B&C World's Record – Non-typical Sitka Blacktail

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In 1987, at 4 a.m. on a foggy August morning in southeast Alaska, William B. Steele had a decision to make: continue driving for 20 miles on gravel roads to reach his Sitka blacktail deer hunting area, or turn around? He’d chosen a large unnamed mountain to hunt, but the closer he got, the thicker the fog became.

When he reached the mountain he decided to hunt. But the weather was so bad, he almost turned around several times during a mile-long hike to the top of a 1,500-foot ridge. An hour later Steele reached a pass on the ridge, and as he picked his way through the fog he inadvertently jumped a few deer. Frustrated, he wondered why he was even there.

Overlooking a large bowl, Steele decided to take a break and glass for animals. As he ate a sandwich, he noticed a group of Sitka blacktails (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) 1,200 yards away, across the valley in a muskeg. Through the fog and mist, Steele got a glance at what looked to be a heavy-antlered deer. He decided to work his way across the bowl and try to get closer. He made a mental note of where the deer stood, took a compass bearing, and headed through the brush.

The wind was light and swirling, but mostly in his face as he started to creep through the timber toward the spot where he’d marked the deer. Eventually, he ran out of cover and had to proceed across an open muskeg toward the next stand of trees.

Suddenly, in the wide open, Steele spotted two of the largest bucks he’d ever seen, feeding through the trees, just 125 feet away. They were moving to his right when he noticed a stiff-legged doe to his left. Busted, he froze. The doe knew something was wrong, but couldn’t determine the threat. Out of the corners of his eyes Steele glanced at the bucks. One had fed nearly into view.

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Knowing time was running out, Steele slowly raised his .30-06 and leaned to the right as far as he could without tipping over. He could see most of the buck past the tree so he put the crosshairs on its shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The buck jumped and then raced out of sight through the muskeg. It piled up no more than 150 feet away from Steele.

Steele packed out the animal and was on his way home when a dump truck driver behind him signaled him to pull over. The driver got out and told him he had shot a deer the week before that measured in the 125-point class, and he thought that Steele’s looked to be as big. After the velvet was removed and the trophy dried, it was officially scored at 126-2/8 points.

Editor’s Note: When William B. Steele’s Sitka blacktail was originally measured, it was scored as a typical because there was no non-typical category. When the non-typical Sitka blacktail category was created at the beginning of the Boone and Crockett Club’s 25th Awards Period, the score on Steele’s great trophy was changed to 134 points. It now stands as the largest Sitka blacktail ever recorded.
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>