This week, we start a new mini-series called “What They Know.” Over the last many years, Fish Wrap has been blessed to meet and learn from some of the best people in outdoor sports. With Chris Wood, Mr. Bass, Don Barone, Bob Buscher, Greg Vespe, Mark Eustis, Dennis Zambrotta, Warren Winders, Tom Sadler, Lawrence Thompson, Glenn Place, Jack Sprengel, Jason Anctil, and countless others, the common thread has always been a love of being outdoors. As time allows, we will meet a steady stream of folks who have something to share, who will help us all be better at our sports and passions and likely better appreciate all we have around us. This week, we hear from Tom Adams: fisherman, hunter, husband and father of three. We first wrote about Tom several years ago when he was fishing from his Wilderness Systems kayak but now when autumn breezes brush rusty leaves through his yard, Tom heads for the woods so this week, Tom Adams talks hunting.
“I started hunting with my Dad as a kid. But then I took a lot of time off and didn’t get back into hunting until probably eight years ago,” Tom said. “It gets me back in the wood with my Dad a couple times a year,” who hunts every Fall for bear, turkey and deer in New Hampshire and Vermont.In an average year, considering he is a family first guy and Massachusetts does not allow for Sunday hunting, Tom hunts approximately twenty days. He can add a few more Rhode Island days to that on a good year. He prefers archery-only areas and doesn’t hunt during shotgun season unless he is on private land with his Obsession Bows Turmoil compound bow.
When we talked about young people learning to hunt, he said he might start them with a firearm since there are better chances for more ethical kills. He’s a strong proponent of practice, practice, practice with both types of weapons. They are tools, after all and the more proficient and comfortable new hunters are with them, the greater the percentage of ethical shots they’ll take. “You need to make sure that when you are shooting your bow, that you are making those shots. They have to be ethical shots,” he said. “When you are out there, your adrenaline is going to get going, there’s wind and other environmental factors, like branches, you have to be on your game.”
“When I’m checking my cameras, if there’s a freshly downed tree, I take branches and put them in my bins,” Tom said. Branches and leaves specifically from lands he will hunt, not from local yards holding essences of barbeques or gasoline, are stored in garbage bags and totes as critical elements of his camouflage.
Those natural smells work with his commercial scent block clothing and detergents. “You’re not going to beat a deer’s nose,” he chuckled.
Like many successful fishermen and women, he sees even the smallest detail as the difference between a clean shot and a walk in the woods. Using satellite imagery to identify new locations, he walks to find tracks, scrapes, signs of preferred foods and even old tree stands, always paying close attention to weather patterns, winds and thermals. “I’m watching how those two things, temperatures and wind, interact with thermals,” Tom said. He scouts with cameras and when there’s time, he just sits. Planning well in advance of hunting season, scouting spots in Spring before trees leaf out, to understand how woods will look in the Fall, is key. In one spot, over two days he saw 15 deer but he’s keenly aware of applying too much early pressure. He studies internet videos of other hunters to build knowledge and has moved from ground blind to tree stand to a saddle and often is in position an hour and half before sunrise. When necessary, he might stay in one tree for an entire day. That’s dedication. True to form, he keeps the blind for when his kids want to join him or learn more about the sport.
Tom Adams talks hunting to help all be better and smarter in the woods
After many youthful years with his father who was a traditional hunter raised without our ample technologies, deer hunting frustrated him. Tom’s lack of practice, reading, scouting and watching for those small details cost him opportunities. He retreated because he walked the woods and didn’t get deer. In 2014, he returned, focused on understanding and appreciating his environment, worked with Trader Jan’s in Dartmouth to keep his equipment tuned, practiced his shots, understood his woods and shot a 200 pound, ten point buck.
Because we met as anglers, I challenged him with a bluebird Fall weekend, clear and calm, bursting with late season striper blitzes in the Sakonnet. “Fishing or hunting?” I asked. “I’m going to be in the tree,” he said, without hesitation. “Yes, when it got to the Fall, I always enjoyed fishing more than hunting, but the more I hunt, the more I don’t want to miss out on that. I’m in the woods.”
So it is, for a man who lives for family time, kayaks and casts when time allows, makes pounds of mushroom jerky and gravy smothered venison sausage for his kids to devour and patiently waits for the right mornings to disappear in thick woods. Watching trimmed shooting lanes, feeling slight breezes, listening for cracks of dry leaves to reveal an approach, Tom perches high above, silent, patient, just waiting, happy to be in the woods again.
For season dates, bag limits, check station locations and other important information about hunting in the Ocean State, go to RIDEM’s new website, www.rio.ri.gov.