Jim's Outdoor Blog

Hunting, RVing and Great Escapes – Everything Outdoors

Oregon’s ‘Newest’ Record Columbia Blacktail










Oregon’s 19th Century Trophy Blacktail


Roseburg resident Dave Heffner has been trained and certified as an official scorer for both Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young.  Because of his passion for hunting, he volunteers to measure the hard earned trophies of Oregon hunters, by working at the yearly Sportsman’s shows in Eugene, Roseburg and Medford.  February 2009 found him in Eugene, meeting with the proud owners of big game trophies, covering the spectrum from forked horn deer, to trophy sized Rocky Mountain elk and bleached white bear and cougar skulls.


Busily working to finish scoring the antlers in his hands, Dave hardly noticed the approach of a man carrying a mounted deer head and horns.  Although he’d barely glanced at the man, something in the back of his mind gnawed on him to look up.  When he did, he could scarcely believe his eyes.  Standing before him was Bob Suttles, holding what might have been the largest blacktail buck Dave had ever seen.  For a brief second he thought, “I didn’t know they came that big.”


Mr. Suttles’ blacktail deer had eight points on the right side and twelve on the left.  After deductions the rack officially scored 195-6/8 inches, making it the second largest non-typical blacktail buck recorded in the Record Book for Oregon’s Big Game Animals.  The largest buck on record has a score of 208-1/8 inches and the antlers of the buck holding the #3 position measure 184-2/8.   These two bucks were respectively harvested in 1962 and 1953, a fact that brings us to the rest of the story. 


Bob Suttles is not the hunter who brought this deer from the woods of western Oregon.  Truth be told, Mr. Suttles was not yet born when this exceptional buck was ‘first’ taken to a taxidermist.  Grover Cleveland was President of the United States when a lucky Oregon hunter harvested this deer in the fall of 1895!  Upon learning this, Dave telephoned me and we made arrangements to meet with Mr. Suttles.


This awesome buck was given to Bob Suttles by a coworker in 1985.  The buck had been relegated to the friend’s garage and was destined for a Lane County landfill.  Bob took it home so it could be enjoyed by his sons, both of whom were active hunters.  Understandably the head-mount was in poor condition after ninety years.  So, much to the chagrin of his wife, Lori, the nearly one-hundred year old deer mount found a home above the fireplace in their home.  The boys thought it was “way cool”.


As the story goes, this buck was taken in the Alsea Unit about fourteen miles west of the community of Alpine, Oregon, about thirty minutes west of I-5.  The right antler still holds a steel cable, secured to it by a state employee one year before Henry Ford invented his first automobile (the Quadricycle) and thirteen years before he offered the first Model T for sale in 1908.  It is difficult to grasp, but the cable was fastened to this blacktail’s antler eight years before the Wright brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk.


In 1995 Bob learned his coworkers were having a big buck contest.  Knowing what the result would be, he took his deer to work.  He told me everyone asked him what the buck’s antlers scored, but he had no idea.  In 1996 Bob took the buck to the Eugene Sportsman show and it was measured by J.D. Gore.  Bob said no one really made a fuss about the deer, so he took it home and returned the deer to its honored position in the living room.  It remained there until the year 2000, when he took it to Adams Taxidermy in Eugene.


The original mold for the head mount was made of wood, plaster and square nails.  Over time the hide and mold had deteriorated, leaving the buck looking less than majestic to say the least.  Bob’s family wanted to treat this great animal with the respect it deserved.  Placed onto a modern form and fitted with a new cape, the deer looks great.  You would never guess the deer was taken in the 19th Century and remounted in the 21st.  Mother Nature builds antlers to last.  Perhaps this buck will remain in the family and Bob’s great, great grandchild will proudly display it in their home in the next century.


When local advertising began for the 2009 Eugene Sportsman show, Bob’s son-in-law, Chris Travis, initiated a campaign to persuade Bob to enter his buck into the show’s head and horns competition.  Chris’ persistence paid off and on Sunday afternoon Bob found himself trekking across the parking lot of the expo center, packing the immensely awkward deer mount.  Unfortunately, Bob arrived past the closing time for the 2009 competition, but not too late for official measurer Dave Heffner to instantly recognize a world class set of antlers. 


After photographing the deer at Bob’s home, I sent pictures of the cable secured to the deer’s antler to Tod Lum, a biologist with Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, working in the Roseburg office.  Tod told me that ODF&W did check deer in the late 1800’s and said they often secured this type of cable to antlers.  Unfortunately, the tag on this deer did not have a number engraved in the steel, making it unidentifiable.


In addition to telling him the year this deer was taken, Bob’s friend had told him the buck was shot with a rifle, and said the hunter was a man named James Ball.  Tod Lum was unable to find the department’s paper files from so long ago.  Without the ability to check state records, I am unable to confirm the tale of this deer’s demise.  But likewise, I cannot disprove it.  The year of this buck’s death is not a critical component to securing a place in the records of big game animals.  The antlers of this incredible Oregon trophy speak for themselves.


