By Marc Murrell
Although she didn’t take up bowhunting until 1999, Paula Wiggers has several impressive bucks to her credit.
If you saw Kansas resident Paula Wiggers walking down the street, you wouldn’t necessarily assume she was head-over-heels in love with bowhunting. Her home-sewn, long dress and black prayer-covering on her head identify her Mennonite faith. A polite and quiet demeanor draws no attention.
But even though she doesn’t fit the stereotypical bowhunter image, she can match conversation with any male interested in the same. And if the talk turned to the deer she killed last year, all ears would be on high alert for every detail of the successful encounter with a once-in-a-lifetime whitetail. Rightfully so, as it’s likely the biggest typical whitetail killed by a female bowhunter and one to be proud of, regardless of gender.
The 37-year-old parochial school teacher hasn’t bowhunted that long, making her recent success that much more impressive.
“I’ve been deer hunting with a rifle since I was 16, but I didn’t start bowhunting until 1999,” Paula said. Although she had killed plenty of deer with a rifle, there weren’t any she would consider huge. After years of trying it with one method, she decided to attempt 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.”
Paula’s brother, Matt, had bowhunted for years and had tried to talk his sister into trying it.
“We went out to Bass Pro one February and he bought me my first bow,” she said.
“He set me up with it and all the equipment, and we practiced that summer.”
Anxious to start her first season, she missed the eagerly anticipated opener.
“Matt got married in Wisconsin on Oct. 3, so I didn’t get to hunt opening day,” Paula laughed. “But I had asked off from school for a week, thinking in the back of my mind 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 didn’t arrive until about 10 a.m. Her first arrow at a live animal wouldn’t take long to find its mark. “I shot a doe at 12 o’clock,” she laughed.
Another doe made her maiden season memorable.
She spent her 2000 and 2001 seasons out of the country, teaching missionary children in Belize. She picked up right where she left off when she returned for her 2002 Kansas archery season and arrowed a beautiful record-book buck.
“The next year, I didn’t take anything because nothing looked quite that good,” Paula said, adding that she quit shooting does on their property due 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.”
But Paula’s 2005 season will likely be forever etched in her memory, as well as those of her favorite hunting partners, her father, Orlin, and Matt.
Matt Wiggers took this photo of his sister’s archery buck as they prepared to drive home.
“Matt and I always have this fun competition going, and he always ends up shooting his deer before me,” she laughed. “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, Paula entered “180” on her cell phone screen and would show it to her brother every chance she got.
“I put it on there to harass him, and it was all in good fun,” she laughed.
Paula admits her bowhunting interest gives her plenty of time in the woods.
“It’s a good hobby, because being Mennonite I don’t watch television or go to movies, so after school I could get in my stand for a couple hours,” she added.
“I just wanted to shoot something nice; and because of not finding my buck the year before, what I wanted more than anything was a clean kill. I decided I was going to wait for the perfect shot and wouldn’t shoot unless it was under 20 yards.”
Both Paula and her brother had their minds set on an absolutely huge 8-pointer whose image 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. I didn’t figure I could get close to him, so I just let him walk off.”
After spending more than 50 hours on stand in the 2005 season, her patience and persistence were rewarded.
“It was the evening of Nov. 23,” Paula recalls. A stickler for being scent-free, Paula finished school and rushed home to shower with scent-free soap. She donned her Scent-Lok suit and 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.”
After experimenting with some doe bleats, it wasn’t long before she saw a mature doe walk to the edge of the field.
“I got my bow off the hook and hoped there would be a buck with her,” Paula said. “But after 52 hours in a stand, my confidence was just a little bit low.”
The doe walked by, downwind, but never noticed any human scent.
“She appeared so relaxed, I just knew there wasn’t a buck with her,” Paula remembers.
“And then all of a sudden, I saw antlers, 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 the shelterbelt where Paula was perched. It took a few steps toward her and worked a small scrape between them.
“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 the buck would hurry to pursue the doe; but she waited as she followed the buck with her sight pins, hoping for a clear shot.
“He was almost broadside at 12 yards when I shot,” she said. “I thought I hit the shoulder; I knew I didn’t get a total pass-through, as I could see my fletching when he went into a dead run.”
The buck never lost pace as he fled, and Paula quickly lost track of him as he ran down the shelterbelt. She thought she might have heard him crash but convinced herself otherwise. She waited a few minutes and called her brother 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,” she remembers. “He told me not even to start the four-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 hours and try to find him.”
During the conversation, Matt was trying to ascertain the size of the buck his sister had shot.
“I told him I was pretty sure it wasn’t our big 8, but I think it would score about 156,” Paula laughed. “I have no clue how I picked 156 out of the blue.”
Gathering her gear, Paula climbed down, not confident in what she would find. She crossed the fence and had taken just a couple steps into the cornfield when she saw her prize laying only 40 yards away at the edge of the field.
“I called Matt and said to come because he’s down,” Paula said. “Matt replied, ‘Well don’t go over there yet,’ because we kind of have this thing where we go look for them together.”
Paula sat down and admitted she was a bit shaken - enough so that she nocked another arrow, just in case.
“It sounds kind of dumb now, but I thought, ‘Man, if he gets up I’m letting him have it,’ “ she laughed.
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 said. “And he said, ‘That’s a good deer! His antlers are half-way up the cornstalks!’ ‘’
Paula was initially relieved that her encounter was a clean kill. But it wasn’t long before the magnitude of it all would become evident.
“And then I realized it was a HUGE buck,” Paula admits.
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 and 28 5/8 inches. Add brow tines of just over 7 inches and 8 inches, coupled with P2s exceeding 14 inches, and the rack is truly memorable. The BTR score is 174 2/8 in the perfect category. The composite score, with the 21 4/8-inch spread added for reference, takes the rack to an impressive 195 6/8 inches.
So how does any hunter top a buck of this magnitude? Paula realizes she may never do it and looks forward to spending more time in the field with her father and brother.
“I’m excited about another year of hunting,” she said of future trips afield. “I guess one hunter can’t have too many blessings like that in one lifetime, so it’s pretty special.
“Somebody asked me if I feel proud. No, actually I feel quite humble and just very, very lucky.”
-- Reprinted from the November 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine