Harvesting buck isn't like pulling teeth

ON THE OUTDOORS

October 28, 2001|By CANDUS THOMSON

EASTON - Ed Sharkey is being obnoxious.

"I am," said the Woodlawn dentist, laughing. "I can't help it."

The source of his antisocial behavior weighed slightly less than Tony Siragusa and came with a giant hat rack of antlers.

It was, his hunting buddy Hugh Carey says, "a deer of a lifetime."

Sharkey shot the 280-pound, 12-point buck a week ago Saturday from a tree stand just outside this Eastern Shore city. Exact location? Don't ask. I'm sworn to secrecy.

The two men were in tree stands they had constructed, with Carey perched in the "Monkey Stand," as they call the difficult-to-reach spot. On Friday, the monster buck sauntered by Carey.

"I saw it, but didn't have a shot at it," said the retired Baltimore County math teacher.

Buddy etiquette dictated that he swap stands with Sharkey the next day, on what turned out to be trophy day.

The 36-year-old dentist was just settling in at about 7:30 a.m. when the old buck showed up again right below his feet. The buck wandered off a short way to a tree to inspect a scrape and then went to a licking branch. The dentist took him down cleanly, mid-lick, with a spine shot that pierced the heart.

"I can't believe how calm I was," Sharkey said.

Carey, 100 yards away, radioed his pal by walkie-talkie, then climbed down from his stand for a look.

The dentist, who has taken 10 deer in a decade, says his trophy was not only the biggest deer he's ever shot, "It was the biggest deer I've ever seen. The tines off the main [antler] beam were a foot long. He was so fat, it was like shooting a donkey."

Carey was equally impressed. "I've been hunting 25 years and killed three big ones over 180 pounds and this was beyond anything I had ever killed or seen," he said.

But the day wasn't over. The two hunters dragged the buck about 100 yards from the kill site to field-dress it. But even at a slimmed-down 226 pounds, dragging the buck another half mile to the truck was a chore.

"I'm 57 and I was wondering if I was going to have a heart attack," Carey said. "We had to stop every 15 yards."

They checked the deer at Shore Sportsman in Easton, the home away from home for trophy bucks.

Then it was a 90-minute ride home, with Sharkey selling woof tickets.

"I was pretty unbearable," Sharkey cheerfully acknowledged. "It was a long ride for Hugh."

Shore Sportsman owner Jamie Latham says Sharkey's kill is just one of several mega-bucks he's seen. "We've had a lot of big deer brought in, at least 12 deer over 200 pounds. They're definitely bigger than normal this year."

The shop has checked two deer with live weighs of 256 and 247 pounds and two field-dressed deer weighing 221 and 205 pounds.

"We have good food and genetics on the Eastern Shore, but don't tell anybody because we don't want you guys over here shooting our deer," Latham said, joking. "These deer are bulking up. They have a lot of fat on them, and that's a telltale sign of a cold winter."

The reports please - but don't surprise - Doug Hotton, the state deer biologist.

"What these hunters are seeing are deer in their prime and we are seeing that in our data," he said. "Since 1997, when we began to discourage buck taking and encouraging the taking of antlerless deer, the average age of [killed bucks] is getting older. Hunters are being more selective."

He also isn't surprised to learn that they're growing them big in Talbot County.

"The agriculture land and woodland is in prime condition, so those counties that horseshoe around the upper bay tend to produce our larger deer," he said.

Sharkey, for one, expects to be out in Talbot County again for bow season and firearms season. Carey is now using Sharkey's "lucky" 50-caliber, in-line muzzleloader.

"The whole outfit, with scope and everything, cost me $130 out of the Bass Pro catalog," he said. "Not a bad investment."

The freezers at the Sharkey and Carey homes are full of venison, and the deer head is at C&C Taxidermy in Manchester being mounted.

All Sharkey has to do now is figure out where he's going to hang it in his brand-new home in Eldersburg.

"This deer is like the 1,000-pound marlin that every fisherman hopes to catch," he said.

Meanwhile, over on the Western Shore, the state is having a managed hunt at Chapman's Forest in Charles County on Nov. 28 and Dec. 1, 4, 6 and 7.

A lottery will be held Nov. 13 to decide who will participate. Applications must be received by the state no later than Nov. 9.

All hunters must have a Hunter Safety Certificate from any state, a shooter qualification card for this season and a Maryland hunting license. Applicants who do not have a qualification card can be tested at the Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management shooting range from 1 to 4 p.m. on Nov. 4.

Even if you don't win in the lottery, you should visit Chapman's Forest sometime. The waterfront property across the Potomac from the Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge is gorgeous, with dozens of rare plants and 16 pairs of bald eagles.

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