November 01, 2017

Many of you reading these words are anxiously waiting for the opening day of firearm deer season that annually occurs here in Michigan on November 15. The “other” deer opener, the first day of the Michigan archery season, annually occurs on the first day of October. It doesn’t usually receive the same fanfare or hunter success rate but never the less is more significant to many because it is the very first occasion that adult deer hunters have to hunt the elusive whitetail deer.

This October 1 was like many others in the fact that the daytime temperatures were relatively warm and autumn’s colors were just starting to show in the sugar maples and cottonwood trees. One significant difference for this particular October opener, was that deer movement was quite evident along with many bucks up on their feet during the first couple of hours of shooting light.

Michele Malenski with her second crossbow buck of “Opening Day,” this monster 11-point that unofficially green scored at 170.

Crossbow hunter Michele Malenski went out opening morning with her longtime hunting partner Frank, who is also her best friend and husband. The married couple shared a box blind while hunting on private property in Jackson County. Shortly after daybreak, the first deer came walking a trail towards them nibbling on acorns. The deer was a buck; a buck that the two deer hunters were quite familiar with, because they had already collected quite a few trail camera photographs of the unique buck. He was a 10-point with six points on one side and four on the other. According to Michele, “He was not shy, he liked to have his picture taken.”

Once the buck was within range, Michele waited for him to turn broadside before taking the shot. A quick lethal kill ensued and the proud hunter got to use one of her two buck tags on the archery opener.

After taking care of the deer, it was time to prepare for the evening hunt. Michele said, “I hesitated and considered not going out because I didn’t know if I wanted to tag out on opening day.”

She must not have over-thought the process, because she indeed went out and was quite happy with the final results.

It was unusually warm even for early October standards. Michele said, “I didn’t think much would be moving because of a southeast wind and of the heat. I chose to hunt from one of my favorite stands, a ladder stand in the hardwoods. The first deer to appear were a doe and her two fawns. They meandered about the woods for about a half hour. Then a spike buck came in and got the doe’s attention.”

Five minutes later, I saw a big buck emerge out of a thicker part of the woodlot. He was walking straight at me. I immediately put my sight on him and waited for the shot. I ended up waiting for what felt like an eternity but in all reality was probably only about five to ten minutes. When he finally turned broadside, I took the shot and dropped him in his tracks. I miscalculated and hit high, breaking the deer’s spine. I then quickly dispatched the buck with a second shot into the lungs. Knowing that he was now down for the count, I texted my husband: I JUST SHOT A MONSTER!”

Frank came so fast, I swear he flew. When he arrived on the quad, he immediately asked, “Where is he at?”

“I told him that the buck was behind a tree. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he saw him. His mouth dropped and his eyes bulged out. I then, got out of the stand to get a better look. I honestly didn’t know he was that big until I saw him up close on the ground. No ground shrinkage for me, he actually got bigger!”

“When I shot, I thought he was a big buck that I had on trail camera, but he obviously wasn’t, he was much, much bigger. Frank and I didn’t even know that this buck even existed.”

Michele went on to tell a little story about an event that occurred the day before that she thought was an indicator of opening day success. On the last day of September, they honored her late mother’s wishes by having a memorial service for her dog. While leaving the burial ground, her husband found an acorn where there were no oak trees. Michele told him to not throw it away. She believed it to be a sign and told her husband that she was going to shoot a big buck on opening day. She promptly took the acorn out with her during her two hunts. Now that people have heard her story, they are now asking, “How much for that acorn?”

If you happen to see an acorn demanding high dollars on eBay you will now know why!

Michelle’s monster buck has eleven points and has been scored by her taxidermist. The preliminary green score tallies 170 Boone and Crockett points.