A simple handshake helped a Maine outfitter and a farmer from Ohio shorten their bucket lists in 2020.
It's impossible to say who got the better end of the deal, the man who took home a brace of record-book whitetails, the one who felled a truly world-class black bear, or the taxidermists who earned one or more truck payments. None of this would've happened had Steve Scanlin not yearned for a change of scenery and a chance at a deer as big in antler as it was in body.
Steve and his wife, Belinda, went off the grid 11 years ago to launch Black Hat Hunting, an outfitting service 17 miles west of Maine's Mt. Katahdin.
"We live on and manage 9,000 acres of privately owned property used for recreational hunts. We also operate a campground in the heart of the property," Steve told Duncan Dobie, who's writing the story for Rack magazine.
Since 2017, the 42-year-old retired marine has taken a break from guiding others in order to hunt for himself. His first quest for a change of scenery and a chance at a world-class whitetail took him to public land in the Buckeye State.
A friend and fellow Marine introduced him to Logan Harrigan, an Ohio farmer, and the two became instant buddies. The guys wound up striking a deal, a Maine black bear for a top-heavy Ohio whitetail.
The first couple of times Steve hunted with Logan were a bust, but seeing big deer beyond bow range inspired him to buy a crossbow. He also arranged a hunt for the late blackpowder season in January 2020.
Steve and a friend, Toby Hughes, arrived at Logan's place a few days early.
"Since we didn't have a lot to do and archery season was still in, we decided to go out and try to shoot a doe," he said. "We each put $10 in a kitty for whoever got a doe first. I went to a blind we had set up for my muzzleloader hunt on the edge of a cut cornfield. It must have taken me 10 minutes to walk across that field.
"Some cornfields in Ohio are bigger than most small towns in northern Maine!" he added.
Soon after getting inside his blind, Steve saw a doe and buck approaching, and he gladly forfeited his shot at winning the first-doe pot, a small price to pay for a 174-inch 9-pointer.
He bested that deer the following November by stalking to within 60 yards of a buck and two does bedded in a soybean field. A farmer operating a combine nearby proved to be the perfect distraction.
"(At 188 inches), my second Ohio buck was considerably larger than the first. It had a beautiful mainframe 7x7 rack with several small sticker points," Steve said.
The bear-for-buck deal worked out well for both guys that year. Steve wound up with nearly 360 inches of antler in two record-book bucks, and Logan felled an ancient Maine black bear that tipped the scales at a whopping 540 pounds.
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