It’s no accident this Wisconsin woman is so successful with a bow.
At 3 p.m., Janice Maxfield and her son, Andy, age 11, walked toward a greenfield that had been planted not far from a brushy tangle of cottonwoods in north-central Kansas. It was the first afternoon of the Maxfield family bowhunt, and Janice planned to stay out until dark. Andy, who isn’t old enough to bowhunt on his own, often accompanies his mother — and sometimes his father. Janice is happy to have her son along. “Andy’s my lucky charm,” she said.
The pair reached the field and headed toward a blind that had been set up by the landowner. As mother and son traversed the field, the woman’s keen scouting eye noticed fresh whitetail sign almost everywhere. Janice wasn’t yet completely sold on the notion of bowhunting from the blind, but with no good tree in which to hang a stand — and with daylight quickly fleeing — she decided to go for it. “I’d shot turkeys from blinds,” she said, “but I’d never arrowed a whitetail from one.”
The wind that afternoon was raw and cold. Scattered clumps of prairie grass and weeds bent before the wind’s almost constant onslaught. Janice and Andy settled inside the blind just as a doe ambled out into the field. A buck then jumped the fence and followed the doe. As the doe headed toward the blind, Janice could scarcely believe her good fortune — and yet she felt somewhat apprehensive. The long-anticipated bowhunt had scarcely begun when a shooter buck seemed almost certain to walk within range. As the animal moved ever closer, it paused once to rake the bark off a sapling and three more times to scrape the fertile Kansas earth.
The buck curled its lip, testing the wind for the doe’s enticing scent, then followed the doe to within 8 yards of the blind. Janice hesitated. Andy, who knew his mother was torn between wanting the buck and not wanting the hunt to end, suddenly whispered, “Mom, that’s a 12-pointer!” She knew her son was right.
Janice drew her Mathews Mustang and let the arrow fly. She then watched as the broadhead buried itself in the deer’s vitals. “You got him! You got him!” Andy yelled as the buck rocketed into the nearby cover. Just 18 minutes after they’d arrived at the field, Janice heard the buck’s body slide heavily into a creek bottom and come to rest.
Talk about your lucky charms!
“Let’s call Dad,” an excited Andy said. “Dad” is Joel Maxfield, Mathews’ vice-president of marketing, who was hunting nearby. When Joel answered his cell phone and heard the tale of his wife’s latest success, he wasn’t surprised.
“Janice has hunted a long time,” Joel said. “She has competed in archery tournaments since 1984, and she bowhunts at a hard-core level. We bowhunt a lot — sometimes every day. Should she discover that a buck is doing something new, or suspect that local deer have altered their feeding patterns, she’ll change her strategy without ever telling me. Bowhunting has become second nature to her.”
Janice, who also works for Mathews as the company’s new-accounts manager, has bowhunted in Canada, Africa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Colorado, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas. She’s taken more than 50 whitetails, many of them dandy bucks, all while bowhunting. Few female archers have experienced Janice’s consistency when it comes to taking big whitetails. Yet she prefers to deflect attention from herself whenever possible.
The buck in the opening story, for instance — a heavy-antlered, 12-point typical that measured 138 inches — is just one of many superb whitetails Janice has tagged in recent seasons.
Janice’s bowhunting story began when she met Joel at Austin High School in Minnesota, where the pair became sweethearts. After graduation, Joel and his brother started a sporting goods store in Austin. “If I wanted to hang out with Joel, I had to learn something about his business,” Janice said. “I began to clean and fletch arrows. And while I was doing that, I wondered what it would be like to shoot a bow.”
Janice knew that Joel was addicted to archery. Once she had shot a few times, so was she. Joel next invited her on a bowhunt. “He just wanted me to go with him,” she recalled. “He said to take it slow — that I didn’t have to shoot anything if I didn’t want to.”
Janice’s first buck encounter wasn’t a big success. “As I was waiting in the stand, this big buck chased a doe right past me,” she said. “I could hear the buck grunting; and as it came closer, I saw my chance. I shot and barely missed; the arrow grazed the buck’s back.”
That evening, when Janice related the story to Joel and some friends, they quizzed her about the size of the buck’s rack. “I insisted that it was big,” she said. “An 8-pointer, but with a very heavy rack. It was my first time bowhunting, so no one was sure if I even knew what a big buck looked like.”
A few days later, another friend joined them on the hunt. The newcomer shot a superb 8-pointer with a rack that would eventually measure 160 inches. Janice knew it was the buck she’d shot at earlier that week, and she displayed the clipped furrow of hair across the animal’s spine to prove it. No one has doubted her since when it comes to determining a trophy’s estimated size.
Not long after Janice’s near miss, her life began to change in radical ways. By 1986, Matt McPherson had moved to Austin, where he’d founded McPherson Archery. Matt and Joel soon became friends, with Joel eventually leaving the sporting goods business to join Matt at McPherson. Janice joined the McPherson team as well. When Matt sold McPherson, the Maxfields moved to Alabama — until Matt visited the couple armed with a notebook filled with highly inventive designs for new bows. “I’m thinking of getting back into the archery business,” he confided to them. The rest is history.
The Maxfields continued to shoot in tournaments and hunt with their bows. Janice qualified for the IBO nationals in West Virginia but failed to compete because the shoot was scheduled for the middle of bow season.
She had become hard-core about whitetail bowhunting when she and Joel were still dating, and no tournament was going to interfere. “From the first of July, when deer were first growing their racks, until the start of archery season, we’d often travel 200 miles each night,” Joel recalled. “If conditions were right in a place, one of us would go there. We’d often wind up hunting 40 miles apart. I’ve never had to baby-sit Janice.”
Janice says her only secret is patience — “I can wait in a stand forever,” she said. As for tactics, Janice enjoys using and experimenting with deer calls. She’s had success calling deer even during the early season, when many experts warn people not to call.
Don’t let the camo fool you. While Janice can hang a treestand as well as, or better than, her husband and is an excellent shot, she likes to garden and once owned show dogs.
Andy’s accomplishments are also of great importance to her. “We never pushed Andy into archery or bowhunting,” she explained. “We let him do athletics, but gradually he’s finding out that he likes archery and has a real talent for it. To celebrate Andy’s 12th birthday — and his new hunting privilege — Joel and Janice plan to take him to Alberta to bowhunt for a black bear.
Joel says that he’s been lucky in love as well as in archery and bowhunting. “Janice has taught me a lot about hunting,” Joel said. “I hunt with a lot of guys, and Janice hunts completely different from us, yet she’s just as successful. She has 10 times the patience I do. She’s out before daylight and not back until dark. She’s the one who will be in the stand at 2 p.m. as the buck wanders past, not me. I’m more likely to hunt early and late, resting in the middle of the day — but not Janice. She’ll hit it hard all day, every day.”
Read her husband’s praise and look closely at the photos of this petite woman and her many fine bucks. Luck, as most of our readers know, can only take a bowhunter so far — even walking, talking lucky charms like Andy. In Janice Maxfield’s case, however, when it comes to bowhunting whitetails, she’s not lucky. She’s good!
This article was published in the September 2007 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.