The biggest buck in the mule deer herd known as the “‘pit herd” because it is often seen around the Berkeley Pit was poached Saturday night. The 5x5 buck was taken near the Granite Mountain Memorial about 10:30 p.m., Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon said.

FWP has located a suspect, and the antlers, which were confiscated along with the carcass, are being scored to determine what potential restitution can be sought, Lemon said.

“We’ve got a suspect, and where we’re at now is we’re just waiting for the buck to be scored,” he said.

“We recognize that these are special animals. They’ve been in that area for years. They get pretty big, and they come into the Uptown neighborhoods. People are used to seeing them,” he said.

John McKee, co-founder of Headframe Spirits, says that Headframe’s staff is accustomed to seeing the big buck in the Kelley mineyard where the distillery’s offices are. “He was pretty docile,” McKee said.

“The ‘pit herd’ is a visible symbol of the success of the cleanup thus far on the Butte Hill,” McKee said. “It’s amazing that what were once old mineyards and slag piles are now capped and growing green spaces, allowing the herd to live successfully year-round.

“We see the act of shooting any of these deer as illegal poaching and not what we recognize as good hunting by good sportsmen and women.”

Just last year, another buck from the herd was illegally taken. FWP responded to a report of an injured deer in Uptown Butte and found the carcass on North Main Street in front of the federal courthouse. Kyler Olsen, 20, pleaded guilty to several charges, including unlawful possession, shooting with artificial lights and within city limits, shooting from a vehicle, and abandoning a game animal.

That buck, also a 5x5, was judged to be a trophy. Trophy restitution was set at $8,000 and Olsen was ordered to pay a total of $11,695 in fines and restitution. His hunting, fishing and trapping privileges were suspended for five years.

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