June 14, 2016
Serious deer hunters know Maryland has the soil nutrients and herd genetics to produce magnum whitetails. Most of these giants have come from the fertile Eastern Shore portion of the Delmarva Peninsula, where lush agricultural fields, coastal marshes and diverse inland woods have long supported a healthy deer population.
Kevin Miller's 194-inch typical state record was shot near an alfalfa field in this region a little over a decade ago, and many other great whitetails have been harvested there as well.
But while the rest of Maryland has produced fewer monsters, they really can come from anywhere. And so, not too many veteran whitetail hunters in the Old Line State were shocked when Jordan DuHamell broke the non-typical archery record with a giant from one of those "other" counties in 2013. He was bowhunting in Cecil County, way up in the state's northeast corner, when he arrowed the 26-point giant on Dec. 27.
Jordan took his trophy near where the Susquehanna River empties into the upper end of Chesapeake Bay. Cecil County is little more than a long bow shot from the hunter's home in sprawling Newark, Delaware. The area is less intensively farmed than are some of the better-known deer counties farther south, but otherwise it has a lot going for it as whitetail habitat.
"Cecil County is just north of Kent County, where Kevin Miller killed his record buck," points out Charlie Prickett. He's a friend of both hunters and a pro staffer for the Blitz TV show.
"I guess I'm good luck for deer hunters," Charlie laughs, "because Jordan has hunted on my property a lot. He's like a little brother to me, and he killed the biggest deer to date at my farm, a 140-class 8-pointer on opening day of (the 2013) shotgun season."
Although Jordan lives across the line in Delaware, he works in Elkton, Maryland, for a company called Innovative Cutting. When he went afield on the day of the kill, he was carrying a Hoyt Carbon Element compound bow, even though the second segment of muzzleloader season already had been open for nearly a week.
Through the Season
Maryland has several segments to its deer season, starting with archery in early September, then muzzleloader, firearms and muzzleloader again. Archery hunters can hunt during any firearms season but must wear adequate fluorescent orange at those times, same as if they were carrying a gun. Why was Jordan toting his bow when he could have taken a smokepole instead? There's a simple answer to that question.
"I'd cleaned up my muzzleloader and didn't feel like taking it down and reloading it. I'd rather hunt with a bow anyway," notes the young sportsman, who's been a bowhunter since the age of 13. "I've killed maybe 15 deer, most with a bow."
Going into the 2013 season, Jordan knew a big buck was living somewhere in the 15-acre swath of creek bottom at the center of his boss' farm near the town of Fair Hill. That's the last town a traveler passes through on Md. Route 472 before entering Pennsylvania.
"It's horse country," Jordan points out. "My boss' property has big hay fields they use to feed horses." Back in 2010, Jordan's trail camera had detected a large 8-pointer in one of those fields. The hunter says he believes those images were of the buck that three years later would walk in front of his stand two days after Christmas 2013.
"We never got pictures of him after (2010), but we'd see a big buck at long distances in some of the fields," Jordan says. "You could tell he had a big mainframe and a few sticker points, but he was too far away to tell much more than that."
Jordan's workplace isn't far at all from the property he hunts. "Once I was driving back from there and a big buck ran across the road in front of my vehicle, but off a neighbor's property," he remembers. "I don't know that it was this buck, but I had never seen one with a bigger set of antlers." While talking with Jordan by phone last Dec. 27, Charlie told him it might be a fortuitous time to get his climbing stand and shinny up a tree.
"When the buck reached a spot 35 yards from the tree stand, the bowhunter made a grunting sound with his mouth. The huge deer stopped. "I put my 30-yard pin right behind his left front leg and touched my release," Jordan says.
"He's in kind of a tough situation," Charlie notes, "because his boss lets a lot of people hunt that farm, and Jordan never knew who else might be there. But I knew he was getting off work early, so I told him to go get in a stand."
The spot he chose was "exactly on a creek bottom near an old cattle fence," Jordan says. "Deer came from other properties around there and would walk down that creek bottom, then feed in the hay fields. The creek bottom is kind of a funnel."
A field adjacent to the trail-heavy bottom where Jordan decided to set up had been planted in cool-season grass. "It was all greened up and pulled in a lot of deer," he says.
To make the spot even more attractive to local deer, that afternoon Jordan placed a canister of Buck Bomb on a nearby tree limb. He'd previously dropped a Lucky Buck mineral block on the ground within bow range of his ambush site, hoping to draw something close. (Baiting is legal on private land in the state.)
