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California Hunting Mule Deer & Blacktail Trophy Bucks

New California State-Record Blacktail

by Erica Martin   |  September 12th, 2011 18

It was Thursday afternoon, September 9, 2010, the last week of the general archery season in hunt zone D5 in Amador County when a new California state-record blacktail was taken.

Photo courtesy of Steven Frater

Valley Springs resident Steven Frater and his brother, Joe, were sitting back to back in a large Ponderosa pine overlooking a game trail surrounded by dense foliage and brush. The private land tract was at the 2,700-foot mark and 80 acres in size.

At 7:30 p.m. a forkhorn crept down the trail and Frater noticed another big-bodied deer behind it. A few steps more and all of a sudden Frater’s prayers were answered. . . . It was the giant 4-pointer that they had caught on film in July. He was about 25 yards out and closing. Frater stopped the buck at 16 yards and sent his homemade carbon arrow sizzling through the air and through the buck’s shoulder.

“He took off running, but stopped at 30 yards,” recalled Frater. “He ran around in circles a few times, stopped, started wobbling and then went down for good about 50 yards out.”

The Frater buck, a long-tined specimen featuring caribou-like palmation, officially grossed an amazing 176 3/8 points. It is now the No. 1 typical “inland blacktail” in the archery division of the California Records of Big Game. Frater’s buck was estimated to be 8.5 years old and pushing 190 pounds on the hoof.

  • Robert Hunter

    Congrats once again bud, WOW…….what a buck. I got a 6×4 this last season that weighed 186 & 1/2 but your rack is amazingly huge, unmatched! I'd sulk in it for years if I was you, that happens so rarely. Good luck in future Hunting endeavors.

  • neal

    nice buck, but. try hunting real blacktails on the coast,in the jungle, on public land. i feel want you have is not a true blacktail, but that is my personel opinion. up here in mid to northern oregon we call them bench legs ie.. a cross between muledeer and blacktail deer.

    • Ronnie

      @ neal

      You have got to be kidding me! Why can't you just tell the kid congradulations? I imagine it is due to the fact that you are jealous as can be. I know I am. Congrats to the hunter on a true trophy, no matter where it was taken.

    • Mike


      Perhaps the differential that you speak of is the reasoning behind the inland classification of these deer. No matter, the animal is a great trophy. I hope that the young man enjoys the animal and the memory for years to come. It is unfortunate that people feel the need to down play such a spectacular trophy.

    • Ben

      NEAL..! That is a great buck.. Give credit where it's due. I live in Oregon too and no matter if I lived anywhere else that is a BUCK!!

    • KPF78

      your very, very ture on that on Neal. I have always hunted on the California coast line and got a nice 4×3 buck on private property. The deer up in any D zone is really a mixed deer, between a mule deer and coastal black tail. My father lives in a D zone and he has a ture cross of both deer. In California we have 12 types of deer. So was it truely a real Columbia Black Tail Deer. But truely what a great buck any where your at in any state great job buddy!!!!!!!

  • Johnny Blacktail

    You guys should check out the new regs coming out on blacktail boundaries. That buck is indeed a true blacktail and if I am correct was shot on video. Check out gamehogoutdoors to get a copy of the video.

  • bowtech bud

    I know Joe and Steve they hunt hard and smart and kill amazing deer every year any one who has anything to sad bad about them is jelous bottom line … Great buck steve don't let bucks be your friends !

  • Lisa-Marie Frater

    Atta boy! That's my baby bro!!

    @ Neal– "Those who claim to be, never are. Those who are, never claim to be"

  • Krash

    Congratulations! Nice to see proof that are still nice trophies out there…Good Job!

  • Stan

    Mr. Frater;

    Congrats on a very fine specimen of a Blacktail. I too am quite envious of your trophy, like all the rest out here. My father-in-law lives up in the D-5 Zone out of San Andreas. I've seen some big bucks come out of there, over the 30 plus years I've gone up there, but nothing like yours.

    Again, let me say Congratulations.

  • mike o

    Great job, just to get a buck with a bow is such a thrill and so hard to do. Any one that says any thing but fantastic job is so jealus and truely does not grasp or hold the true hunting spirit.

  • rdrhodes

    What a absolutely great buck for d5. I have hunted calif. for many years and have not seen a buck of your bucks caliber. I must second what other hunters have said about your buck Congratulations and enjoy the moment!!!!! Doug.

  • Patrick

    Amazing trophy. I live in D6 got a full velvet Muley there opening day of archery. But that is one Hellav a buck, congrats to that, have hunted D5 but never seen him…..

  • Tad Depriest

    I don't care what anyone says that buck is clearly a without question a muley!!! It still definetly belongs at the top of the record book without a doubt. I live in Mendocino county and have hunted since birth and know every wilderness area inhere my surrounding counties intimately which consist of A and B zones. My mother has ben a taxidermist for 25 years. A zone is where you will find true Black Tails. just north when you reach the high elevations of B zone you will see what we refer to as a hybrid mule/black cross. slightly larger bodies massive racks but still much thinner in structure and the nose and neck of this buck is without question not of a blacktail a blacktail's is nose is thin with smaller face and ears. Of course jealousy is running thru me and in no way am i down talking this kill but its a text book mule dear any one thinking otherwise should re educate themselves on species identification.

  • renedominguez

    Yes, although it does appear more Muley or black tail mixed, It is a great looking deer.

  • mike

    Sweet buck, I waffle on the issue as there are some mixing going on in d3 d4 d5 zone's but having hunted true mule deer in many state's and hunting every year in d3 through d5 we have noticed some of the herds are more blacktail, and most of all the habits of the deer are all blacktail. They live in the nasty thick stuff, super nocturnal, hold no true patterns movement. Mule deer I have hunted even where we get up in d5 where they are all mule deer are open country, habit forming animals. Plus the deer we have taker show smaller faces, smaller ears and bodies, and also often more of a basket rack. Congrats kiddo, awesome buck no matter what.

  • Cat Creek Outdoors

    I wrote the original article… This is an inland blacktail not a Columbian. It’s similar to WA and Oregons Cascade blacktails. Inland and Cascade blacktails are genetically different than Columbian blacktails but, however, they are blacktails not Muleys!

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