2016-10-06 / Outdoors

54-year wait for big buck

Otherwise, warm temps slow deer
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff

CHICO LUNA with the biggest buck he has shot in 54 years of hunting, taken on the opening day of archery deer season near Omena. CHICO LUNA with the biggest buck he has shot in 54 years of hunting, taken on the opening day of archery deer season near Omena. “I got lucky this year,” recalled Chico Luna, with his wife, Mary, by his side. “I’ve been waiting to shoot one of these guys for a long time.

“How long?” he asked, looking at Mary.

“Fifty-four years,” she replied without hesitation.

The Lunas, who moved to Leelanau County 54 years ago as migrant workers from Texas, will have plenty of venison over the winter as Chico’s “luck” on opening day of archery deer season brought down an 8-point buck that weighed 200 pounds.

Elsewhere around the county, hunters generally reported seasonally slow deer activity that can likely be explained by warm temperatures. The thermometer only dropped to 59 degrees Friday night, and slid to just 56 degrees Saturday and Sunday nights, according to readings posted for Maple City on the National Weather Service website.

Luna was hunting in a swamp near Omena owned by one of the first people he met after moving to the county. “He was the first person I met when we were migrants,” Luna recalled.

He bypassed his hunting stand and opted to sit quietly on the ground with his back against a tree in the drizzle.

Before Luna could pour a cup of coffee, he saw the doe. And then the buck.

They were too far away, though, even for his crossbow. Chico, 75, hunted with a compound bow until recent years when he had surgery on both of his rotator cuffs.

“I’ve read a lot about hunting, and they say when it’s raining like that deer won’t smell you. I saw that deer from 75 yards away, and it took a long time before I got a shot.”

It was by far the biggest buck he had ever shot, topping the younger bucks weighing 130- to 140-pounds that he had previously harvested. Last year he shot one of those bucks, a 6-point, during the firearms season.

This buck was different. He called his brother-in-law to help, and then beckoned his neighbor who was hunting nearby.

“It took three guys to drag that deer out of the swamp,” Chico said.

Continued Mary, a retired custodian for Northport Public School, “Three old guys.”

The Lunas are having their buck processed in Traverse City, then Chico plans to make venison jerky with some of the steaks.

Its head is being mounted by Dean Williams, owner of Artistic Wildlife Taxidermy in Cedar.

If Luna’s name sounds familiar, it may be because he’s the guitar player and singer with Chico and the Other Band, which will be playing at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, at Leelanau Sands Casino.

On other nights, though, you’re more likely to find Luna in his favorite swamp, the one he’s been hunting for 40 years. He has another buck tag and two antlerless tags. His son Darryl, a Northport School graduate, is retired after 32 years in the Navy. He lives in Florida but plans to return to Leelanau County in November to hunt.

“Hopefully we can get one more, and we’ll have a lot of jerky,” Luna said.

Dan Plamondon, owner of Cherry Bend Grocery in Elmwood Township, said he took in one buck and a few does for processing after archery opening day. He estimated the 8-point buck to be 2 1/2-years-old and have a 16-inch inside spread.

“It’s been kind of slow, only because of the warm weather,” Plamondon reported. “They aren’t moving a whole lot yet.”

Plamondon has hunted twice and not seen a deer. One coyote passed out of range.

“But guys are having fun. The ones who have been doing well are hunting on private land and most are probably baiting,” he said.

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