New York's Mysterious 'Wrong' Buck!

New York's Mysterious 'Wrong' Buck!

Wally Jayne of Kellogsville was sure he'd shot the buck of local legend, but he was astounded to find that his deer was the wrong buck, which means the "big one" is still out there!

Wally Jayne's Cayuga County 12-pointer was just shy of minimum Boone and Crockett standards with a net typical score of 164 5/8 inches.
Photo courtesy of Wally Jayne

Most record-book whitetail bucks were slain by hunters who had never seen the animal before. That makes perfect sense, especially in the thickly forested Northeast because bucks with headgear big enough to merit recognition by the Boone and Crockett Club, the Pope and Young Club, the Northeast Big Buck Club and other trophy-tracking organizations usually get that way by living in the shadows.

The Wally Jayne buck, taken last November on a two-century-old family homestead in Cayuga County, is a remarkable exception to the rule. The 12-pointer, whose sweeping antlers fell about two finger lengths shy of minimum Boone and Crockett standards with a net typical score of 164 5/8 inches, was an old acquaintance of the hunter who bagged it.

Jayne is a retired dairy farmer who lives in the hamlet of Kelloggsville, between Skaneateles and Owasco lakes. One summer evening in 2002, he spotted a huge whitetail feeding in an alfalfa field near his home. Over the next three years, he and his neighbors saw the wide-racked buck on numerous occasions. Jayne began carrying a camera, and took many long-range snapshots of the deer -- a dozen of them in 2004 alone.

Although the handsome whitetail was unusually bold in the summer, it had a habit of vanishing during hunting season. Jayne said many hunters were aware of the animal, but none had seen it after September.

"I assumed the deer was pretty much unhuntable," he said.

So it seemed until last Nov. 28, when the big buck suddenly broke through a hedgerow and stopped broadside about 60 yards from the muzzle of Jayne's shotgun.


Jayne had high hopes as the 2004 deer season began.

Mature whitetails were increasingly common in the Kelloggsville area, in part because Jayne and several of his neighbors practiced quality deer management principles and routinely filled their doe permits while passing on shots at yearling bucks.

On Nov. 26, the first Friday of the Southern Zone regular firearms season, Jayne had put his deer management permit tag on a nice doe.

Two days later, Jayne was riding home on an all-terrain vehicle, gun empty, after a fruitless afternoon hunt. He kept one eye on the gently sloping hills as he drove along.

"I was on my way back to the farm house when I looked out at the corn field and saw this nice buck," he recalled. "I got off the 4-wheeler, didn't even turn the engine off, and re-loaded my shotgun."

Jayne started walking up a hedgerow that bordered the corn field and screened him from the buck's view. He could hear his son-in-law, Derek Coningsby, driving a tractor at the far end of the corn.

"I imagine the tractor noise might have distracted the deer just a bit," Jayne said.

He had gone less than halfway up the hedgerow when the buck suddenly broke through the brush and ambled across the same hay field Jayne was standing in.

"He stopped about 60 yards away, and that was all I needed," the hunter said. "I put my scope cross hairs behind his shoulder and fired. He started running across the field, and just when he got near an old pasture, he staggered."

Jayne fired a second shot into the deer's neck, but realized afterward that the coup de grâce wasn't really necessary.

Instead of following the deer immediately, Jayne calmly walked back to his ATV, which was still idling.

"By this time it was starting to get dark, so I turned on the headlights and drove back across the field to where I'd last seen the deer," he said. "When I came up to it, I realized that this was the same buck I'd been watching all year."

Admiring the deer's nearly 30-inch rack, the lucky hunter could scarcely believe he had finally killed the legendary Kelloggsville Buck.

Or had he?

At that point, Jayne reached for his walkie-talkie and called Coningsby and his nephews, Jeff and Jack Jayne and Sean Murphy.

"I told them I'd shot the big one, but they thought I said I was having 'the big one,' " Jayne said. "In other words, a heart attack! There were some worried looks on their faces when they showed up."

The concerned expressions transformed to sheer astonishment when Jayne's relatives saw the deer he'd just killed. Any one of the onlookers could have fitted the buck's antlers around their shoulders like a bony shawl. The 12-point rack had an inside spread of 24 7/8 inches. Tall tines sprouted from each beam.


Jayne naturally assumed the deer he'd just taken was the same one he'd been watching for the last three years. He couldn't wait to have it aged at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's Tompkins-Cayuga Cooperative Hunting Area in nearby King Ferry.

After looking at the buck's lightly worn teeth, DEC technician Wayne Masters stunned Jayne by declaring the 180-pound field-dressed buck to be a strapping 3-year-old.

Two other state biologists who examined the deer came to the same conclusion. That meant the huge buck Jayne and others assumed they'd been watching for the past three years had to be two different deer -- at least.

Jayne was incredulous, but Masters said he was "absolutely sure" of his identification. He pointed out that Jayne's deer had characteristics that clearly distinguish a 3-year-old buck from one that is a year younger or older.

Jayne was astonished to discover that the huge buck might not have been the same whitetail he'd been admiring and photographing for the previous three summers, which means there might be more than one buster buck in the neighborhood!

That could mean only one thing: There might well be more than one buster buck in the neighborhood!


Jayne was still skeptical, but when he and his friends took a closer look at the pile of deer snapshots they'd accumulated in recent summers, they realized the DEC workers were right.

"There definitely are two different deer in those pictures," Jayne said. "The other one is not quite as wide as the one I got, but it has taller points."

"It's kind of exciting to think another like this one is still out there."


Jon Van Nest, who operates a taxidermy studio and meat processing plant in nearby Moravia since the 1970s, was impressed by Jayne's deer.

Although he has handled many 120- to 140-class bucks, Van Nest remembered only one local trophy that rivaled the Jayne buck. In 1982, he said a young hunter brought him a buck that would have scored in the 180s under the Boone and Crockett measuring system. Unfortunately, the deer didn't qualify for the book because the hunter had cleanly broken one of the main beams with a hurried shot.

As it turned out, Jayne's deer fell short of Boone and Crockett minimum standards, but handily qualified for both the Northeast Big Buck Club and New York Big Buck Club, which have minimum standards of 110 and 140 inches, respectively, for gun-killed typicals.

Merritt Compton of Trumansburg, a veteran scorer for the New York Big Buck Club who green-scored Jayne's wondrous whitetail in mid-December, came up with a preliminary gross score of 182 4/8 inches using his organization's measuring system. After subtracting the lengths of two odd antler points and the differences in measurements between comparable tines and diameters on the left and right beams, Compton arrived at a net green score of 165 2/8 inches -- just 4 6/8 inches shy of the B&C minimum of 170 for a gun-killed typical. The deer's rack eventually lost another 5/8 inches during the mandatory drying period.

"I've been a measurer for 30 years, and that buck is by far the most impressive one I've ever seen," Compton said.

The Jayne buck's standout feature was its 24 7/8-inch inside spread, which made it one of the widest-racked whitetails ever slain in the Empire State. Only subtle differences in left-right symmetries, two sticker points and 4-inch beam circumferences kept it from getting a dose of international prestige.

"I was a little disappointed that it didn't qualify for Boone and Crockett," Jayne admitted. "But I've sure had a lot of fun with it, and it's going to look awfully good on my wall, anyway."

Besides, Jayne knows he may have a chance at an even bigger buck this season!

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