STRANGE GH: Teacher engaged in ‘man vs. wild’ encounter

Jan 30, 2012


On Nov. 20, 1953, the avid hunter engaged in what the Grand Haven Tribune described as a “hand-to-antler struggle” with an “enraged” deer and lived to tell about it.

Sander’s confrontation with the buck took place at the Bass River gravel pits off Sleeper Street and North Cedar Drive. The man vs. beast battle lasted approximately one hour, though some stories carried by The Associated Press reported the engagement lasted “four hours.”

The “vicious ordeal” was reported on the front page of the Grand Haven Tribune the following day.

According to the report, Sanders was hunting alone at dusk when he spotted the buck and fired seven shots before running out of ammunition. Although riddled with buckshot, the 160-pound, 10-point buck repeatedly rose to its feet and “charged” the hunter. In the heat of the confrontation, Sanders broke a 3-inch club over the buck’s head, which failed to stop it.

Sanders then tackled the animal grabbing it around the neck in an attempt to wrestle it to the ground. During the excitement the teacher was repeatedly thrown against a tree; and, after an hour-long struggle, finally disabled the creature using a small knife.

Sanders suffered a laceration on his right hand, requiring stitches; and an antler gouge under his arm. There were also plenty of bruises.

After defeating the buck, an exhausted and bloodied Sanders walked a half-mile back to his vehicle and drove to the home of fellow teacher Frank Such, who lived close by on Mercury Drive. Such helped his friend by cleaning his wounds before assisting in recovery of the deer back at the gravel pits.

Frank Sanders was born Oct. 15, 1903, in Albion, and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and science from Albion College. He arrived in Grand Haven in 1928, when he began teaching at Grand Haven High School. He married the former Eva May Sanford, also a teacher. Sanders retired from the high school in 1969.

A relation of Sanders recently relayed that, after his battle with the deer became front page news, there were some who made a fuss about “cruelty to animals.” But, according to the Tribune, Sanders decided not to flee and chose to take down the animal with his bare hands because he was concerned that, in its enraged condition, the deer posed a threat to others.

“It was a fair fight,” Sanders told a reporter at the time. “We both weighed 160 pounds.”

Sanders served three and a half years in the U.S. Air Force, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel commander. He died Aug. 16, 1980 at the age of 76 and is buried in Lake Forest Cemetery.

Strangely, Sanders had a brother who had fought a buck with his bare hands sometime earlier. According to the Grand Haven Tribune, the sibling “often told Frank never to mess with a wounded deer.”

Apparently, the Sanders brothers had more in common than a shared love of hunting. They had both battled bucks and lived to tell about it.


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