Carol Bontekoe

This blog has been keeping track of my adventures since 2004. The stories and the adventures have come from my college dorm room to Uganda, Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan, learning Dutch in the Netherlands to living in the wilds of Homer, Alaska. I went back to school in Amsterdam to study Theaterwetenschap (Theatre Science) at University of Amsterdam. And now my adventures as a Fruit Fly, a Sexy Unicorn, and creating a movement with Team Sparkle in Chicago.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Buck Pole

Northern Michigan is unto itself. I find when I have friends come up for visits it can be as much of a culture shock if not more than traveling to another country. I think some people's shock is that it is so different from where they live yet relatively close, at least with another country you have to travel a great distance first. This year I was able to finally participate in a distinctly Northern Michigan cultural event, The Buck Pole.
The Buck Pole, as I recently found out is specific to Northern Michigan so I had to be up here at the right time to see it. The Buck Pole coincides with the biggest holiday of the year, the first day of rifle season.
Up here there is a different way of keeping seasons than the standard four most people know: Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. Although if you live in Southern California you have your own versions of seasons as well: Nice, Wild Fire, Mud Slide, and light sprinkling of rain that brings everything to a complete halt. Michiganders residing in the Northern part of Michigan have lots of seasons: Turkey, Migratory Birds, Fishing, Elk, Bear, Waterfowl, and Deer. As far as I can tell Deer season is the most popular of the seasons. It is even split into two seasons- rifle and bow.

The first day of rifle season is so big that the school and many business shut down that day because there won't be enough people around to keep them going. In Michigan the first day of rifle season is always Nov. 15th. That day I woke to the sounds of rifle shots at day break. Throughout our family's farm there were deer shanties strategically placed with my brothers and their friends. The goal on our farm is to have the first buck on the pole, doesn't matter if it is my brothers or one of their friends just as long as it is from our property. Once again this was pulled off with my brother Doug's friend Erik Page bringing in the first buck.
Since I don't hunt my job was to wait by the pole and get pictures and meet all the hunters and listen to their stories.
Let me elaborate for a minute on the pole. It is about 40 or so feet and is in the middle of the village outside of the one bar, The Horseshoe. It stands there all year for this one single day. As people kill there deer they bring them to the Buck Pole where they will have a rope tied around their neck(the dead deer not the hunter) and will be hung from the pole. The pole is open for Bucks to be strung up from sunrise on the 15th and closes at 11 am on the 16th. Anyone participating is guaranteed some kind of prize.
The night of the 15th is crazy. For such a small village there was a maddening amount of people standing around the Buck Pole admiring bucks, trash talking others, and telling tales of how they shot their white tail or how the biggest one they ever saw just barely got away. The cars lined the streets from one end of the village to the other. People would grab the hoof and turn a buck around to get a really good look. "Didcha see that one?" gets asked a lot. People drink their Bud Lights that are snuggled away in their Buck Pole cozies from the year before.

As someone who has never hunted this was an intense sight. I normally don't handle dead animals laying around very well. Yet, somehow when they are strung up and the whole village is out looking at them I don't seem to mind so much. With men dressed in orange and camo everywhere you turn and a stack full of stories about all the almost great bucks the could have maybe gotten if this had been a little different, I have to say it is a cultural experience worth having. If you aren't a hunter it is worth just coming up to drink and see how big of a deal hunting is for some. And if you are a hunter where they don't have buck poles come on up and see if you can get the big one or at least tell the tale of how you almost got it.