Rack Magazine

Arrow Worthy

Arrow Worthy

By Mike Handley

Avoyelles Parish Yields World Record to a Very Picky Bowhunter.

The last time Mark Huval thought enough of a buck to put an arrow through it, Louisiana folk were still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. There was a different president, a different pope, and gasoline cost $2.10 a gallon.

Six years is a long time to wait for the right buck, especially if you’re a bowhunter, and even more so if you’re packing a 58-pound-draw recurve.

“I take my hunting seriously,” says the 48-year-old co-owner of a Lafayette construction company. In other words, he hunts hard, though not nearly as often as he’d like, and he has standards higher than the average bow Joe’s.

The deer that finally won Mark’s heart last season was probably born in 2005, the year he arrowed his last buck. He knew the animal well, too. He’d even waved goodbye to it the previous season, when it was a clean 5x5 with 40 or so less inches of antler.

He saw it six times in 2011, four from the same stand where he ultimately killed it.

Mark is one of five people who hunt 1,200 acres adjacent to the 17,500-acre Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge, which is shaped like a rubber ducky. He’s made the 92-mile drive from Lafayette to Avoyelles Parish since 1991. He began his love affair with his Black Widow recurve four years before that.

The island he hunts is ideal, he adds, because when the pressure mounts on the refuge, those deer seek shelter within their bottomland hardwoods. Even without the human activity on Lake Ophelia — open from November through mid-February to bowhunters and on select dates for blackpowder and youth (rifle) hunts — the deer are drawn to the abundance of acorns.

He saw this buck in early December — five times in three days — feeding on acorns. Other bucks gave it a wide berth. Duly impressed, Mark put a trail camera on a locust tree at the edge of higher ground, which revealed the bull of the woods wasn’t nocturnal, meaning it was definitely killable.

On the cold and rainy day after Christmas, a Monday, Mark donned his rain slicker, loaded his gear into a small boat and used a trolling motor to reach a homemade wooden box blind only 300 yards from the refuge’s border. He shucked his rain suit upon entering the blind and sat down to wait.

“The rain didn’t matter,” he said. “My hunting days are limited, so I go out whenever I can.”

Soon after daybreak, some does appeared in front of the blind. After they’d melted back into the swamp, the next white-tailed passer-by had a familiar face.

Mark recognized the buck instantly, and why wouldn’t he? After allowing dozens of good bucks to waltz out of his life the past six years, he knew this one wasn’t going to be granted the same privilege.

And then it came within SIX yards! Broadside! In broad daylight!

“I won’t say that buck was dumb, but it definitely wasn’t nocturnal,” he said, adding the whenever he pulled the camera’s card, there would be several shots of the buck, all during daylight hours, from the time it was still in velvet to the day he shot it.

Drawing and releasing the arrow seemed almost anticlimactic. The buck ran, but Mark was pretty sure it hadn’t gone far. Just to be safe —and to keep dry, since it was raining buckets — he waited his customary two hours before stepping out of the blind.

“Meanwhile, I sat and watched more deer,” he said. “One little buck came in afterward and sort of blood-trailed my buck before stopping and staring at the ground. I figured it had to be looking at my deer, even though I couldn’t see it.”

It was indeed. Mark found the 236-pounder easily after picking up half his arrow at 9:30. (It was 30 pounds lighter than a 5-year-old 8-pointer his stepson shot there.)

“Even though I knew it was a good deer, I was surprised when I got my hands on the buck ... to actually see how many inches of antler it had packed on in a year,” he said.

It took a few seasons for Mark to figure out the resident whitetails, where to make his stands and how to access them. He credits his success to changing up his approach to his favorite blind. Previously, he would always bump deer on his way into the tract.

More often than not, he’d drive into the middle of the property and hike the last mile and a half over high ground. Reaching it by boat was far quieter and less intrusive.

It was pretty handy to haul a dead buck, too.

Hunter: Mark Huval
BTR Official Score: 186 2/8
BTR Composite Score: 203 1/8
Recurve Bow

— Photos Courtesy of Mark Huval

This article was published in the October 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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Copyright 2018 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd