You Won’t Believe What Happened in this Big Buck Story

Aside from it being opening day of firearms deer season, Nov. 15, 2016, was a special day for Michigan deer hunter Harold Kleinow.

Kleinow is 79 years old and hails from Carleton, Mich. That November day also is when he was presented with a refurbished head mount of the first buck his father, George Kleinow, shot in the UP during the 1923 season. Deer hunting was so much different then than today. It required almost three full months of George’s time, most of which was for travel to and from the UP from his home in Wyandotte. That is an important part of the story behind the celebration surrounding that historical deer.

An even more important reason for celebrating? The family had it returned to their possession after it had been stolen almost 40 years ago.

Harold Kleinow of Michigan with the refurbished mount of his father's 93-year-old Upper Peninsula buck. The big buck has a great family legacy and unique story.

Harold Kleinow of Michigan with the refurbished mount of his father’s 93-year-old Upper Peninsula buck. The big buck has a great family legacy and unique story.

Going Back in Time
George Kleinow, Sr. was 37 years old and single in 1923 when he set out on his deer hunting adventure to the UP during mid-September. He wouldn’t get back home until mid-December. The UP was THE deer hunting destination back then. But there were no paved roads like we have today and the modes of transportation were limited. The first 125-mile leg of George’s journey north from Detroit to Bay City was via “interurban street car.”

All George carried with him were a bag of supplies, his rifle and some money to buy meals, food and lodging during his long journey. I’m sure the “bag of supplies” contained some food and extra clothes, but in much more modest amounts than most hunters would pack for a 3-month trip today. A dollar could be stretched much further back then, too, so I’m sure George spent far less during his trip than we could imagine.

Travel in Michigan then was tough. From Bay City to Mackinac City, George had to hitch rides on horse drawn logging haulers and then take a ferry to St. Ignace. Once in St. Ignace, he had to rely on horse-drawn logging haulers again to reach his destination, which was Trout Lake. While hunting, George stayed at a logging camp for shelter and meals. I’m sure he took advantage of the same type of accommodations on his way north and south.

November 15 was opening day of deer season in 1923 just like it is today. George was successful in shooting a big 9-pointer. It had a dressed weight of 210 pounds on the 16th. He shot the deer with a .30 caliber Remington pump rifle. That buck was the first deer George ever shot, and he had the head mounted.

Based on the mass of the antlers and the deer’s body size, I’m sure the buck that grew them was a mature animal at least 4 1/2 years old. It certainly could have been older. Although only 8 antler points are visible in the photo (above) of Harold Kleinow with the mount of his father’s buck, the left brow tine is forked, which is where the 9th point is.

Pride, Loss and Rejoicing
For many years, the head mount of that buck hung in a vacation cabin George built on a lake in Rose City. George eventually gave the mount to his son, Harold, in 1971 who hung it in a cabin he built in Hawks.

A great source of family pride, the mount only lasted there five years. That cabin was broken into during the summer of 1976. The mount of George’s buck was among the things that were stolen. George died two years later. Efforts to find the mount were fruitless.

Harold had given up hope of ever seeing the mount of his father’s first buck again.

Then, 37 years after the head disappeared, Harold got a phone call from the person who stole it, offering to give it back. The thief’s conscience got the best of him after hearing the story of the long trip George undertook to get the deer. The thief also had become a taxidermist, which increased his understanding of how much sentimental value the mount had for the Kleinow family.

While the head was in the taxidermist’s possession, he had remounted the antlers. After the mount was returned to Harold, he didn’t like the way it looked and decided to have the mount redone.

A cape from an 8-pointer Harold’s youngest son, Scott, shot with a crossbow in Monroe County on Oct. 27, 2015, was used for the new mount. That buck had a dressed weight of 185 pounds, so it was similar in size to the buck his grandfather shot in the UP during 1923.

The refurbished mount was presented to Harold by his three sons — Scott, Dan and John — 93 years after George killed the buck that grew the rack.

To make the 2016 deer season even more special, Harold shot a buck, a 4-pointer, on Nov. 16 — the same day his father connected on the big 9-pointer in 1923 — while hunting out of his cabin at Hawks.

“My dad turns 80 this year,” Scott said. “We all hope he gets a big one this year!”

Scott and his wife, Anne, provided the background information for this article.