Editor’s Note: Josh Wade from Charlestown, New Hampshire, has been a Mossy Oak Pro for 7 years and been hunting whitetail for 18 years with a bow, a rifle and a blackpowder gun. “Here in New Hampshire we don’t have many deer, so we primarily have to hunt states like Missouri, where we can hunt in all three seasons.”
I start hunting deer at the end of turkey season and put out trail cameras to help me find deer to learn where they’re at, and where they’re moving. I move my cameras around to get as much information as I can about the land I hunt. Each year I review what I’ve learned from previous years. By compiling that information plus what I’ve learned in the spring, the summer and the early fall of the current year, I can put together a game plan to learn where, when and why deer should show up. I take the back roads going to and from work to home in the summer months to look at fields and pastures and learn where deer are feeding and moving.
The first deer I take each season is the meat deer I plan to put in my freezer. After I’ve got that first deer in the freezer, then I start hunting places where I’ve seen deer with antlers. We have a month-long bow season before gun season arrives. I buy a deer tag when I buy my license and then I can take a doe and in New Hampshire a buck. Blackpowder season arrives before rifle season, so I can take one deer during blackpowder season then (see Day 1). But if you take a deer during blackpowder season, you can’t take another deer during rifle season. At the beginning of archery season this year, I took a doe that weighed just over 130 pounds. I hunt with a Hoyt Alpha Max bow and use Spitfire Broadheads. My blackpowder rifle is a Traditions Pursuit, and I have an old .270 Ruger, model .77 that I use during rifle season.
I usually try and take at least one trip out of state each season, and next year we’re going to Indiana to hunt. Two years ago we went to northwestern Indiana near Chicago. Next year we’re planning to go to Splinter Ridge or Crosley to a Federal Wildlife Unit in Indiana, which is public land. My number-one scouting tool is Google Earth. We study the Google Earth maps of the area we’re hunting, using both topo maps and aerial photos. Then we search the internet for deer-hunting forums, especially those forums in Indiana, and look for blogs that contain information on the area we’re planning to hunt. Right now I’m searching for information about the Splinter Ridge Wildlife Area from 2015 back to 2012. Then from that information, we’ll decide whether or not we want to go to Splinter Ridge.
We’ve learned that Splinter Ridge probably will be a better area to hunt than the Crosley Wildlife Area, based on information we’ve gotten from hunters who have hunted there previously. We’ve also decided to hike in to hunt. Switzerland County, where Splinter Ridge is located, is much like Pike County, Illinois, in that it has big deer and plenty of them. Then I’ll go to Federal Wildlife Area websites and get a map of the area, compare the boundaries of Splinter Ridge to the Google Earth maps we have and look for ridges, feeding places and possible bedding spots inside the boundaries of this public-hunting area. Next we search for spots that most people probably won’t hunt because they’re too far from public access, the terrain is too difficult for most people to climb, or there’s some type of water barrier that prevents most people from getting to a productive spot.
The first day we go to this area, each hunter in our party will spend that day scouting the places we’ve picked out where the deer should be. That night, after a day of scouting, we’ll all come back to camp and talk about what we’ve seen, and what we’ve liked and didn’t like about the spots.Most of the time we’ll discard half of the things we’ve learned about the region. Although topo maps and aerial photos can show us a great deal about the areas we want to hunt, when you actually reach these public-hunting lands and put boots on the ground, we’ve found about half of our assumptions will be wrong.