Law enforcement directs the traffic backup. As it creeps forward, you arrive at Pat and Gary’s Party Store, revealing a glimpse into northern Michigan’s culture. The locals refer to the venue as simply Pat and Gary’s, and there you’ll find one of Michigan’s largest Buck Poles, where they have been celebrating the bounty of the woods for about 30 years.
What is a Buck Pole?
Pat and Gary sponsor an annual Buck Pole on the opening day of Firearm Deer season, November 15. Hunters pre-register their deer, and most receive a prize if they bring them into the weigh station. Pat and Gary’s typically offer over $10,000 in prizes, everything from rifles to coolers.
A buck pole features a vertical A-frame on each end connected by a horizontal beam. Then, they weigh the bucks, record their antler points, and hang them from the buck pole by their antlers. On a typical opening day, you’ll find 65 to 85 bucks hanging from Pat and Gary’s Buck Pole.
Buck poles aren’t just for hunters but for the entire community to come out and look at the size of the bucks harvested in the area. Hunters become storytellers and the community listens.
Where to Get Hunting Supplies in Indian River
Pat and Gary’s Party Store and Sports
If you’re hunting near Indian River, Pat and Gary’s Party Store will be a necessary stop before, during, and after your hunt. First, they sell hunting licenses, rifles, and almost everything you’ll need to have on hand for a successful hunt. They offer northern Michigan’s largest selection of archery and firearms, two floors of sporting goods guns, knives, ammunition, and even Irish Setter boots.
If you need a quick lunch, they offer pizza by the slice and a selection of groceries.
After the hunt, northern Michigan’s most extensive beer and liquor selection. And, of course, the community’s excitement admiring the buck pole’s various bucks.
Pat and Gary’s II
Of course, you’ll need sustenance for the big hunt, and Pat and Gary’s II, a convenience store on S. Straits Highway, offers that. They sell several items you may have forgotten to pack and a small selection of groceries. But what sets Pat and Gary’s II apart is their pizza and grinders, also known as subs.
Each grinder is more than a foot long. But don’t worry, you can order a half or share a whole one. Made to order, they’re fresh. This is an excellent place for a quick grab-and-go lunch or dinner.
For other places to eat in Indian River during deer hunting season check out this article.
Where to Hunt in Indian River
While the area has plenty of great hunting grounds, here are a few suggestions. Hunting rules and regulations may change throughout the season. Review the DNR Hunting website for current information.
Little Traverse Conservancy
Many of the land parcels are open to hunting. However, you must complete a Releases and Hold Harmless permission form on each where you want to hunt. Note there is a limit of four parcels per hunter.
Once you submit the form, they send an automated permission form to your email. Check your email and spam folder for the permission form. You must carry a copy of the signed form with you while hunting. This can include a digital copy on your phone.
Boyd B. Banwell Nature Preserve
The Boyd B. Banwell Nature Preserve, 400 acres, is one parcel within the Little Traverse Conservancy and features three miles of shoreline along the Pigeon River. The Boyd B. Banwell Nature Preserve is open to unrestricted hunting. Note the application form mentioned above applies. However, be aware that the neighboring Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve is closed to hunting. Check out this link to other places to hunt in the Little Traverse Conservancy in Cheboygan County.
Here is a link to the rules that apply to all Little Traverse Conservancy lands where you can hunt. Motorized vehicles aren’t allowed. You much park and walk in.
Address: Riverwood Road / Dunn Road, Afton, MI 49705
Directions: Take M-68 east from the town of Indian River, approximately 5.3 miles. On the left, look for the sign and parking area.
Pigeon River Country State Forest
The Pigeon River Country State Forest (PCR), also known as the Big Wild, is 109,000 acres. While it is just a few miles southeast of Indian River and the closest town is Wolverine, it seems far removed from civilization. Keeping with that wild personality, the area lacks infrastructure and signage. Also, be aware your mobile phone may not work in this area, so don’t depend on it.
While hunting in state forests, you will need a Michigan Recreation Passport.
Here are some rules to follow when hunting in PCR.
Drake’s Guiding Services
If you aren’t familiar with Indian River, your hunt may be more successful with a guide. Check out Drake’s Guiding Services, where their expertise includes elk hunting.
Mandatory Deer Harvest Report
New in 2022 is the Mandatory Deer Harvest Reporting requirement, where deer hunters must report their harvest within 72 hours and before transferring possession of the deer, for example, to a processing business. In addition, you can register your successful hunt online or log in to e-license.
Another helpful tool is the new Hunt Fish Mobile App, where you can have everything you need to know about hunting on your phone.