On November 15, opening day of firearm deer season in Michigan, someone took down a 14-point buck that went on to receive top honors at a local buck pole for Gruesbeck. Gruesbeck, a 63-year-old farmer from Perry, Michigan, currently possesses the deer he claims he killed with a shot to the lungs. Gruesbeck’s neighbor, 42-year-old Tyrone Knauff, said he shot the deer and tracked it onto Gruesbeck’s property where he claims he came upon the deer with Gruesbeck standing over it, claiming that he shot it.
On opening day, Tyrone Knauff was hunting with his 15-year-old daughter. His son, Cody, 20, although not present on the day of the hunt, spoke to the media for his father, whom he said tries to stay out of the press whether the story is good or bad. Cody relayed Tyrone’s side of the story to us via telephone.
Cody Knauff said that his father shot the buck from about 100 to 105 yards away with a muzzleloader and then it took off for Gruesbecks’ property. They called Gruesbeck before they entered the property.
Gruesbeck was hunting at that time too. About five minutes after he got a call, a large buck snuck by his hunting shack. He shot it through the lungs from about 30 yards away and watched it fall six seconds later.
Tyrone said his bullet entered just above the shoulder and that he had a good blood trail he was following. When they arrived at the scene of the dead buck on Gruesbeck property, there was only one bullet hole to be seen on the corpse. Gruesbeck said he made the kill shot through the lungs. “He [Tyrone] said the bullet right behind the shoulder was his,” Gruesbeck said quoting Tyrone. “I says, ‘no, it’s a double lung.’ I showed him the blood on the trees, all over the ground. It looked like you took a five-gallon pail of blood and just threw it, I mean it was that bad.”
Yet, Tyrone said that he was following a legitimate blood trail with white, foamy air bubbles around the rim of the blood, indicative of a heart or lung shot. “The blood from getting shot in the leg is just blood,” Cody said. “There’s not much to it, maybe some long white hairs, but when it’s shot in the leg, not much blood. When it’s shot in the lung or the heart, you’re going to see air bubbles, you’re going to see a white, foamy substance surrounding the outer rim of the blood and that’s the difference here.”
The group went back to backtrack Knauff’s blood trail, but Gruesbeck claims that there was only about one drop of blood every 20 yards. “I mean, I’ve had worse nose bleeds,” Gruesbeck said. “The buck was only 30 yards from me when I shot and killed it. I shot him with my 12 gauge Remington shotgun with 3″ magnum shells […] my grandson, granddaughter, and my son, all three of us backtracked where the came onto my land. The buck was dropping like one drop of blood every 20 yards or so.” Gruesbeck attributes the blood trail that the buck was leaving before he took his shot to a surface wound that was later discovered on the buck’s hind leg, which he claims was likely Knauff’s impact.
Knauff began to snap pictures, but shortly after, Gruesbeck told him to leave his property. Gruesbeck entered the buck into the Mid-Michigan Buck Pole and won the regional contest. The Knauffs were visibly upset, but Gruesbeck maintains that it’s the killing shot that determines who keeps the deer and Gruesbeck believes he was the one who took it. At the time, he did not see any other wound that may have left a blood trail from Knauff’s shot.
Knauff has contacted the Michigan DNR’s Rose Lake Field Office in East Lansing, near the scene of the incident and left two voicemail messages and said he has yet to hear back. “This isn’t about the rack, […] this is a trophy buck and trophy buck isn’t defined by just the rack, it’s the body and the meat. And what really disappoints me is that somebody can take food right off of my dad’s, my family’s table. Take this wall mount right off his wall and put it on his; and go to this buck pole, win this buck pole and take those earnings and he had no part in it,” Knauff added.
Cody said his father has passed up deer for six years now and let his daughter or another fellow hunter take the shot, but this big buck commanded an attempt at his vitals. “He [Tyrone] got to a point in his life where you know, if you can take down a buck, he wants it to be a big buck,” Cody said. “He wants to let all the little ones mature and grow so that, you know, the big bucks aren’t so sparse. He’s been letting them grow and this buck was five years old.”
The DNR Rose Lake office did not pick up when called and a message left on their voicemail was not returned. When the main DNR office was contacted, representatives said they had not received any word of the incident. Organizers with the Buck Pole were also unaware of a dispute, but Cody Knauff said he has been trying to contact media . At this time, he has given up on contacting the DNR since he feels they won’t be able to do anything and that the deer won’t be regained.
Images courtesy of Cody Knauff and Ron Gruesbeck