The day before Halloween 2018, Michigan native Corey Memering walked into the woods near his home, hoping to encounter a deer he and other hunters knew lurked nearby, but almost none had seen with their own eyes. Little did he know, he’d never make it to his treestand, and emerge from the forest within the hour to ask friends for help tracking one of the largest whitetails ever shot in the Wolverine State.
As a kid, Memering says he had an unconventional induction into the sport of bowhunting. His father wasn’t an avid hunter, but he still took him on a few family deer hunts when Corey was around 5 or 6 years old. During the hunts, he became fascinated by archery. Despite his mother’s objections, Memering’s father gave him an old recurve bow and even helped him create a makeshift target range in the backyard.
“There was just something about the whole arrow in flight that seemed to draw me to the sport. When I was about seven, my dad gave me a bucket of pennies and said, ‘You roll ‘em, you can have ‘em.’ I rolled those suckers for hours at night. I’d count out fifty and put them in those little paper sleeves. When I had a bunch, I’d tag along with dad to the bank and cash in,” Memering says. “I made eight or ten dollars my first trip, and can remember buying my first bow on layaway at Kmart. It took a little while but I eventually paid it off. I can remember flinging arrows in the back yard for hours just trying to see how far back from the target I could get and still hit it.”
When Memering turned 16, he bought a new bow and got his driver’s license, which he says completely opened up a new bowhunting world to him.
“I had some close family friends who were really into the outdoors that mentored me. I’d ask questions and hang on every word of their answers. We would shoot each other’s nocks off and roll around on the ground laughing.”
When he killed his first deer on a small parcel that he gained permission for simply by knocking on the door and asking, something inside him ignited. Bowhunting went from a hobby to an obsession.
He used the off season and his spare time to continue asking for permission to hunt other properties, and found he had a knack for talking to people. Many times he’d talk to complete strangers, including some that were borderline aggressive, but often he’d still get permission to hunt.
Memering married his wife Katie (who also bowhunts) when he was only 19 years old. He says the rural area around their Saline, Michigan, home is familiar, but different compared to when they grew up, thanks to burgeoning growth from nearby Ann Arbor. Some of their favorite small farms and parcels transformed into newly constructed neighborhoods. When the housing market tanked years ago, the Memerings took advantage and moved their young family into one of those communities.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘subdivision’ kind a guy, but for now it works. I get some pretty awkward stares from neighbors though when I’m flinging arrows across the yard,” Memering says. “This place is home to us. Both of our folks and siblings are still within a few miles in either direction, so it’s nice. I grew up less than a mile south of where I live now, but I sometimes feel like a fish out of water here. I’m known in the neighborhood as the guy that drives the big black truck. But we abut terrific deer habitat. It’s a patchwork of small and large acreage, but growing up, it was the spot to deer hunt.”
Corey is no stranger to large deer. All told, there are seven Pope & Young trophy-sized racks on his wall, all taken with a bow under fair-chase principles (he refuses to hunt over bait or use a gun).
“It’s bow or nothing,” he says.
So in late October, 2017, when a neighbor a half-mile away casually texted a deer photo from a trail camera, Memering and his wife instantly recognized that the buck was beyond big.
“Katie is relatively new to the sport, but even she recognized this deer is a giant whitetail and says, ‘That’s gotta be a 200-inch deer,’” Memering says. “Instantly I know it’s a giant, but at the time, we have no idea where it’s from. I mean, for Michigan, this kind of deer is just unheard of,” Memering says.
As fate would have it, a few days later, while trick-or-treating with their kids and other neighbors, Corey’s wife, Katie, watched the same deer cross a cut bean field on the outskirts of their small subdivision.
“She comes running over to me and she’s got this ghost-like look on her face. ‘Come here! Come here! You gotta see this thing!’ she says and quickly motions for me to take a look for myself. I quickly realize not only is the trail camera image not a fake, but that the deer is actually right under my nose.”
The next day the owner of the bean field gave Memering permission to hunt, but the deer didn’t reappear for the rest of the season. Reluctantly, he tried to put the deer at the back of his mind. But as the weeks and months passed, he didn’t hear or see any indication that the deer was dead.
“A deer like this doesn’t get killed without people talking, ya know?” Memering says.
By March, Memering decided he would make a full-court press to find and harvest the buck.
He studied satellite images and drove the backroads over and over again, scouting what he thought was the deer’s home range. Next he collected information on who owned each property, and just started knocking on doors. He was able to get a few nods from willing property owners, but quickly realized he wasn’t alone in this chase. Hesitant replies from some neighbors only confirmed he might actually be closer to finding the deer than he thought.
He knocked on countless doors. If there was even a sliver of land that had potential, he tracked down the owner—even going as far as paying for an online background check to find someone, and then spending nearly an hour knocking on doors with his kids, far from his own home, in order to find the man. Eventually he found the landowner and secured permission. That parcel wasn’t the piece he killed the deer on, but it demonstrates Memering’s level of commitment.
Meanwhile, gaining access to what would later become the most important 11 acres in Memering’s hunting career almost didn’t happen.
