Matthews racks up the deer of a lifetime

OUTDOORS

December 12, 1993|By PETER BAKER

Opening day of deer firearms season was warmer than normal for late November on the Eastern Shore. Daylight had come weakly through cloud cover more than four hours earlier, and the wind was too light to carry with much force into the woods on the Finks farm in Queen Anne's County.

Joseph "Whitey" Matthews had been in a tree stand since well before dawn, cradling a borrowed shotgun and harboring dreams of taking a big buck.

Elsewhere in the wood were Matthews' hunting companions and friends, Buddy, Charles and Dan Finks.

By 11 a.m. on Nov. 27, Matthews said Friday, the day was growing long, he was tiring of being in the stand and, well, he was thinking about maybe calling it a day.

But a few minutes later, about 11:30 a.m. he had a shot at a buck, head down and out about 55 yards. Matthews made the kill with a single shot from the smoothbore he had borrowed from his brother, Andy.

"When I first saw it, I knew it was a buck," said Matthews, who has hunted deer 40 of his 57 years. "But I really didn't get to look at it good until I got down near it.

"And I was pretty surprised when I got up close."

The whitetail numbered 31 points on a nontypical rack, and for Matthews was the deer of a lifetime.

Ray Hitchcock, a taxidermist in Severn and qualified by the Department of Natural Resources to score racks under the Boone and Crockett system, said the rack could be a record for Queen Anne's County in the nontypical category.

County record or not, said the Matthews brothers, the deer created quite a stir in Sudlersville and at the taxidermy shop in Anne Arundel County.

Before Matthews got the deer out of the woods with the help of a farmer's bulldozer, word already had begun to spread, and through the afternoon and evening hunters continued to drop by the deer camp to have a look at the unusual kill.

"By the time we got it out of the woods, there were already nine or 10 people around, waiting to look at it or film it with video cameras, and I have never met so many people in so short a time, all coming up to me like this," Matthews said, extending his arm toward a handshake.

On Sunday morning, when the deer was checked in at Corkell's Grovery and Deli outside of Sudlersville on Route 313, Matthews said, "There were a couple of older Eastern Shore men hanging around, and one of them, he must have been in his 80s, said he never had seen anything like [it] in his years over there."

But Matthews said the impact of his accomplishment did not strike him fully until he took the head and antlers to Hitchcock's.

"Standing there, among all these guys with 8, 9, 10-point bucks, I saw that they didn't even care about their deer anymore," said Matthews, a contractor who owns Home Builders and Consultants in Odenton. "But before this, any of their deer probably would have been my pride and joy."

Matthews said his previous best was an 8-pointer taken in Western Maryland a few years ago. Until two years ago, he said, all his deer hunting had been done with a rifle.

And while Joseph Matthews is awaiting a final scoring on his 200-pound, 7-year-old buck, brother Andy is happy to tell the tale of his brother's hunt and wondering whether he ever will get his shotgun back.

"Those people down there were amazed," said Andy Matthews. "One fellow told Joe that if he had the deer done in a full body mount and left it to him in [Joe's] will, he would pay for his entire funeral.

"And after getting a deer like that and all the excitement, I don't think I am going to get my gun back."

Said Joseph Matthews, who is right-handed but made the shot left-handed because he is blind in his right eye, "I have become attached to that gun, and I think I am going to persuade him to let me keep it."

The best score statewide for a nontypical rack taken by gun last year was 177 (James Miller, Kent County). The second best score was 152 (Louis Parrish, Queen Anne's County).

Hitchcock said Friday that he had not scored the rack from Matthews' kill.

Matthews said he is not especially interested in the record, but that if anyone has a video of him and the old whitetail coming out of the woods on the Fink farm deer he would like to get a copy.

"I think that would be a sight I could look at over and over again," Matthews said at the taxidermy shop Friday and shook another hand.

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