Clare County Review & Marion Press News

Marion Buck Pole: By the community, for the community

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For the last 21 years, the Marion Buck Pole has been a staple of the community.
Every November 15th, it’s been there for the community, run by the community.
It’s been an effort spearheaded by the Miller and Bontekoe families, made possible by the countless volunteers, organizations, businesses, and individuals who’ve donated their time and money to make the opening days of firearms deer season a true community event.
This year’s buck pole will wrap up Thursday evening, the 16th. And as of Thursday morning, things were off to a good start, despite the timing and weather being less than ideal.
“We’re sitting fairly close to average for the number of deer in on the first day, we’re at 35,” said event organizer Doug Bontekoe. “Usually we’ll get 15 to 25 on the second day, which would put us in the 50-60 range, which is a good number. Not a record, but it falls midweek this year, and we don’t get as many midweek – a lot of people can’t take time off from work.”
Another small obstacle for the buck pole, and hunters in general, was the warm weather. In addition to deer being less inclined to be on the move, temperatures in the mid-50s make for a less than ideal outdoor cooler for the eventual venison.
“The weather has been beautiful for the people here working!” Bontekoe said. “Some of the people are concerned about the meat, and we’re letting them use their judgment. There have been some people who didn’t want to hang their deer up because they wanted to put it in a cooler – and that’s perfectly understandable. But we require them to stay hanging, that way it’s the same for everybody.”
One of the big early winners at this years buck pole was local youth Olivia Bobon. Bringing her buck in around 8:30 am on opening day, she’ll take home prizes for first youth, first female, first youth female, and for first deer.
“She hunts somewhere down by the sewer ponds,” Bontekoe said, “Because she just rode up down the back street there – she didn’t have a long way to get here. She was the first one in, and I think we had 14 in by noon. 34 by the first day, so we’re doing good on that.”
One of the changes that has been quite noticeable in recent years is the size of the deer. They’re getting bigger, heavier, with larger antlers – due in large part to the implementation of antler point restrictions in the area. To help address this, a 20 foot section of pole was added, giving the buck pole 60 total feet. The addition wouldn’t have been possible without help from the community.
“We’ve been looking at doing it for a couple of years,” Bontekoe said. “Finding the pipe, and the people to do it took a little bit, but we got it done. We’ve got to give a shout out to Pete Ashby Jr. and Sr. for helping weld that up, they did a great job.”
The addition is already coming in handy.
“The deer in the last 10 years have just gotten bigger,” Bontekoe said. “10 years ago we had spikes and 4 points, and the deer weighed 90 pounds. Now, three quarters of them are 8 points, and they’re weighing 160 pounds. We’ve got so much more mass of deer hanging there. We were stacking them like cordwood. Right now we’ve got 60 feet of pole, and with a foot and a half per deer we’re full. And there are a lot of racks that are 16 inches, that’s not uncommon. We’ve still got it filled up, just because the deer are bigger. It’s nice to see. The point restriction has paid off and we’re getting better deer.”
The buck pole will wrap up at 6 pm on Thursday, the 16th. Loads of prizes will be awarded, thanks to the generous sponsors.
“There will be a rifle from the Ina Store, they’ve been doing that for a long time,” Bontekoe said. “Holdship Funeral Homes donated a rifle; Dairy Land Seeds, Phil Hoekwater, donated a rifle. We get a lot of gift certificates and cash donations that we use to buy prizes. We’ve got heaters; scopes; a pop-up blind, and a lot of gift certificates to stores, and restaurants, and businesses in the area.”
The event continues to become bigger and better with each year. The buck pole has a Facebook page [] which attracts 10s of thousands of views from all over the world.
“Today, between 3 and 4 o’clock, we’ll have between 20 and 30 thousand views on our Facebook page,” Bontekoe said. “We had that piebald buck last year, it had over 150,000 views on it. Once people get in the deer blind, they start scrolling through all the pictures, waiting for the deer to come out.”
“Two years ago…we had 6 people viewing the Facebook page from Japan,” Bontekoe said. “There was a guy from Marion at the military base, sitting around with his buddies, looking at the pictures. So that’s how far things get spread. It’s pretty cool how many people watch and pay attention to it.”
In the end though, it’s the locals who really make it a must see event.
“Today, what was cool for me was the number of people who stopped on their way to school,” Bontekoe said. “The cars, the kids… they just pull along the edge of the road and look. There’s so many people who just come in town and look at it.”
And it’s those same locals – and their organizations – who help keep the event going for future generations.
“There’s no cost to hang a deer,” Bontekoe said. “Everything here is donated. Everyone’s time is donated. It’s a community event, to come and talk and socialize. We’ve got to thank the VFW for allowing us to use their place. If anyone wants to donate to the VFW, they could always use the donations. They still do a lot for the community, and they help us out a lot too.”

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