MARSHFIELD -- Local hunters still were in awe this week at the size of a trophy buck that leapt to its death off a highway overpass recently.
The buck had a rack that scored an estimated 160 inches on a measurement typically used to grade deer, according to Al Rinka, one of the Highway 10 construction workers who had seen the deer at about noon Dec. 9 when it crossed a field south of the Washington Avenue bridge, which crosses the under-construction highway.
Most trophy deer in this area have racks ranging from 120 to 140 inches, said Alan Jonett, a Marshfield taxidermist and avid deer hunter. The score is based on the length of each branch of a rack and the circumference of the antler's base, Jonett said.
The buck's rack was magnificent, and the men watched in awe as the deer gracefully moved through the field, Rinka said.
"We could not believe the size of this deer when we saw it in the field. Some guys hunt their whole lives and never see something like this," he said.
The men received a phone call at about 2 p.m. from another team of highway workers near the bridge who said a deer had jumped when a car started to drive across the bridge.
"You know how a deer on the road just leaps out of the way of an oncoming car? They just jump into the ditch. I think that's what this deer thought he was doing," Rinka said.
The deer plunged about 30 feet and died instantly, he said.
The highway workers, all seasoned deer hunters, reasoned the buck probably still was in its mating behavior, Rinka said.
"That behavior, being out at midday in an open field, isn't normal deer behavior. The only thing we could think of is he might still be rutting, because they act really goofy when they are in rut," Rinka said.
Edward Culhane, a state Department of Natural Resources communication specialist, saw online photos of the animal this week.
"That is clearly a trophy deer, a magnificent and huge rack," he said. "Any buck hunter would've been proud to bring this deer home."
Jonett speculated that besides being in rut, something might have spooked the deer, causing it to venture onto the bridge.
"I expect he had been hunted hard when he was younger and became more nocturnal. Something spooked him out of his native habitat and he was just running and made a mistake," Jonett said.
The driver of the car alerted one of her neighbors that a deer jumped from the bridge. The neighbor tagged the deer, Rinka said. The man did not want to be interviewed for this story.
The bridge runs north-south over the new section of Highway 10, which will open in late 2012. The bridge has been open for more than a year, Rinka said.