"This was near the end of the secondary rut in Maryland," he says. "It didn't have much longer to run."Jordan had hunted the spot the previous week. Despite not having seen any deer on that hunt, he'd left his climber at the base of the tree after descending. So when he got back there at around 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 27, all he had to do was ratchet himself up the tree again.
"About 3:15 p.m. two does came out (of the bottom)," Jordan says. "I'd already made up my mind I was going to shoot a doe if nothing else came along. They took their time and worked their way toward me slowly."
The female deer meandered toward the mineral lick, taking about 25 minutes to close the distance. "One of them was about to get in range, and I was just getting ready to pull back my bowstring when I saw the buck coming down an old fence line," Jordan remembers.
At first, the bowhunter didn't fully appreciate the size of the buck's headgear. "I knew he had a good set of antlers on his head," Jordan says. "They seemed to have a lot of mass. But he also had his head on the ground, and I was watching him trail those does all the way."
When the buck reached a spot 35 yards from the tree stand, the bowhunter made a grunting sound with his mouth. The huge deer stopped. "I put my 30-yard sight pin right behind his left front leg and touched my release," Jordan says.
The Hoyt launched a Carbon Express Maxima Red arrow and three-blade Grim Reaper broadhead toward the deer's side. It hit with a thwack almost exactly where Jordan had aimed.
"He took five steps, then dropped to the ground," the bowhunter remembers. "Then he stood up."
Now Jordan didn't know for sure just how well the buck had been hit. The hit had sounded solid, but the hunter wasn't aware his arrow had passed completely through the buck's body cavity: a double-lung shot. To be on the safe side, Jordan quickly went back into action. The second arrow penetrated a few inches into the deer's shoulder blade.
"I watched him stagger maybe 75 or 80 yards, and he disappeared over a little knoll in the field," Jordan says. "I looked at my watch, and it was 3:45 p.m." Jordan figures that from the time he spotted the monster buck until he put an arrow into his lungs, roughly a minute elapsed — though it seemed a lot longer. So the 45-minute wait to start down from the tree most likely felt like an eternity. But that's how long Jordan forced himself to wait before checking for sign.
"I walked over to where he'd been standing when I shot, started looking and found my first arrow," he says. "It was covered in blood, and there was a good blood trail leading away from the spot." Jordan followed and soon found the buck lying dead in a briar patch. It took the bowhunter a bit of work to pull the deer out where he could get a better look. And when he did, he immediately saw antler points sprouting in all directions.
The sight stunned Jordan, as he'd had no idea the deer was anywhere near that big. The happy archer immediately opened his phone and texted Charles a short but memorable message: "I've killed a monster."
Jordan wanted to get the buck loaded and home before all light was gone, so he hustled to the Gator he'd ridden part of the way to his stand. Although the deer weighed well over 200 pounds on the hoof, Jordan was so charged up he lifted the beast into the UTV by himself.
"Two guys loading hay saw me with the deer and came over and took some pictures," Jordan recalls. Charlie drove to the DuHamell residence the next day and snapped several more photos of his friend with the giant buck.
Robert A. "Bob" Newton III, a measurer for Boone and Crockett, Pope & Young and the Maryland Trophy Deer Contest, worked with P&Y scorer Mike Travis to tape the buck's headgear following the mandatory 60-day drying period. Even after 12 7/8 inches of deductions on the basic 5x5 frame, the wide, massive 26-pointer netted 223 3/8 inches.
The nine abnormal points on the right antler account for 39 4/8 inches, including a 10 7/8-inch drop tine underneath the G-3 tine. The left antler's seven abnormals measure 17 3/8 inches for a whopping 57 1/8 total non-typical inches.
In Maryland's archery rankings, this spectacular buck has supplanted the 220 2/8-incher Yates Claggett shot on Nov. 5, 1995, in Prince George County. (That county lies to the west side of Chesapeake Bay but also has many farms.) Jordan's giant also ranks fifth among non-typicals taken in Maryland by bow or gun.
It's always interesting to look back on a successful hunt and try to determine what made the difference the day everything came together. In Jordan's case, it all began with the opportunity to hunt. He actually had fewer days to hunt during the 2013 season than in the past, because his family had grown. But he caught a break the day he arrowed the state record.
"I have a daughter and son who are preschoolers," the hunter explains. "My wife usually works evenings. But she was off that night, so I was able to go hunting. I'm sure glad it worked out that way." So is Charlie Prickett. He revels in what his good friend was able to achieve with a bow during a season in which virtually everyone else was carrying a muzzleloader. "It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Charlie claims.