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2002 Cowinner: The Wayne Zaft Buck

By Kevin G. Wilson

It seems fitting that Alberta, Canada, the birthplace of Buckmasters’ Full-Credit Scoring System, has yielded the new No. 1 Typical in the BTR’s compound bow category. The five-year reign of the Sam Collora Buck from Iowa came to an end on Oct. 8, 2001, when Wayne Zaft of Spruce Grove, Alberta, arrowed a 205 7/8-inch 13-pointer during an impromptu scouting trip on public land.

As is the case with many world-class bucks, Wayne happened to be in the right place at the right time, though he had very little time to even be in the deer woods. He’d spent most of the day with his family, celebrating the Canadian Thanksgiving. Cabin fever must have finally gotten the better of him.

With barely an hour of daylight remaining, the 29-year-old cabinetmaker left home to do some scouting. The peak of the rut was still a few weeks away, but Wayne was anxious to see if the bucks in the famed Edmonton Bow Zone had begun making scrapes. By the time he parked his truck and started across the harvested field, it was 6 p.m.

Wayne began following a fencerow in search of buck sign. As hoped, he found some fresh rubs and scrapes. And farther along, he spotted some extra-long and wide deer tracks in the dirt. There was no mistaking that they were left by a massive whitetail, and Wayne wondered if its rack was comparable to its feet.

The answer came to the kneeling hunter almost instantly, when he looked up and saw an incredible buck sauntering along the tree line. Wayne was astounded at the size and stature of the deer with the high, wide and thick set of antlers. Its rack sprouted more tines than he could count, and the shreds of dried velvet dangling from the immense frame made the buck a sight to behold — even from 100 yards!

"I’m not ashamed to say, it took everything I had to keep my composure," Wayne said.

With nowhere to hide, Wayne hunkered deeper into the tall grass and nocked an arrow. If the buck kept coming, he’d take the shot in a heartbeat.

Wayne says the tension was almost unbearable. He was forced to watch the buck work a string of rubs along the field’s edge before he knew that he’d have a chance. But the deer kept coming until, at one point, it was only 20 yards from the still crouched and breathless hunter. The shot angle was too risky, so Wayne waited for a broadside or even quartering-away angle.

When the deer jumped the fence, a small window of opportunity opened at 34 yards. Before that, Wayne had been able to scoot 15 yards closer, when there was still cover between them. The hunter’s attempt to stop the walking buck by grunting (using his own vocal chords) resulted in the buck’s coming even closer. With the buck closing on him, Wayne drew, took careful aim — just as he’d done hundreds of times before during archery competitions -- and released.

"I’ve taken lots of animals with my bow, but this shot felt like it was for all the marbles," he said.

Much to his surprise, the arrow’s path wasn’t through the lungs. Nevertheless, the massive deer lunged forward and raced for the timber with its head and belly low to the ground.

Wayne was weak in the knees at that point. He knew that he’d just shot a world-class deer that had to have at least 200 inches of antler. Despite an intense desire to follow the buck, he wisely waited half an hour before beginning his search at the bloody arrow sticking in the ground. When he retraced the distance, he discovered that the deer had been at 30 yards instead of 34. The seasoned, competitive archer had misjudged the shot!

Rather than risk spooking the wounded buck, Wayne chose to call it quits and to return first thing the next morning.

After a sleepless night, he resumed his search after sunrise and into the evening. He wound up speaking to the man who farmed the area. Not only had the man seen the dead buck smack dab in the middle of one of his fields -- several hundred yards from where it had been arrowed — but he also agreed to take Wayne to the fresh carcass.

Unfortunately, that’s all that was left of the magnificent whitetail. Coyotes had found it first and devoured as much as they could stuff into their stomachs — a harsh reality when hunting where the predators thrive. But at least the antlers were untouched.

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