By Lisa L. Price
Mark Woller has his son, Eric, to thank for rekindling his interest in bowhunting.
Eric’s newfound enthusiasm for archery was not only contagious, but it also led to Mark’s replacing his 20-year-old bow.
"I’d been too busy with other obligations to do any bowhunting for a few years,” said the hunter from Merrill, Wis. “My son was working at Tomahawk Gun Shop, which has an archery department. When he decided to start shooting a bow, he checked out my old model and saw that one of the limbs was cracked.”
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Mark’s trip to get fitted with a new bow was memorable. He was astounded at the technological advancements since his last purchase.
“I couldn’t believe the speed of the arrow flight,” he said. “I was really impressed, and looking forward to getting back out in the fall.
“Fall is my favorite season. You’ve got all the colors, and there’s more activity in the woods,” he added. “If it’s a slow day for seeing deer, you’ve got lots of other wildlife -- squirrels, birds, ruffed grouse – to watch.
“Plus, now that I’m getting older, the weather’s a bigger factor,” he continued, not exactly admitting his aversion to the freezing cold.
Trail cameras revealed several nice bucks were roaming the property Mark hunted. One of them was a gorgeous, very symmetrical 12-pointer.
“A great 8-pointer was our main target until we retrieved the picture of the big one,” Mark said. “That deer was special, which is why I decided to let all others walk.
“We do all our deer processing as a family, and I’m just as much a meat hunter as a trophy hunter,” he added. “But once I saw that buck, I had little else on my mind.
“I watched a lot of small bucks, but I was no longer interested in them,” he said, “not when I knew a trophy like that 6x6 was somewhere out there.”
The Wollers had captured the buck’s image just before the archery season opened. About a week and a half earlier, Mark had set up a ground blind in a natural funnel on a friend’s land nearby. The area had no climbable trees.
On the evening of Sept. 22, 2010, Mark was tucked into the blind, which he’d coated with cover scent. About 45 minutes before dark, the wind ratcheted up with the approach of a storm.
“When I saw lightning flash way off to my left, I started getting ready to leave,” he said. “But then I caught a glimpse of a deer.
“As soon as it lifted its head, I realized it was the big one,” he continued. “The rain began about that time, but the deer just stood there for several minutes.
“When it finally moved, I was ready,” he said.
The shot was a mere 20 yards, but Mark couldn’t see his arrow. He wasn’t used to keying in on such fast flight. Even so, he felt confident he’d made a good shot.
Because of the steady rain, he didn’t wait long before getting out of the blind to look for blood. As the storm began to hit full force, the woods darkened prematurely, and he fought steadily increasing anxiety as he searched for any sign of a hit.
“I had only a little penlight that I use for getting in and out of the woods,” he said. “I realized I needed help, so I called Eric, my wife (Laurie) and son-in-law, Jesse Roberge.”
Knowing the odds of recovering the deer were getting worse with every passing minute, the cavalry arrived in short order.
With lots of experienced trackers and plenty of light, however dim, it wasn’t long before the group stumbled across some blood splatter on a leaf, which was all they needed to lock in on the buck’s trail.
Unfortunately, the centerline they were following petered out after 20 yards. Before Mark’s disappointment got the better of him, someone finally found the next dot, and then another.
The last dot, 10 yards farther, was the dead buck.
“Everybody’s jaws dropped, and we started celebrating with hoots and hollers,” Mark said. “We were going crazy there in the pouring rain, jumping up and down. It was great!
“Once the word spread about my buck, we heard from someone who had trail camera pictures from the previous year. They were taken three miles away,” Mark said. “Although I feel as if I’ll never top this buck, when I think about how far those big boys travel, I have to wonder.”