The Sanctuary began in 1978 when a group of sportsmen/investors decided to band together and high-fence a large land parcel. They were tired of not seeing any large bucks and of their neighbors shooting every small buck they tried to let grow. No deer were imported or stocked. The founders simply paid the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for the six or so dozen deer estimated to be on the property, and those native northern whitetails were allowed to grow and thrive. The bucks simply matured into older age classes within the four square miles of hills, meadows, cedar swamps, creeks, hardwood slash and thick cover. Eventually, commercial hunting was implemented as the stock of mature bucks built up a surplus.
The original herd is now well over 1,000 strong, and all age classes are represented, with more bucks than does on the property. Through supplemental feeding, food plots and forest management, they have increased the average size of 20-week-old fawns 25 percent from when they started the program. At first, it was enough to provide clients with chances to hunt deer in the 140- to 170-gross class, with occasional larger bucks showing up. The program flourished so well, however, that a new approach was developed.
Pat Bollman, a founding member of the Sanctuary, says, "We really wanted to see how far we could take this thing. We were harvesting some four-year-old typicals that scored 180, and we wondered what those deer would be like........(continued)