“I knocked on a lady’s door and gave her my spiel. She literally shakes her head and says, ‘Absolutely not! We don’t like hunting. We like to see the deer.’ I tell her it’s no problem and thank her for her time. But for whatever reason we kept talking. She asked about my kids and we laughed at her crazy dogs. We covered everything from diesel trucks to camping and so on. After 45 minutes, she looks at me seriously and asks, ‘You only want to bowhunt?’ I said ‘Yes ma’am, I only want to bowhunt.’ She shoots me a thinking-grin look and says ‘If you promise you won’t bring anyone else out here, I’ll talk to my husband.’ Of course I agreed. Later that night she texts me a very simple, ‘You’re in!’”
Memering gained hunting access to several small parcels of land owned by several different landowners. For weeks he checked and moved trail cameras around possible travel corridors and bedding areas in an effort to pattern the deer’s movements, but he couldn’t find the animal.
“It was really discouraging at times. Deep down I knew he had to be there, somewhere close, but why hadn’t I caught him on camera yet?”
In the end, he decided to focus his hunting efforts on just four acres in the back of the 11 acres he’d received permission to hunt.
“It sounds even crazy to say it, but I felt like it was the right place. Sure, it was a small piece of land, but it had great bedding on one side and everything else the deer needed on the other. I just needed him to show up and maybe make a mistake.”
Memering didn’t realize just how close he was until October 1, 2018.
“It’s been years since I’ve hunted opening day of bow season in Michigan and this year was no exception. I didn’t have much vacation time and, in my opinion, the chances of a deer this size being on his feet during daylight in early October was almost zero. The weather was warm, the wind was wrong, and it was hard to get too excited when I didn’t even know if he was still around.”
Five days later, Memering checked his trail cameras and realized just how unpredictable this elusive buck really was.
“I pulled a few cards and BAM! My jaw dropped. There he was on opening day at 9 a.m. and only 10 yards from one of my sets!”
As disheartening as it was to know he missed a chance at the deer, seeing the buck’s image confirmed so many unknowns for Memering: the deer was alive, it was huge, but more importantly, it had made a small chunk of land its home.
“Everything changed for me that day. I went from trying so hard to find this deer to obsessing over his every move. I watched every weather front, every wind change. I knew everything from the average temp to the expected barometric pressure for the next five days,” he says. “I wanted to know if there was a traceable pattern—a certain wind, time of night, all the possible directions it could travel. It consumed me!”
Memering’s cameras didn’t get another picture of the buck until eight days after the first. By then, he had spent hours strategizing and daydreaming over the deer. He knew he was close, but couldn’t let himself get too excited. He says he knew there were still some pieces of the puzzle to figure out.
“I didn’t start getting really serious until around October 20, because it seemed like the deer’s rotation took him through the area every three or four days. I only hunted the deer five times total and never stepped foot on the property unless the wind was perfect or it was pouring rain.”
By the middle of the month, Memering had a string of images of the deer, including a few pics that reinforced his opinion the buck had a world-class rack. In fact, one morning the buck triggered a trail camera near a treestand just fifteen minutes before Memering climbed into it. That same morning, he passed on two different Pope & Young sized deer before climbing down to move a camera and search for another tree to relocate his stand.
“The football game between Michigan and Michigan State is a big deal around here. Everyone’s throwing a party. I left one at my in-laws to hang a stand in the nastiest thunderstorm you can imagine. There was hail, high winds, pelting rain, thunder, and lightning and I literally thought there was a chance someone might find me dead next to an oak tree in the morning,” he says, laughing. “But I hung the stand, cut some shooting lanes, and got out of there. In my mind, it was the perfect weather to make an aggressive move, and it just happened to be where I was heading the day i killed the deer.”
Later that week, at his kid’s soccer game, an acquaintance that lives almost two miles from Memering says he wants to show him an image of a deer that has at least 18 points his trail camera photographed. A wave of panic rushes over Memering. Could it be the same deer he’s after? Sure enough, it is. Inside, Memering is exploding, but he maintains his composure, nods his head, and agrees it’s an impressive deer. With other hunters now on the deer’s trail, and the rut rapidly approaching, he knows he has to close the deal, fast. So on October 30, he decides to sit as long as he can and only break for lunch if activity was slow.
“It was a slow morning hunt so I decided to move a camera from one side of the property to another. As I’m positioning the camera, I catch movement off my left side, 30 yards away. I quickly realize this buck is either stepping through a thicket, or getting up from its bed and I freeze, but he’s bobbing his head, trying to find a hole to look at me,” Memering says. “My gut sinks as I realize it’s gotta be him. Eventually, after a few tense moments, he bounds a couple yards away, but it’s so thick, he never gets a good look at me. I didn’t realize it, but I left the trail camera on, so there are a few close up images of my face with an ‘Oh no!’ look.”
Dejected, Memering quietly slips out of the woods, meets his wife for lunch to explain what happened, and concedes that despite all his work, he may have just spooked the deer of a lifetime and blown his one opportunity at the buck.
