Mike Zylstra from Holland bagged the state’s highest scoring whitetail from 2015 deer seasons in Allegan County, based on those entered in state records. The 15-point nontypical grossing 189 5/8 and netting 185 is also the second highest scoring nontypical known taken with a crossbow in Michigan, according to state record keeper Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM).
The current state record nontypical crossbow buck was bagged by John Tolfree from Milan in Washtenaw County on December 23, 2014. That 20-pointer has a net score of 186 3/8. That whitetail was the first buck Tolfree ever shot.
Zylstra bagged his record book buck on the morning of November 14, 2015. Mike was hunting from a tree stand in a spot where he could cover multiple deer trails. The spot is a travel corridor. The bowhunter didn’t have any bait out.
“The cover is fairly thick around my stand,” Zylstra said, “but there are some openings. In one direction I could see about 125 yards. It was a perfect sunny, crisp morning when I got the big buck. The buck was chasing a doe in heat.
“The sun was shining on his impressive rack, so I knew right away he was a big buck. The antlers have great mass. They are almost palmated. Most people will look at the antlers and say it will score 200.
“I never saw the buck before the day I shot him,” Mike continued. “I think the buck was mostly nocturnal. If he wasn’t after that doe that was in heat, I’m sure I wouldn’t have seen him.
“I would guess that only three to five minutes elapsed from the time I saw the deer until I took my shot. They came into view where I could see the farthest. In less than a minute, the buck stopped broadside 25 yards away off the right quadrant of my stand. It’s really thick in that direction and I could not find an opening that I thought I could get an arrow through.
“The doe was standing about 30 yards from the buck. She spotted me in the tree moving around trying to find an opening to shoot through. She snorted and ran off and the buck just stood there. When the buck finally moved, he trotted to where the doe had been standing.
“The buck went through three openings where I had a shot as he went to where the doe had been,” Mike explained. “I grunted to try to stop him in one of those openings. The third time I grunted, he stopped in one of those openings 30 yards away and I made a perfect shot.”
Mike shot the deer with a Bowtech Solution LS crossbow and his arrow was fitted with an NAP Spitfire Max Broadhead. He waited 30 minutes after shooting the whitetail before climbing down to recover it. Even though Zylstra’s arrow took out both lungs and there was an excellent blood trail, the deer still covered 150 yards before gong down.
Mike was in for a treat when he reached the fallen deer.
“The rack was bigger than I thought,” he said. “The antlers were sticking up in the air and were easily visible as I approached. The rack has a 28-inch outside spread.
“After admiring the buck, I looked up to the right and there were four does standing there 30 yards away. Those were probably the does he was breeding.”
Deer hunting is Mike’s passion. He’s been doing it for 40 years. The 15-pointer is his biggest buck so far. He estimated its age at 4 ½. Although Mike had never seen the deer before November 14, a neighbor of his who lives about a mile away later told him he had lots of photos of the whitetail. The neighbor gave Mike one of his trail camera photos of the buck.
The fall of 2015 was the first year Zylstra hunted with a crossbow. He killed a 6-pointer with it before taking the big one. His best buck prior to last fall scored about 135.