I spent several hours with Bob Suttles.  For him, the most important thing is that the deer be treated with respect.  He told me his children had grown up with this deer in their home, and it has become an irreplaceable possession.  For generations to come, members of his family will hear the story of his saving this trophy from a less than honorable grave in a landfill.  I came away with one certainty; this deer will undoubtedly outlast us all.


Note:  I have heard of a new world record blacktail buck that may come forward this year.  This buck has an incredible score of 213-5/8 inches!  I have yet to see any official notice of this deer.


April 16, 2009 - Posted by | Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such


  1. Mr. Suttles has a unique talent for assaying value, both in physical possessions and people. Here’s to him for preserving a piece of wild history!

    Comment by Ham | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. Amen to that. His family values and hunting ethics are in place.

    Jim Gaskins

    Comment by jimgaskins | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. Those pictures are cool bob. cant wait to see what happens with the future!

    Comment by Kevin Cline | May 8, 2009 | Reply

  4. Hi,

    I shot blacktail back in 1986, non typical 29 1/4″ outer measurement dressed just under 245 lbs. I had it mounted in 2001 at Lifetime tax., he said it needed to be scored, he had a friend with boone and crocket that pointed it 181, so i waited for the sportsman show up in portland, to enter in the big buck competition and they scored it at 149, and put it in with the typical horn and there were 2 150 bucks there,and it put mine in 3rd no prize just a ribbon, and the people there couldn’t believe my buck got 3rd because it dwarfed the other 2 bucks that were ahead of mine. anyway i couldn’t believe the differance in scoring. i never had anyone else score it. anyway i have pictures if you would like to see it, i am wondering if it needs to be scored again thanks, dave k.

    Comment by David Karlen | June 2, 2009 | Reply

  5. hi again, the buck i just wrote about was shot in polk county, in the oregon coast range. dave k.

    Comment by David Karlen | June 2, 2009 | Reply

  6. Awesome blog!

    I started my own hiking blog over at http://www.ultimatehikingguide.blogspot.com

    I think you’ll like it!

    Comment by Scott | January 30, 2010 | Reply

  7. Hello Jim
    I am from Eastern Washington and have drawn a Applegate muzzleloader tag.
    Just wondering if you can point me in the right direction
    on where to hunt.
    Looking for a book buck to put on the wall.
    Thanks for any info you can share

    Comment by Mark | June 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Hello Mark,

      Applegate sure holds some big bucks. Really diverse country, with features of both eastern and western Oregon. You must be pretty excited to have a muzzleloader tag. My specific personal info is really pretty general, mostly derived from conversations with guys who have heavily hunted deer in that unit. A lot of their experience is on private ranches. Obviously, ranches are probably holding the best bucks. This is big country. Since your hunt is late, Nov. 13 – Dec. 5, you will have to contend with snow once you leave the I-5 valley or above the Rogue River. That area can get really slammed. I have sent a copy of this email to two men who really know this area well. If they have the time and inclination to chat with you, they could be of a lot more use than me. I have done some spring bear hunting above and south of the Rogue, but I have never been there in late fall.

      If you have the cash, a guide service such as Southern Oregon Game Busters (http://www.blacktails.net/) can be a huge help. But, they don’t come cheap. SOGB is the only one I know of. Their reputation is very good. They are out of Medford.

      I wish I had more info so I could be of better assistance. I wish you the best of luck! Send me a photo of your deer when you bag him. Mark, can you tell me how you came to find my blog?

      By-the-way, I tried emailing you at the address provided with your comment, and it came back undeliverable- twice. The men I sent your comment to, can’t help without a workable email address.


      Jim Gaskins

      Comment by jimgaskins | June 22, 2010 | Reply

  8. I used Southern Oregon Gamebusters/Doug Gattis last November after drawing a coveted Applegate muzzleloader blacktail tag. It took me eight years of applying, and two years of saving for a guide.
    Doug might have been a good guide in the past, but no more. He dropped me off at one of two tree stands located on 160 acres, in which there is a construction, a house, target shooters and motorcycle riders nearby. His atvs were broke, didn’t know how to work game cameras, and I had to return home to get my ATV and climbing tree stand for adjacent BLM land. There I encountered mountain bike rider and his dog going right through my stand set up.
    Doug refused to provide a contract, so when I filed a complaint with Oregon Marine Board, I was told since no contract, he cannot be held liable.
    I don’t expect to be successful on every hunt, or guaranteed an animal. What I do expect when I pay an outfitter, is for him to be as prepared and work as hard as me to be successful. This is not the case with Doug and Southern Oregon Gamebusters.

    Comment by Edward Yenick, Jr. | July 27, 2012 | Reply

    • Wow. I am sorry to hear that. I always hate to hear about guides who ‘took’ someones money without earning it. I suppose he didn’t offer you another date for free or a reduced rate?

      Comment by jimgaskins | July 28, 2012 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: