Amy Jo Parish

Contributing Writer

The corner of Nashville Highway and Ionia Road in Vermontville was packed with spectators and deer for the annual Maple Valley Community Buck Pole Nov. 15. The event takes place on the opening day of the whitetail deer firearm season and brings together hunters from across the region.

This year, 59 bucks were brought to the pole by hunters eager to show off their trophies and share their stories of bagging the bucks.

Duane Eldred, owner of Duey’s Corner store, organizes the event. He said the buck pole is a time when hunters can gather to share their stories, admire their deer and build memories that will last at least until the next hunting season. He is certain the social aspect of the evening is just as popular as the prizes awarded.

“When they leave, I want them to have had a great time while sharing stories with friends and neighbors, and if they’re lucky, they’re going to win something,” said Eldred. “It’s just a big huge deer camp for three or four hours; people just love it, and the comradery is just great.”

Along with a record number of bucks, the event also brought a record number of people – with nearly 300 crowding into the corner. The event began nine years ago with just 16 or so bucks, Eldred said. And he couldn’t be more pleased with this year’s results.

“It was just amazing,” Eldred said. “The turnout was just over the top; it just went right out the roof.”

He said a record number of prizes were given out this year, totaling more than $4,000. Each hunter who brought a buck to the pole received a ticket for a chance to win a prize. The top ranking bucks in the two categories – youth and adult – earned new firearms.

The generosity and enthusiasm of residents and area businesses is sure to keep the pole continuing well into the future, assures Eldred. Residents are already planning for next year’s event and are eager to volunteer their time to ensure its success.

“People have already asked to help next year,” he said. “It has been growing every year.

“People overwhelmingly want to help and donate. It’s just a great thing. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The scoring was tight this year, with only half of an inch separating the top two bucks in the adult division.

At the end of the night, Callon Hoefler earned the youth category with an eight-point buck and Bryan Dunlap took home the adult category title, also with an eight-point buck.