By Wayne Koppa
GRAYLING – Camp Grayling Conservation Club sponsored the 65th Annual Grayling Buck Pole at Skip’s Sport shop, located on M-72 on the west side of town. Kevin Wakely of Grayling was the overall winner of the two-day event.
Workers who volunteered for the event included: Brad Scheer, Bob Gingerich, Peyton Scheer, Dave Jansen and Wayne Koppa. Photos were taken by Missy Millikin.
For 30 years the Camp Grayling Conservation Club has sponsored the running of the Buck Pole. The hunters are awarded prizes in various categories, such as first buck for the day or youngest hunter.
The deer are not only weighed, but the antlers are measured, and a scoring system takes into consideration total spread, number of points, and length of points. These statistics are used to assign a score. This score determines the Best Buck of the two days.
The overall winner for the two days receives a new $500 scoped rifle. It is possible to win a prize in more than one category.
Day one of firearm deer season started with excellent weather. The temperature was 44 degrees and there was no wind.
Jack Millikin, co-owner of Skip’s Sport Shop stated, “stay out as long as you can – nothing replaces time in the field – with these warm temperatures the deer run all day – stay in place and they will be coming.” Missy Millikin, co-owner of Skips said that “floor traffic was good all week.”
Grayling High School Project Graduation again ran a bake sale fund raiser at Skip’s Wednesday and Thursday on a donation basis.
The first deer came in at 8:20 a.m., 40 minutes earlier than the first deer last year. “Big” John Morin, of Erie, MI, no stranger to the Grayling Buck Pole, arrived with a 6-point 130-pound buck that scored 66. In Bob’s hometown he served 60 years as a volunteer fireman, retiring as Chief of the department.
As the day went on the weather held with comfortable temperatures and not a cloud in the sky.
John Chandler of Ohio arrived at 9:11 a.m. with a 145-pound 6 pointer measuring out at 93 ¼. John drove 490 miles from the far eastern side of Ohio for his buck. He and his wife have a trailer they bring to Grayling.
Kevin Wakeley of Grayling was right behind him at 9:15 with a 10-point monster of a buck that measured out at 158 ¼ inches and weighed 170 pounds. Wakely was the overall winner of the contest, taking biggest buck and biggest rack honors.
Right behind Kevin was Casey Helsel Jr. of Grayling, our youngest hunter at age 12 at the time, who was taking a day off from the 7th Grade. Casey bagged a 130-pound 6 pointer that measured out at80 ¼ inches.
Cody Collen of Grayling arrived at 9:57 with a 120-pound 8 point that measured out to 72 ½ inches. There were many hunters reporting sparse sightings but on the other hand the buck pole was busy. More than a few weapon repairs were keeping Jack at Skip’s busy. Although it was firearm opener many visitors were sporting bows.
Nate Eller of Oxford, Michigan arrived at 10:21 with a buck shot in Kalkaska County. It weighed 140 pounds, had a 6-point rack that measured out to 89 1/2 inches. All deer must come from Crawford County or a county that borders Crawford County.
Deer are accepted until 5 p.m.. and hunters are allowed to take them down at 7 p.m. By keeping them up until 7 p.m. hunters returning from the field after dark are able to stop and see what deer were brought in.
Jonathan Graham of Farmington Hills, Michigan brought in a 135-pound 8-point buck that measured out to 98 ½ inches. Their hunting party was on the way back to the woods to see if their luck would continue.
Rex Phillips of Grayling arrived at 11:48 with a 145-pound 6 point that measured out to 74 inches. Hunters started to arrive quickly. One hunter with a nice-looking buck did a drive thru without hanging it for the contest.
Scott Stambaugh of Waterford, Michigan came in at 11:50 with a 140-pound 8 point that had a rack that measured at 111 inches.
Duane Wolfe of Midland, Michigan arrived at the same time with a 147-pound 8 point that measured out at 125 inches.
This was the 10th buck of the day and the last before noon.
