and told me we'd find him. He told me not even to start the 4-wheeler and just walk back up to the house and he'd meet me in a half-hour and we'd give the deer a couple of hours and try to find him."
During the conversation, Matt was trying to ascertain the size of the buck that his sister had shot. "I told him I was pretty sure it wasn't that big 8, but I think it would score about 156," she said. "I had no clue where I picked 156 out of the blue."
Gathering her gear, she climbed down, not confident in what she would find. She crossed the fence and had taken just a couple of steps into the cornfield when she saw her prize lying at the edge of the field only 40 yards away.
"I called Matt and said to come because he's down," she said. "He said, 'Well, don't go over there yet' -- because we kind of have this thing: We go look for them together."
A bit shaken -- enough so that she nocked another arrow, just in case the buck needed a second shot -- Paula sat down. "It sounds kind of dumb now, but I thought, 'Man, if he gets up I'm letting him have it,'" she recalled.
Matt and his wife arrived, and the trio walked up to the deer. "I told Matt I didn't think he was quite 156," Paula offered. "And he said, "That's a good deer! His antlers are halfway up the corn stalks!' And then I realized it was a huge buck."
It wasn't long before the magnitude of it all became evident to Paula, whose initial reaction was relief that that she'd made a clean kill with her latest buck. When they started putting a tape to her buck, Matt was decidedly excited.
"I hunt more for the fun of it," Paula said. "Antlers seem to mean a little more to Matt, because he knows more about them. In some ways, I wish Matt would have taken it instead of me, because it means more to him than it does to me."
The huge 10-pointer has main beams of 29 0/8 and 28 5/8 inches, brow tines of just over 7 and 8 inches, coupled with G-2s exceeding 14 inches. Those measurements make the rack truly memorable. The buck's gross score is 195 6/8 inches; it nets 187 2/8 typical by the Boone and Crockett scoring system.
Matt knew that he had his work cut out for him if he was ever going to shoot a deer larger than the one his sister had killed. He enjoys the lengthy bow season, and finds hunting the rut appealing, but a buck bigger than his sister's didn't show up in 2005. However, the buck that Matt took during the 2006 rut would have special meaning to both siblings.
Matt doesn't get too excited about the opening few weeks of the Kansas season, but he admits that once October starts winding down, he starts gearing up. "I probably go five or six times a week starting the last week in October through the first two weeks in November," said the 32-year-old.
While Matt has killed some nice bucks over the years, he really only wants to shoot a mature animal each year. And the monstrous 8-pointer he shot last season was not only plenty mature, but also one his family was familiar with.
"We called him 'Long Tines,'" Matt said of the buck that he and his sister had been hunting -- the one they had seen several times in pictures from trail cameras.
Matt's had his first up-close-and-personal encounter with the buck when he and Paula were trailing her buck in 2004 and they jumped the big 8-pointer. According to Matt, the buck looked huge even back then. And the following year was when the buck started showing up on trail camera photos.
Matt had his second close encounter during the third week in October 2005. "He came in to a food plot and I shot and nicked the top of his back," he said. "I was devastated."
The next encounter Matt had with Long Tines was exactly one year later, to the day, in 2006.
"I drew on him when he came in," Matt said, "and it was really windy. He got to about 21 yards and stopped, looked around, and turned ends. He walked away and started rubbing a tree, and then walked off into the brush. I never got a shot."
The game with this buck was on -- and Matt wanted to play more than anything. He hunted every day except Sundays until his luck changed that foggy morning of Nov. 6.
"Just about daylight I heard two bucks fighting really aggressively down in the creek," Matt remembered. "And about 15 minutes later I saw a big-bodied deer walk up out of the creekbed. I put the binoculars on him and saw those long G-2s and knew it was him."
The buck was angling toward Matt's stand and a drip bag he'd placed in a tree. A trail led through the shelterbelt that Matt hoped the buck would take. "I kept looking up in the air and looking away because I was getting so terribly nervous," Matt said of his buck fever. "It seemed like his tines were almost as high as my stand was."
The deer closed to less than 15 yards and Matt tried to draw but the deer stopped. Undeterred, the buck continued toward the scrape and Matt got to full draw. The buck stopped again at about 11 yards and Matt was able to get off a shot.
"He took off really fast and ran about 70 yards but started slowing down when he got out of sight," Matt said. "I heard a crash and thought he was down but he walked back out into the field. I grabbed my binoculars and fogged them up. I put them down to clean them and by the time I got them back up he was down."
Staying in his stand another 15 minutes, Matt called his wife, dad and sister. "It was unreal," Matt said of the feeling when they all walked up to Long Tines. "I dreamed I might get him some day, but after the close encounters and not getting him I wasn't too sure."
Long Tines scored 162 3/8 inches in the typical category of the Boone and Crockett records as an 8-pointer.
Both Paula and Matt are complimentary of each other, and there's no real sibling rivalry. They both share a passion for bowhunting, and each wishes the other well.
"We're all out there to have a good time and we're all in it together," Matt said. "During those two weeks after I drew on Long Tines and didn't get a shot and didn't see him, Paula helped me stay focused because I started doubting if I'd ever get a chance at him."
They each understand they've been fortunate to take such magnificent animals. Paula realizes she may never top her 2005 buck, but looks forward to spending more time in the field with her father and brother.
"I'm excited about another year of hunting," she said recently. "I guess one hunter can't have too many blessings like that in one lifetime, so it's pretty special."