September 20, 2016
Captain Steve Whitelock spends much of his time guiding folks on the waters off Maryland's Eastern Shore. The area offers more than 55 species of fish, but Steve places a special emphasis on catching fat flounder.
He captains a boat called the "Happy Hooker," and all fishing takes place on the protected waters of Isle of Wight Bay. Steve specializes in taking kids fishing, therefore restricting his trips to only two hours. By then the kids are usually getting tired, but they always seem to be able to catch a few flounder.
When Steve isn't fishing, he can be found in the woods in search of big bucks.
He was born on the Delmarva Peninsula (the first few letters of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia combined), where his father taught him to find his way around the peninsula's marshes, woods and waters. Although he's always found all wildlife fascinating, Steve has a special love for the giant bucks that live along the area's many corn and soybean fields.
It might come as a surprise to many, but deer hunting the Eastern Shore of Maryland is very similar to hunting in the Midwest. The land is fairly flat, with nearly one million acres of farmland devoted to the growing of soybeans and corn. Farms on the peninsula produce nearly 300 million chickens annually, and the majority of the grain harvest is devoted to feeding poultry.
As in the Midwest, nearly all of the peninsula's tillable land is put to use, leaving brushy drainages and cutover pine forests for the deer to hide in. Additionally, the entire peninsula is bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and by massive Chesapeake Bay on the west, allowing deer to find refuge in thick marshes and impenetrable stands of phragmites.
Maryland is basically a "pay to hunt" state, and Steve was looking for a place in early 2012. He stumbled upon a club of six members on a 300-acre lease in Wicomico County. Astoundingly, there was only one other bowhunter within the group. Steve joined the club but was unable to devote much time to hunting due to a very busy work schedule. At the end of the 2012 season, he found himself deerless.
In preparation for the 2013 season, Steve scouted the new hunting property and was thrilled to find numerous large rubs. Some of the rubbed trees were over 6 inches in diameter, giving the hunter high hopes for the coming season.
Again, due to his work schedule, Steve didn't get to hunt until the season had been under way for nearly a week. He then jumped at the first opportunity he had to hunt, but he didn't see much action during the evening sit.
As Steve slipped out of his stand that first evening, he could see 15 or so deer feeding in the bean field — and one of them was a giant non-typical!
Despite his urge to hunt the massive buck, Steve couldn't return for the next few weeks. Once he finally was free, he still couldn't hunt that spot, due to undesirable weather conditions. It seemed the wind would always blow from the wrong direction, and Steve wasn't about spook the buck by being impatient.
The hunter was finally able to sit in his ladder stand one evening. At last light, he watched two does enter the bean field just 40 yards from his position. There was no sign of the big guy, but Steve remained optimistic that he was hunting him correctly.
Sept. 24 would prove to be a day that would live forever in Steve's memory. He awoke that morning with an unshakably good feeling, as if something special were about to happen. In fact, his intuition was so strong that he bailed out on his last charter of the day. Steve's mate took over the boat work, allowing for a quick evening hunt.
There were only about two hours of light left when Steve got to the woods. Quickly and quietly he climbed into his ladder stand. It stood only about 10 yards from the edge of the bean field, but dense undergrowth prohibited a shot into the field itself. Rather than try to weave a shot through the thick brush, Steve concentrated on a particular spot within a narrow right of way. That's where he hoped the buck would step out of the heavy woods.
"Steve Whitelock's Maryland non-typical is proof the Eastern Shore remains a sleeper spot for giant whitetails. With seasons that run from early September into January, bowhunters and gun hunters alike can score big in the Old Line State."
Steve theorized the buck was bedding in the cutover, and he hoped the nearly perfect weather might draw him out to feed before the end of shooting light. The sky was overcast, the temperature an unseasonably cool 70 degrees. A slight breeze was blowing from the southeast, meaning Steve was in perfect position; all he needed was for the big buck to materialize.
Fortunately, that's exactly what happened. The buck slipped into the right of way about 52 yards from the stand and immediately started walking straight at the hunter. Steve had been practicing with his TenPoint crossbow and felt comfortable shooting out to 50 yards. But as the buck continued to close the distance to within 40 yards of the stand, he kept facing the hunter, offering no shot.
Suddenly, the great whitetail turned and started to quarter away. This was Steve's long-awaited opportunity, and he wasn't going to let it pass. At 47 yards, the hunter took aim and touched the trigger, sending a Carbon Express arrow tipped with a Spitfire broadhead on its way.
The bolt entered the buck slightly in back of the ribcage, then angled forward. Hit hard, the deer hunched his back and ran toward the bean field. After scaring several does out of the field, he ran into an adjacent woodlot and out of the hunter's view.
Fearing the meat might spoil if not recovered promptly, Steve remained in the stand for only 40 minutes before starting the search. He thought about calling for help but decided to make sure the buck really was down before making the call.
Fortunately, the buck put down an excellent blood trail. In a matter of minutes, Steve was standing over the fallen giant. With trembling hands, he pulled out his cell phone and called his dad. When informed that the buck had at least 27 points, Steve's dad questioned if his son knew how to count!
As it turned out, Steve did. The great rack had 13 scorable points on the right antler and 14 on the left. When Steve and his dad got the deer home and word began to get out, the scene quickly became a swarm of friends and neighbors. Everyone was excited to see the monarch and hear the story.
After the 60-day drying period, official scoring put the rack at 211 2/8 net non-typical. That made the Whitelock buck a Boone & Crockett qualifier and Maryland's No. 1 by crossbow.