At 12:14 p.m. Frank Czajkowski of Johannesburg, brought in a 120-pound 7-point buck with a rack measuring 95 ½ inches. Frank shot his buck in Otsego County. We appreciate him bringing it to the Grayling Buck Pole.
Our 12th buck of the day was our first shot by a female hunter. Megan Winter of Punta Gorda, Florida brought in a 123-pound 4-point that measured out to 71 inches. She shot the buck in Crawford County.
The second female hunter of the day was also the youngest hunter. Oriana Schneider, age 10, bagged a 158-pound 10-point that measured in at 132 ¾ inches. This was the second biggest buck for the day.
The 14th and 15th bucks for the day arrived just before the 5:00 cutoff. Bucks are only accepted until 5:00 giving the volunteers time to reconcile records and awards. The bucks are taken down at 7 p.m. giving everyone a chance to check out that day’s weigh tags and hunter identifications.
David Easlick of Grayling brought in buck 14 weighing 140 pounds with 4 points measuring 80 ¾ inches.
The last buck of the day, number 15 was taken by Chip Waite of Roscommon who had been away for over 20 years working for his uncle, Uncle Sam. As a medic he had not been around to participate in the Red Coat Round-Up. This was his first trip to the Buck Pole and his seven-point weighed in at 146 pounds measuring 89 ½ inches. Thanks for your service Chip.
At the end of the first day 15 bucks were recorded compared to last year’s 13 bucks in 2022, 13 bucks in 2021 and 9 bucks in 2020 for day one.
Thursday, Nov. 16
Day two arrived with 33 degrees at dawn and a bright sky. Dave Jansen and Bob Gingerich were the volunteers measuring and hanging the bucks for the second day of the contest.
Several bucks arrived at the pole that were taken the previous day, but too late to be hung. The first buck taken on Thursday would not arrive until later.
Taken on day one was a 115-pound 5 point by Evan Duba of Grayling. His buck measured out at 51 inches. He and his father dropped the buck off at 7:15 a.m. on day two and Evan was on his way to school. He will be back to pick up his buck after practice. We appreciate Evan making it to school and practice.
Jonathan Dare also got a buck late on day one over in the county of Kalkaska. It weighed in at 143 pounds, with seven points and 93 ½ inches of rack.
A short break was taken in the morning operation as the electric winch malfunctioned in a complicated way. The Winch Doctor, Jack Millikin, was able to resolve the situation, after much cable unraveling, we were back in business. The electric winch has been a great improvement over the pulley and rope of yesteryear where we would hoist the heaviest deer up and they would pull us back across the snow-covered parking lot. Great times for younger people.
Jeremy Hinman of Rockford, Michigan brought in a 7 point that he got late on the 15th that had 87 inches of antler. He and his hunting partner were on their way out to see if they could add another.
The next deer was the first to arrive that was shot on the 16th. Bob Dixon of Grayling rolled in with a 115-pound 6 point that measured out to 51 ½ inches.
Hunters reported hearing lots of shots on day two.
Jake Helsel arrived with the second buck taken that day. Jake Helsel arrived next with a 135-pound 8 point that measured out at 109 ¼ inches. Jake got his buck in Crawford County.
The sixth deer hung for the day was from Steve Surbrook from Novi, Michigan. His 6-point weighed 135 pounds with 91 ½ inches of rack.
The next arrival at 12:43 was from Theo Kolka of Grayling who got his 8-point 140-pound buck in Crawford County. The rack measured out to 95 ½ inches.
Frank Smith of Harrison then arrived with a 126-pound 9 point with a measured rack of 115 ¼ inches.
Number 10 for the day belonged to Ryan Haskin of Grayling. Ryan’s 145-pound buck with 8 points with a great rack measured out to 123 ½ inches. Ryan appears to have been the 9th hunter on day two in 2021.
Total bucks this year for two days is 25. This number is up from 23 last year, down from 26 in 2021, and higher than 2020 when 22 bucks were hung.
Skip’s Sport Shop and the Camp Grayling Conservation Club congratulate this year’s hunters and thanks them for participating in the Orange Coat Round-Up and Grayling Buck Pole Contest.