LeRoy ranch offers hunters chance to bag trophy deer

LEROY — Deep in the woods just south of LeRoy, herds of whitetail deer parade through fields of clover, wheat and rye.

Jerry McQuestion owns 500 acres of land, called Rack-A-Tack Ranch, where more than 250 deer roam relatively free and wild.

"I try to regulate the number of deer I have," he said. "I try to keep numbers down, so I can afford to keep feeding them. The feed is expensive and they multiply fast — many times they will have twins."

An avid hunter his entire life, McQuestion is from the LeRoy area and is a retired road construction worker who helped build portions of U.S. 131. He acquired the ranch property in 1990, and made it into a ranch in 1998 after managing the land through the years. Once fencing was in place, he purchased does and bucks from a selection of breeders in the country. He also purchases elk from a breeder near Scottville.

From September to December, hunters of all ages from near and far travel to the ranch to hunt. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources checks on the property each year, and McQuestion is required a permit to keep the ranch operational. Since he owns the deer, hunters do not need a licence and can use either gun or bow to harvest a doe or buck. Hunters can navigate the land using one of five guides.

"I set up trail cameras in the fall after the buck's horn growth and show hunters where they hang out," he said. "Hunters can look at the picture and pick one out and ask how much it is, and I just guess because I can't score them when they're out there live. I try to closely judge the score and tell them approximately what the deer will cost."

He charges hunters by the measurement of the antlers using a score sheet.

For example, once a buck is harvested, McQuestion will take several measurements on each antler — from where each tine tip meets the main beam, the length of the main beam, a mass measurement by measuring four circumferences of the main beam. The spread also is measured and scored. The combination of the scores will tell the price, which begins at $1,500. Hunters also are welcome to stay at a small, rustic cabin located on the property.

McQuestion keeps track of all the deer on the ranch, doing his best to control population and catalog fawns in the spring. He attempts to maintain a one buck to two doe ratio, but it can be difficult because of the high acreage. Last year, 43 bucks and 60 does were harvested, and each doe typically gives birth to two fawns.

"I use different color tags with different numbers. Every year I try to change colors of the tags," he said. "Two years ago I used red tags starting with the numbers one through 25, and I used yellow tags this year. It's to try to identify their age because it's hard to judge the age of deer just by looking at them. I like to keep track of the age of the bucks especially."

With the help of the fenced-in area, deer are protected from most predators such as bear and coyote, though bald eagles can be a problem for fawns. Medicine in the feed of corn, oats, soy beans and minerals helps keep disease and illness at bay, but Mother Nature is still the ruler of the land.

McQuestion's ranch not only attracts hunters from Michigan, but also from Texas, Georgia, Nevada and other southern and western states.

Lonnie Smith, known as "Bubba," has traveled to the ranch from Haddock, Ga., for the past two years and plans to return this September, bringing family and friends.

"What we enjoy is they make you feel like you're family," Smith said. "It's a lot of fun. The fence only controls the quality, and the deer can hear and smell you just like they can outside the fence. It doesn't deter from the experience."

Smith's largest catch on the ranch was a 15-point buck, but he also has walked away with an 11-point.

"I think Jerry and his ranch offers one of the best values for what you get," he said, noting he can pay double the price for a smaller deer in Texas.

Apart from providing hunting opportunities, McQuestion finds and sells antlers, shed by unharvested bucks in late winter. This year, he received $10 per pound for a set. In addition, he sells and donates venison.

For more information about Rack-A-Tack Ranch, call Jerry McQuestion at (231) 499-6073.