LAPEER COUNTY — Thursday morning heralds in the annual buck pole celebrations as the sun breaks over the horizon for the traditional Nov. 15 firearm deer hunting season opener.
Buck poles date back to around 1860 where a simple round pole would give hunters a place to hang their deer and keep it up off the ground from curious predators. Community buck poles began to spring up sometime around the 1960s, give or take a couple of years. The poles then, were a typical woodframed structure placed out front of the local general store. Today, massive steel beams are front and center at all types of businesses, bringing in large crowds to admire the deer harvested and offer up a community gathering place that includes music, chili contests, food trucks and vendors selling all kinds of hunting-related products. Big prizes are awarded to the hunters including rifles, shoulder mounts, deer processing, gift certificates and other Opening Day mementos.
First and foremost for the hunters is the meat in the freezer that will be turned into tasty venison sticks, chili makings, sausage products and more. The camaraderie shared around the area poles will last well into the late evening with prizes handed out around 8 or 9 p.m., depending on which pole you visit.
In Lapeer County, the main pole at Ray C’s Harley Davidson store just south on I-69 enters its 14th year. Partnered again with the Wheelin’ Team 457 of North Branch, which will reap the profits of the day, the Lapeer Pole opens at 7 a.m. with plenty of food, entertainment, and prizes throughout the day.
The North Branch Area Business Association’s 11th annual pole had to make a sudden change in venue this year and will be hosted at the American Legion, 4075 Huron Street. Raffle prizes throughout the day are available for $2 per ticket or $10 for six. The largest buck earns a $500 shoulder mount, the grand prize is $400, second place is $200 and third prize is $100. The first buck to be entered, the oldest and youngest hunters and the first woman to enter a buck into the contest all earn $50 prizes. This pole opens at 7:30 a.m.
At Campbell’s Local Harvest in Imlay City, the fun starts at day break if you want to watch for the first buck to be entered. Organizers said this year will be bigger and better with local sponsors and “great prizes” for our registrants.
“We have partnered with The PATH Foundation charity and are so excited to promote a Michigan charity that helps those less fortunate to experience Michigan outdoors,” said Campbell’s on its web site. “Grillwich Tot Shop food truck will be stopping by to help fill the stomach void after a day of hunting and tracking. Enter the 50/50 raffle and try to win big this year and help support PATH.”
Campbell’s also noted that everyone is welcome to join in the fun, regardless if they are bringing in a deer. “We will have lots of categories to win prizes, it’s not just for the biggest buck in town.”
The Genesee County pole will once again be hosted by Madden’s Lounge on State Road and is presented each year by the Flint Chapter of Safari Club International and other partners. All poles open around 7 a.m. and the last bucks are expected to be entered between 8 and 8:30 p.m. before the big winners are announced.