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Southeast Georgia Buck For The Record Books

Ware County buck is pushing 150 inches, and it's already earned the hunter $5K in local contest.

Craig James | November 7, 2022

Chad Zauner, of Waycross, was hunting with his son on Oct. 22 when he knocked down this big Ware County buck.

On Oct. 22, Chad Zauner, of Waycross, managed to knock down what’s sure to be one of the biggest Ware County bucks of all time. In doing so, he also managed to win a cool $5,000 in the process. Not bad for opening day of rifle season.

“I first started getting pics of this deer back in 2020. He was probably in the low 120 range then, and I was ready to put a bullet in him,” said Chad.

Luckily Chad’s good friend, Matt Beauregard, talked him into giving the buck a pass.

“Matt told me that the buck could really be something special if he had another year or two to grow. I’m glad I took him up on his advice.”

After the 2020 season, Chad started using a 50/50 corn-protein mix in an effort to help the buck put on some mass. This was a move that proved to pay off in the 2021 season as the buck had put on some serious inches.

“He had to be in the high 130s in 2021, but once again he earned a free pass, this time due to a broken tine that would have really hurt his score,” said Chad. 

A broken tine in 2021 gave the buck a pass for the season.

Chad finished out the 2021 season having several opportunities to harvest the buck, but he stuck to his guns and let the buck walk.

On Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, the giant buck made his first daytime appearance of the season. Watching the buck follow a small 8-point through a creek bottom around 9 a.m., Chad had a good feeling he’d get a shot at the buck on opening day.

“I went and bought a ticket to the Alma Lions Club Big Buck Contest that’s held annually on opening day, and I told my wife and a few other friends that I was gonna kill that buck and win the $5,000 top prize,” said Chad.

 On opening morning, Chad and his son were positioned overlooking a food plot adjacent to the creek bottom where he’d seen the buck earlier in the week. The pair spent the morning watching a pair of does in the food plot with no sign of the big buck they were after. 

“I told my son at about 10:30 that I was thinking it wasn’t gonna work out for us. My butt was hurting, I was ready to go to the bathroom, and I had about lost my focus. But he didn’t want to leave, so we continued to hunt.

Chad watched a small buck come through the creek bottom, hopeful he would have a replay of what happened on Wednesday. Scanning the woods, he looked for any sign of the giant deer. 

“At 10:45, my son said, ‘look there he is.’ He was standing in a path that we keep mowed around the perimeter of our hunting area. I knew it was now or never.”

Chad readied his Browning X-Bolt .270, found the buck in the crosshairs and carefully squeezed the trigger.

“As soon as I shot, the buck took off and ran about 50 yards into the woods before going down. It was a relief to see him hit the dirt,” said Chad.

Later that day, Chad and his family took the giant buck to the Alma Lions Club Big Buck Contest where it was unofficially scored at 148 5/8 inches (racks have to air-dry for 60 days before being officially scored). The buck was good enough for first place and the $5,000 top prize. It also became the biggest buck ever to be entered in the 30-plus-year history of the contest.

Here are the top bucks from the Alma Lions Club Big Buck Contest.

“I’m still taking it all in. I can’t believe it all worked out the way it did. It’s been five years since I killed a buck, and I’m telling you it was worth the wait. I’m thankful my buddy Matt talked me out of killing that deer early on. Letting them grow really pays off in the long run.”

Since the contest, the buck has also been measured again by a friend of Chad’s, who came up with a net score of 150 inches. After the required drying period, Chad plans on having the buck officially scored, where it can secure its spot in the GON Georgia Deer Rankings as one of the best Ware County bucks ever taken.

 

Ware County Best Bucks Of All-Time

Rank Score Name Year County Method Photo
1 154 1/8 A.J. Bennett Sr. 2014 Ware Gun View 
2 148 7/8 Ted Logue 1989 Ware Gun
3 161 1/8 (NT) A.J. Bennett Sr. 2021 Ware Gun View 
4 140 3/8 Jason Lee 2018 Ware Bow View 
5 137 4/8 Lorin Clark 2017 Ware Gun
6 135 6/8 Ben Waldron 2004 Ware Gun
7 135 2/8 Andy Bennett 2012 Ware Gun View 
8 133 Donna O’Berry 2000 Ware Gun
9 130 3/8 Walt Simpson 1987 Ware Gun
10 129 7/8 David Denton 1996 Ware Gun

 

 

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