Brace yourself, this one's a doozy for SoCal.
BIGGEST BUCK EVER? Jim Matthews column-ONS - 29oct09
San Bernardino Mountains' buck may be the biggest ever taken from local mountains
By JIM MATTHEWS, www.OutdoorNewsService.com
Richard Sturgis has hunted deer in the San Bernardino Mountains for over 30 years, and this past Sunday he shot what may be the largest buck ever taken from the region. The old deer was a heavy-horned, symmetrical, five-by-five buck with cheater points protruding out of both sides of the main frame.
"I couldn't believe it was on this mountain," said Sturgis, a 43-year-old San Bernardino resident who has taken at least one buck a year from the local mountains "for as long as I can remember."
Taxidermist Herman Magenheim of Herman's Taxidermy in Beaumont said it was the best buck he's ever seen from the San Bernardino Mountains. "He's a dandy," said Magenheim. He's' a deer you'd have shot in Utah or Colorado, and he's the best I've ever seen here. I'd say he'd score 170 or 180 points [using the Boone and Crocket scoring system."
A 160-point buck of the mule deer subspecies (California) that live in the local mountains is the equivalent of a 220-class Rocky Mountain mule deer, a much bigger subspecies. A buck gross scoring over 170 from the local mountains is simply unprecedented.
Fires that have burned massive areas of the National Forest over the last decade have turned old, decadent chaparral habitat that was poor forage for deer into a veritable supermarket of high value browse. The good feed is growing better antlers and bigger deer, and production has been better in the burn areas.
Mangenheim said he was seeing a lot of quality bucks from all of the local deer zones, and he thought the recent fires were a big factor in the increased number and quality of deer taken in the local mountains.
The late Bonnar Blong, a former Department of Fish and Game deer biologist for this region, said fire suppression was one of the worst things for our local deer herds. Deer thrive in burned areas. One of his colleagues quoted Blong as saying, "The problem with these arsonists is that we need to get them a map. They've got the right idea, but they start these fires in all the wrong places to help our deer."
Recent fires have burned some of the right spots if the latest crop of deer being taken by local hunters is any indication.
Sturgis, who had to pack his boned out and caped buck out of a nasty canyon, said he thought the live weight of his deer was around 200 pounds.. That is a healthy buck.
Hunters will be interested to know this buck wasn't miles into the backcountry. In fact, Sturgis said they spotted the buck from a paved road with a 20-power spotting scope in a steep, rocky area that had been burned five years ago. The buck was spotted Oct. 23, and Sturgis tried to get a hunting buddy in on the buck on Friday. His friend got a shot at the deer, but managed to only punch a hole through the buck's ear and spook it off into a deep canyon.
Sturgis spent the next three days hunting this big deer and finally got his chance Wednesday when he spotted the buck again. His long stalk brought him within range of the buck, but the deer sensed or heard Sturgis and was moving over a small saddle. Winded, Sturgis decided not to take a hurried shot like his hunting buddy had done Friday. Sturgis climbed higher and sat down, watching a clearing and ridgeline. The buck snuck back up over the ridge and Sturgis made the 200 yard shot in the late afternoon.
While it was only about an hour hike to the truck, it took Sturgis until past dark to backpack the meat and cape out to his vehicle out of the nasty canyon where it ended up after the shot.
"It took me 30 years to get a buck like this," said Sturgis. "I doubt if I'll ever see another one this big."
Congrats Richard, there are some of us with tags who won't sleep a wink now after seeing that pic. Heck of a buck for D14.
FYI for those licking the screen and wondering if there are any D14 tags left, the zone sold out this year for the first time in a few years. The Station Fire closure pushed a lot of D11 hunters over our way I think this year.