Frank Schmaltz of LeRoy, Mich., shot a 25-point buck recently, two days before his 79th birthday.
The biggest deer he's ever seen -- an escapee from a nearby deer farm -- has since been processed into several pounds of ground meat that his wife planned on using to make meatloaf and spaghetti.
And Schmaltz has big plans for the antlers.
"It's already at the taxidermist to be put into a shoulder mount," Schmaltz said, calling the animal a "one-in-a-lifetime deer."
Schmaltz was on his property in Osceola County, about 15 miles south of Cadillac, Mich., when he spotted the deer just before daybreak. He was sitting in a shed with a hole cut out of one wall for hunting.
"(The deer) was coming from the south, and came up in front of me. I couldn't see it until it got more daylight, about 7:30 in the morning. It was eating a sugar beet" left out for bait, Schmaltz said.
The deer was about 20 yards away when Schmaltz shot it with his crossbow. It ran several yards before falling. When Schmaltz got close, he couldn't believe his eyes.
It was a 25-point buck, confirmed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
"The largest I've seen before, myself personally, was a 9-point," he said.
Katie Keen, wildlife communications coordinator for the DNR, said a tag in the deer's ear indicated that it came from a privately owned deer facility in Osceola County.
The DNR is investigating the circumstances surrounding the animal's escape. By law, such facilities have to keep their animals contained. If an animal escapes, the facility's owner is required to call and report it to the DNR within 48 hours of discovering it was released.
If a hunter spots a deer that has escaped from such a facility, it's OK for him or her harvest it, Keen said.
The catch turned Schmaltz, who sells firewood, into a bit of a local celebrity. A local television news station did a segment on him.
"With this big of a deer, everybody is congratulating me," he said.
The day before Schmaltz bagged the buck, he bought a new pair of hunting boots as an early birthday present to himself.
Schmaltz has been hunting since he was 14. When he hangs his newest mount in his house, it will have plenty of company.
"I already have three bear heads in my home, a bear rug, and about five more deer heads," he said, "and one bear that was fully mounted."
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