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Ridgecrest hunter bags trophy buck from Sierra's X9b deer zone


A trophy six-by-six buck was taken opening evening of the 2017 X9b deer season when Tyler Dennison of Inyokern capped nearly three months of scouting effort with a shot from 138 yards after a long stalk from over 1,000 yards away.

The buck has a nearly-perfect four-point main frame with kicker points on each of the front fork tines. It is 26-inches wide, and carries good mass in the bases and out into the rest of the antler. It is one of the best bucks ever taken during the general rifle hunt in the zone and rivals bucks killed during the coveted late-season Goodale buck hunt in December. While it hasn’t been scored by the Boone & Crockett method yet, several rough estimates place the buck with over 180-inches of antler.

Dennison, who is just 23, said he and hunting buddy Cody Darling of Bakersfield started scouting in early July, and found this buck that month. They had been watching it ever since. It was shot Saturday, Sept. 16, the opening day of the season.

“I was worried the archery guys would find this buck, but we never saw any bowhunters up in this country,” said Dennison. The pair were hunting out of a spike camp, and the deer was killed at around the 10,000-foot elevation level seven miles from where their truck was parked.

Dennison said he was a little concerned opening morning when they didn’t see the buck or the six other bucks he had been hanging with early in the day. All summer the buck was living in the same area and Dennison and Darling had the buck’s routine wired. When the pair didn’t see it or the other deer in their usual morning haunt, they almost abandoned the spot to look in other areas. But late in the afternoon, the bucks fed out of the trees with the big one coming out last. The pair made two stalks, but were seen by does or one of the bucks in the group, and backed out both times so as not to disturb the deer. They finally made a long, circuitous stalk from a different angle and were able to get within 138-yards.

After the shot, the work began. The pair quartered the buck and strapped him on pack frames. By then it was dark, and the pair headed down to their spike camp, packed up that gear and lashed it to their packs and then headed down the mountain. With packs each weighing at over 100 pounds, the pair didn’t reach the truck until around 1 a.m.

“It was all worth it,” said Dennison.

While Darling didn’t have a tag for X9b, he was along for the all the scouting and hunt. “Cody was my pack animal,” laughed Dennison.

The favor might have to be returned this weekend, the opening of the D9 hunting zone where Darling has a deer tag. The pair have been scouting and found a pretty good buck there, too. Only this time it will be Darling’s turn to have Dennison as a pack animal.

[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 909-887-3444.]

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