The buck, you may recall, was first spied in April at the Colorado Springs office of J.E. Dunn Construction by foreman George Kroll.
Kroll watched the muley all summer, marveling at his crazy rack, which appeared to include four main beams and a dangling club-like drop tine. He and co-workers dubbed the giant “Goliath.”
Kroll hoped to get photographs of the buck in hard horn, and a few weeks after our story ran in August, he sent us pictures of Goliath with velvet still dangling from his rack.
On hot days the buck took refuge in the building’s shade and often peered in at the office staff, providing truly remarkable close-ups. Last summer, Justin Spring, assistant director of big game records for the Boone and Crockett Club, was cautious about estimating a score from photographs, saying Goliath could be near the 300-inch mark and that he may rank very high, if he meets certain criteria. “From the pictures it appears that it’s a mainframe forked horn,” he now says after viewing the new photos. “Of course, I’m just going off of photos, and there would be no way to tell for sure until you inspect the rack. But just looking at the picture, that left side, I think you’d score it as a mainframe giant forked horn. The gross score would be impressive, but the actual net score, how it would be listed should it be taken by a hunter under fair chase, I don’t know as it would even go 230.”
Six weeks ago the buck disappeared–at least during daylight hours. “Our trees around our building are hammered like never before; I’m not sure they’re going to make it,” says Kroll. “I assume it’s him and his cronies.”
Enter Danny Banks. An amateur photographer who moved to Peyton, Colorado in January, and was unable to obtain a hunting license for the 2010 season. Banks had read Field & Stream‘s story about Goliath and decided he would still hunt this year, only with a camera instead of a rifle. He started visiting the Colorado Springs neighborhood in hopes of getting the big buck on film but never saw him. “I thought the worst,” Banks says. “I feared somebody had poached him and there was an article that said something about some poaching up on the foothills, so I thought he was gone.”
“One day I was just up looking; it was a day I actually didn’t have my camera. He was there right on a yard,” he recalls. “I called up my wife and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got an emergency.’ I told her to bring my camera. She drove nearly 40 minutes but couldn’t find me, so I had to leave the deer to meet her and get my camera. I was only gone 15 minutes but when I got back couldn’t find him.”
But a couple days later, the big boy made another appearance. “When I first saw it I was just completely shocked. It was surreal.” The double main beams clued him in that this was Goliath, the deer he’d read about on fieldandstream.com.
“It took me a moment [to recognize the buck] because he lost that big drop tine, the one that looked like a lamb-chop,” Banks says. The club-like drop, which to Banks resembled a mutton-chop sideburn, spurred him to hang another nickname on the buck: Elvis.
“The locals call him Goliath, but I prefer Elvis–because he’s the king, you know?”
By any name the buck was less than welcoming. When Banks got out of his car during his first sighting and tried to get close enough for a cell phone photo, the buck wheezed aggressively and started racking a tree. Banks wisely backed off.
“I (searched) another two weeks before I found him again, and he had moved quite a ways from where I saw him originally.” By then it was Nov. 24.
The buck seems to have a fairly expansive home range, Banks says, but has so far managed to stay within the city limits where hunting is prohibited–“though he’s pushing it.”
Banks had gotten out of his car to watch a four-point muley that was broken off on one side when he spotted the big buck ahead of him in the trees. He walked 300 yards into an opening to snap this photograph.
“He turned and started walking down the hill, so I said ‘I need to get the wind in my favor and try to get in front of him.'”
“I was heading back toward my vehicle when, to my surprise, he turned around and started coming toward me. I was actually standing by a tree and he came walking by me 15 yards away.”
“After he saw me, he turned again and went back up into the thicket and the four-pointer left him.”
“I circled around again and stopped at my truck to get the video camera. I had to go about 800 yards to get around him, and I walked into a little opening and he was standing there right above a doe.”
Until now Banks has only shown his photos and video mostly to family. “Everyone who’s seen it has been absolutely shocked. He’s just an incredible deer. My brother’s brother-in-law guides in southern Utah, so we’ve been able to see big deer and he is just incredible compared to them.”
His encounters with the big muley have been a bright spot in a difficult year for Banks.
He lost his grandmother early this year, then his mother passed away on Memorial Day weekend. A couple of months later a stepbrother drowned while fishing. Then Banks had to cancel an elk hunt after catching pneumonia. “I haven’t been able to hunt at all this year,” he says.
“Quite frankly, I’ve just been looking for deer as a way of getting out and dealing with the stresses of life,” he says. “In this particular area there are about nine deer that I’ve taken pictures of that are 150 to 200-plus inches. It’s been real therapeutic for me to get out there and see these animals because these are some of the biggest deer I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“The thrill of getting out and photographing these animals is almost as great as actually hunting.”
In fact, Banks says if he came across Goliath on a hunt he’d probably let him walk. “I’d rather find his sheds and do a mount of those. I mean, everyone wants one of those deer.”
“Everybody wants a trophy, but I’ve got a trophy: I took great pictures of him,” Banks says. After seeing the new photos, Spring was still reluctant to put a number on the newly dubbed Elvis, saying “it would be impossible without taping it.” Spring says the way the left antler has developed could lead to significant score reductions. “I don’t even know (if) it would go 230 and make book with all the deductions that come from that one side having basically an unpaired main beam and third point,” Spring says. “(It’s) a tremendous trophy, but just not one that would do well under the B&C system.”
Banks says the buck is safe for now, since he’s roaming a residential area, but he feels the buck is “pushing his boundaries.”
“Big deer like this make people do dumb things, and I just really hope he is safe enough to continue to roam and keep his genetics in the pool.” When the velvet pictures of Elvis/Goliath were posted, there was some speculation that his freakish rack might have been the result of a hormonal disruption. Spring says the fact that he shed his velvet doesn’t entirely rule out a hormonal problem, but means that another scenario is most likely behind his crazy horns, such as getting hit by a car or something else that caused damage to his pedicles. “Damage to pedicles would cause that freak-type growth,” he says adding that, even if he sheds it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s healthy. Still, Spring says he’s never seen anything as unique and impressive as this Colorado Springs buck. “Every trophy has interesting things about it, but I’ve never seen one, in recent times, that has that much character and overall impressive size.”
Goliath is back! The legendary suburban mule deer that took up residence this summer on the grounds of a Colorado Springs construction company has been spotted recently chasing does and racking saplings. Field & Stream gets the story–and the photographs–that show what the buck with the freak-nasty horns and a penchant for peeking in office windows has been up to.