Young Zach Winstead of Terry has hunted all over Mississippi, including some of the state’s best areas for big buck, from the Delta to the Big Black River bottoms to Natchez.
But on Dec. 30, while bowhunting maybe a mile from his home, the 19-year-old freshman at Hinds Community College arrowed a buck of a lifetime — a 155 7/8-inch 13-point within sight of houses on the outskirts of town.
“(I s)hot him at 7 o’clock sharp that morning,” Winstead said. “I still can’t believe it, and I’ve told this story about a thousand times in two weeks. I could literally see houses through the woods, with the leaves all gone, about 150 yards from my stand. There was a black Lab barking, and I could hear people getting in their cars to drive to work.
“None of that affected the deer I saw. None of them, and I attribute that to the near-perfect set up I had in this creek bottom.”
Winstead said the creek bottom is owned by a neighbor who gave him permission to hunt, and it sits between a massive cutover that is mostly covered with thick 6- to 8-foot-high brush, with several downed tree tops that provide perfect cover for otherwise urban deer.
“They cleared that cutover about three years ago to develop, and then didn’t do anything with it until last year when they started working on houses on the front side,” he said. “That pushed deer back toward the bottom. On the other end, there’s a camp where they gun hunt, and they had pushed deer from that direction.”
Winstead’s spot sits right in the middle, and with some true scouting — “I don’t trust trail cams” he said — he found some rubs and scrapes in the two weeks prior to the kill.
“These were big rubs and big scrapes, and the bucks you usually see there were not big enough to make them,” Winstead said. “I knew there had to be a big boy in there.
“I just hadn’t seen him.”
Winstead hung his tree stand that morning on a tree near the bend in a V-shaped, deep creek channel that had a perfect close-up view of the spot where any deer had to cross to avoid the water.
“I started climbing at 6:15, and I think sunrise that day was at like 7:05,” he said. “I put my release on my wrist and then my gloves. I was (up) about 15 feet, and it was cold and slippery, so I took my gloves off for a better grip. When I did, my release fell and I had to climb back down.
“This was just before prime time, and it was about 6:30 and I start going back up.”
It took a little while to ascend the 27 feet he climbed, and just as he was starting to settle in, he heard deer.
“I had pulled up my bow and was removing my backpack when I heard what sounded like several deer running,” Winstead said. “It was two does, and one of them stopped right under my stand. I looked down and I shushed her with my finger at my lips like you would a young child.
“At about 6:50 I was finally set up, and it was still, and three more does came by.”
Almost immediately, the hunter laid eyes on the buck for which he was looking.
“A minute later he shows up at 45 yards,” Winstead said. “I said, ‘There you are.’”
While Winstead got ready, the buck started running the five does and would never stop.
“Never seen that before, but he was chasing them all and he wouldn’t stop,” the hunter said. “He was grunting like he owned the place and chasing those does around that creek. I could hear them but couldn’t see them for a while; then at 6:55 he comes back, and he’s walking and kind of staggering as he looks for the does.
“It was the biggest buck I’d ever seen.”
He quickly readied for the shot.
“I got my release on the nock, and when he stepped behind a gum tree, I drew,” Winstead said. “He was 25 yards (out), and I took a shot. Right as I hit the release, he took a step and the arrow hit him right in the shoulder and he hit the ground. Right there.
“He couldn’t get up; I guess I broke both shoulders down. I watched him, and at 7:15, scared he might get up, I decided to put a second arrow — my last one I had with men — in him to finish him. He was dead within a few minutes.”
An agonizing 45 minutes later, Winstead climbed down and claimed his reward.
“Seemed like forever, but I didn’t want to do anything to cause him to try to get up and, even if he had just the two legs, try to get out of there,” he said.
Taxidermist Dan Heasley of Raymond grossed it out at 155 7/8 inches.
“It’s a mainframe 10, with three kickers on the right side that look like regular tines,” Heasley said. “It’s a good deer. The 8-pointed right beam is its best characteristic.
The score sheet shows a 17 4/8 inch inside spread, 23- and 22 2/8-inch main beams, and a biggest mass measurement of 4 7/8 inches at the third measurement on the right side.
Click here to read other big-buck stories from the 2016-17 season.
And don’t forget to post photos of your bucks in the Mississippi Sportsman Big Buck Photo Contest, which is free and offers great monthly prize packages.