“She knows how to push me and give me some tough love when needed. She actually said, ‘Suck it up, get yourself together and get back out there.’”
Fortunately, her pep talk worked and Memering decided to return to the woods.
“This time, I took a different route to my stand, and I caught movement in the exact same spot, so I dropped to my knees as fast as I could, unloaded my gear, grabbed my rangefinder, and nocked an arrow,” Memering says. “A doe was facing away from me, and there was another deer behind her, but I couldn’t see what it was because of all the brush. I started creeping closer and I got within 10 feet of the stand I hung in the thunderstorm.”
Moments later, the woods seem to come alive with movement. Deer that Memering didn’t see on his way in suddenly surrounded him, including a small six-point buck grunting and salivating, hoping to make a play for the doe in front of him.
“About five minutes later, the deer in the brush steps into an opening, thrashes its antlers in a sapling, and lets out the gnarliest grunt I’ve ever heard. I quickly realize it’s him. It’s the deer I’m after. My nerves shoot through the roof,” Memering says. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘You can’t force this Corey. You’ve done all you can. This is as close as you’re going to get. Just let it unfold in front of you.’”
The doe slowly moves toward a shooting lane, and the buck follows close behind her. From a crouched position, still on the ground, Memering draws his bow, and prepares for a shot he estimates is slightly over 20 yards. Just as the doe enters the window, she stops, squats, raises her tail, and lets the buck climb on top to breed. Memering realizes it’s now or never.
“I shoot with a green Lumenok, so as soon as the arrow leaves the bow, I see it’s a good shot; right behind his shoulder. Immediately, deer scatter everywhere. I’m watching all around and stay crouched until the commotion dies down,” Memering says.
He knew it was a good hit, but he didn’t follow the buck just yet.
“I’m in complete disbelief about what just happened and I walk back 30 yards to an opening and drop to my knees. ‘What just happened?’ I kept saying. ‘What did I just do?” No one is going to believe this—including my wife,’” Memering says. “I always imagined what I’d say to her if I killed a deer like this, but none of it came out the way I planned. ‘It’s over,’ is all I could say to her. ‘He’s dead!’ She almost didn’t believe me. ‘There’s no way,’ she says. ‘It’s only 4:15!’
Memering’s next phone call was to a friend who was heading out to hunt himself, but changed his mind to help recover the buck. Word spread quickly, and soon other friends were en route to help track. As he waited for them to arrive, Memering walked back into the woods. He found blood but no arrow, and slipped back out, second-guessing every moment of his experience.
“I think it’s normal for a hunter to replay or second guess things you think you saw. I gave the deer about three hours to be safe, but after we found the arrow, the blood trail got thicker, and thicker. I was about five yards ahead of my buddies when I spotted the deer first. I dropped my bow in the weeds and threw my arms up and we celebrated. There were high fives, fist bumps, laughs, and hugs all around,” he says. “What’s crazy is I’ve written a thousand scripts in my head for how I thought this would all play out, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d shoot this thing on Oct 30, at 4:15, from the ground, on my way into the stand, through thick brush, while he was breeding a doe—never. I was in pure shock. I’m still in shock.”
News of Memering’s accomplishment spread through the community like wildfire, and cars and trucks lined his street from people wanting to see the trophy in the back of his truck.
“It definitely got away from me. I had countless texts and calls from people I knew, people I hadn’t seen in years, and even people I had never heard of. It was all over the place.”
While many were quick to congratulate the hunter, in the days the followed, some sought to vilify him, and the entire experience took on a new life after he posted photos on Facebook.
“I hate Facebook. But my friend pulled me away and said, ‘You need to put something out there because rumors are already flying and you need to set the record straight,’” Memering says. “We had over five thousand friend requests, out of the blue. And along with it, all the skeptics and haters came out. But this kind of stuff honestly doesn’t bother me at all. The big man upstairs knows how it all went down.”
Despite the naysayers, the upset hunters in the area, and all the other good, bad, and ugly thrown Memering’s way since he released an arrow October 30, he says people’s reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and the number one question on everybody’s mind is: What did the deer actually score?
“When I picked the deer up for the first time, I still didn’t know what I was looking at. In the back of my mind, I convinced myself the rack was over 200-inches, but I tend to estimate on the short side. At home, I grabbed a fabric tape measure and with a buddy’s help, we roughed scored it at 228 inches.” Memering says. “Later that night, the official green gross score came in at 227 2/8 inches. It has 23 scorable points and even before the end of the mandatory drying period, people tell me the deer will make the list of top five largest archery-killed deer taken in Michigan—most likely fourth place. It’s the seventh largest taken with any weapon, and it’s the largest deer taken in Michigan in fourteen years.”
If you think Memering’s hunting season couldn’t get any better, you’re wrong. A few days after taking the largest deer in his life, he was back in Ohio hunting properties he also secured through a smile and a handshake. Eventually, he filled his tag—with another Pope & Young class buck, and his third best deer overall.
“It’s been a good year, and I’m extremely grateful and blessed to have had it all come together. I don’t expect to ever top this deer, but I would love to find another good one to chase in the years to come.”