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Two-day hunt, wrestling match subdues buck

By D'Arcy Egan, The Plain Dealer

November 20, 2009

This feature was written by Bob Kingsley of the Muskegan Chronicle

MUSKEGON COUNTY - Fruitland Township deer hunter Jeff Holtrop, with help from his father, Jim, and brother, Nick, got a huge buck this week.

But the 14-point monster will be forever dwarfed by the story of how the deer met its doom.

Jeff Holtrop, 40, feels lucky he’s alive to tell it, after what he describes as a prolonged hand-to-horn wrestling match in an Ottawa County cornfield.

Holtrop’s battle with the deer on Monday ended when his father, hearing the younger hunter’s screams, shot the aggressive animal as it stood over his son.

The Holtrops’ story began on Sunday — opening day for firearms deer season. Jim, Jeff and Nick were hunting in a Conklin-area cornfield.

Nick wounded a large buck in the leg. They tracked it, but found nothing — not even a blood trail.

“I wasn’t ready to give up, so the next morning we went out again looking for it,” Jeff Holtrop said.

“While walking in a field of standing corn, I heard a deer crashing through the stalks,” Holtrop said. “I tracked it for about a mile and then heard it again as it crashed through another cornfield.

“As I worked my way from one cornrow to another, I had my .50 caliber muzzleloader cocked and ready to fire,” Holtrop said.

He knew the deer was nearby, but in the thick cornfield, he had no idea how close.

“I never saw him, and out of nowhere he hit me so hard it took me off my feet,” Holtrop said. “My muzzleloader discharged in the air, and the only thing I could do was to grab hold of his horns and I didn’t dare let go.”

Holtrop said he yelled for help, but his screams were lost in the blowing wind.

“With me hanging on as best I could, we continued to roll around to the point where we had flattened a huge area of the cornfield. I didn’t have a knife, so my only option was to hang on and keep yelling for help.

“Fortunately, my frantic calls were heard by my father.”

Jim Holtrop arrived to find his son and the deer, both on the ground, with the deer in a headlock. Jeff released the deer, it rose, and Jim fired the fatal shot at point-blank range.

Jeff estimated the fight lasted more than 15 minutes. It seemed like an eternity as he tried to avoid being gored or kicked with sharp hooves.

Although battered, bruised, and somewhat exhausted from his harrowing ordeal, Holtrop emerged from the battle in relatively good shape.

“One of the tines went all the way through my hunting clothes and also put a hole in my jeans,” Holtrop said. “Other than a few cuts on my fingers, my only problem now is getting my voice back.

“After all that yelling and screaming, my throat is still sore and I’m pretty hoarse,” Holtrop said, when interviewed Tuesday.

The buck, after being field-dressed, weighed in at 159 pounds. Its live weight is estimated at 190-195 pounds — more than Holtrop, a roofer by trade.

DNR wildlife biologist Nik Kalejs said such attacks by deer on humans are “very rare, to say the least.”

“It does happen at times with deer in captivity, but in the wild even the larger deer will flee. It’s hard to say whether this situation was the result of being wounded or hormonal due to being in the rut.

“In any case, events such as this are as rare as hen’s teeth,” Kalejs said.

Holtrop said he has no doubt it’s the same deer his brother shot the day before. The buck had evidence of a recent leg wound.

“I personally testify that it was in very healthy condition during our battle,” Holtrop said.

Kalejs said that without examining the deer, it’s difficult to say how old it might be.

“But I think it’s safe to say that it’s probably 3.5 years or more,” Kalejs said. “And from what I’ve seen this week at our check station, none have had a bigger rack.”

So which Holtrop gets credit for bagging the big buck?

Nick fired the initial shot, Jeff did the dirty work, and Jim administered the fatal blow.

You might call it a family affair.

Premium Member
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When I was stationed outside of Jacksonville, FL during the early 60s. I was invited to a club deer hunt with hounds. They placed standers completely around a section and turned the dogs loose. After a bit, a C.O. truck came along and said hop in the dogs are running the other way, we'll run you over there. Now, I'm standing in the road shucking .30-30s out of my levergun and the C.O. says. "What the **** are ya doin. Ya can't kill a deer with an empty rifle, get in the truck. We get over there and the dogs are running a fawn. The word went down the line...Catch up the dogs. Myself and another young guy were where they were going to break out and some guy yells "Don't try to catch the dogs......grab the deer and we'll have the dogs. Well, sure enough she came out...eyes wide and rolling, tongue hangin out and staggering with the dogs behind in the same condition. This other young dude and I ran her down and tackled her. In half a second we were smothered with hounds. The other guys were right there and caught up the dogs and we turned the little guy loose. It was a crazy experience.

Later that day, the civilian that invited me and I were standing where the deer came through and Scotty downed a nice 6 point with OO buck, couldnt find a mark on it. Later, we found one buckshot had severed the spine.


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He was real lucky he did not get gored. Some years back a guy down state raised deer and a buck gored him. He went through a lot of sickness etc...because of bacteria etc.

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