Deer mount returned after nearly 40 years

By Richard P. Smith  

Contributing Writer

Hawks, Mich. — Nov. 15, 2016 was a special day for 79-year-old Carleton hunter Harold Kleinow from. Besides the fact that it was opening day of another firearms deer season it also was  the day he was presented with a refurbished head mount of his father’s (George Kleinow’s) first buck, shot in the U.P. in  1923.

The fact that deer hunting was so much different back then than today, requiring three full months of George’s time – most of which was to travel to and from the U.P. from his home in Wyandotte – is an important part of the story behind the celebration surrounding that historical deer.

An even more important reason for celebrating the possession of that deer mount is the family had it returned to their possession after it had been stolen almost 40 years earlier.

George Kleinow, Sr., was 37 years old and single in 1923 when he set out on his deer hunting adventure to the U.P. in mid-September. He wouldn’t get back home until mid-December. The U.P. was the deer hunting destination back then, but there were no paved roads like we have today and the modes of transportation were limited.  The first 125-mile leg of George’s journey north from Detroit to Bay City was via the “interurban street car.”

All George carried with him was a bag of supplies, his rifle and some money to buy meals, food and lodging during his long journey. The “bag of supplies” contained some food and extra clothes, but in much more modest amounts than most hunters would pack for a three-month trip today.

From Bay City to Mackinac City, George had to hitch rides on horse-drawn logging haulers then take a ferry to St. Ignace. Once in St. Ignace, George had to rely on horse-drawn logging haulers again to reach his destination, which was Trout Lake. While hunting, George stayed at a logging camp for shelter and meals. He took advantage of the same type of accommodations on his way north and south.

Nov. 15 was opening day of deer season in 1923 just like it is today. George was successful in shooting a big 9-pointer with a dressed weight of 210 pounds on the 16th. He shot the deer with a .30 caliber Remington pump rifle. That buck was the first deer George ever shot and he had the head mounted.

Based on the mass of the antlers and the deer’s body size, the buck that grew them was a mature animal that was at least 4 1⁄2 years old and the whitetail certainly could have been older. Although only 8 antler points are visible in the photo accompanying this article of Harold Kleinow with the mount of his father’s buck, the left brow tine is forked, which is where the ninth point is.

For many years, the head mount of that buck hung in a vacation cabin George built on a lake in Rose City. George eventually gave the mount to his son, Harold, in 1971 who hung it in a cabin he built in Hawks. That cabin was broken into during the summer of 1976 and the head mount of George’s buck was one of the items stolen. George died two years later.

Harold had given up hope of ever seeing the head mount of his father’s first buck again. Then, 37 years after the head disappeared, Harold got a phone call from the person who stole it, offering to give it back. The thief’s conscience got the best of him after hearing the story of the long trip George undertook to get the deer. The fact that the thief had become a taxidermist also increased his understanding of how much sentimental value the mount had for the Kleinow family.

While the head was in the taxidermist’s possession, he remounted the antlers. After the mount was returned to Harold, he didn’t like the way it looked, so the decision was made to have the mount redone. A cape from an 8-pointer Harold’s youngest son, Scott, shot with a crossbow in Monroe County on Oct. 27, 2015 was used for the new mount. That buck had a dressed weight of 185 pounds, so it was similar in size to the buck his grandfather shot in the U.P. back in 1923.

The refurbished mount was presented to Harold by his three sons (Scott, Dan and John) 93 years after George bagged the buck that grew the rack. To make the 2016 deer season even more special, Harold shot a buck, a 4-pointer, on Nov. 16 – the same date his father connected on the U.P. 9-pointer in 1923 – while hunting out of his cabin at Hawks.

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