By Andy May
“The Loner,” Adam Hill, was featured in Mark Kenyon’s article – “Hunting the Rut: Crazy For It” – with Outdoor Life last fall. He’s a very successful hunter that has an incredible work ethic and a “no give up” attitude. And he hunts a lot of high pressure public lands and is often found camped out in a tent for a week or more chasing old whitetails. Adam is on my personal “hunter contact” list so I often get a play by play from him during the season. I’ve seen him pull some great bucks out of dire situations when things looked pretty bleak – he never gives up and hunts as hard anyone out there. To top it all off, he does most of this with a recurve. Let’s dive into Adam’s mind today and talk big bucks.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the places that you hunt.
A: I have a three state circuit that I hunt for whitetails; Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. I hunt where I can or where I think a good deer might be living. The terrain ranges from prairie hills, wood lots, fence rows, river bottoms and big timber ridges. I like the prairie country the best, but it’s harder to hunt and is not what you think of for typical deer country. 75 percent of my hunting is public and the other 25 percent is private I have accessed through a hand shake.
Q: One of the things that I admire about you is that you love to grind it out in tough to hunt places. I love your stories of being surrounded by hunters on public land with your recurve yet you still achieve success much of the time. Where do you get that drive to stick it out when things look so bleak?
A: The drive has just always been there to go. It did not matter if it was public land or not, I was going. Through years of DIY hunting I’ve learned that it ain’t over till it’s over and it only takes five seconds to get it done. So in a nut shell I learned to endure the hardships and setbacks that come with public land or permission lands with other guys on it. I knew if I kept grinding there was still a chance. Perseverance is probably the best skill I’ve developed.
Q: What are some of the things you look for or try to do when avoiding the crowds on pressured land?
A: A whitetail buck is very savvy. They will live whereever they can. Depending on the type of terrain I am hunting I will look for places that are hard to reach on foot. Another overlooked spot is close to the road where guys don’t think a deer could be. A lot of the time I am hunting what’s just left land wise that does not have hunters on it.
I have adopted a new policy the last 4-5 years. I have been on about every public place in my 3 state circuit, so I pretty much know what’s over the hill or around the corner. I don’t scout much anymore for deer. I scout people more than deer. I let the other hunters show up and lay their claim, and then play off that. This took a while to get used to, as far as hunting by the fly for the most part, but I’ve been in enough of these situations now that it’s just the way I do things. I am lucky I have a career that gives me a lot of time off. That helps, as I can burn 2-4 days before it gets good, to know where I really need to be based on what’s going on at the current moment.
Q: Is there a specific tactic that you feel has led to most of your kills on mature deer?
A: By far just staying in the tree. My successful hunt this fall had the wind blowing 35-40mph at times. You just have to be there during the right time frame and for me that’s during the rut.
Q: Aside from staying in the tree, what other tactics have led to your kills? Calling, rattling, spot and stalk, bed hunting, treeless areas?
A: I am not big on blind calling or rattling. I will call to deer as a last ditch effort and mainly will use the snort wheeze during the rut and just grunts any other time. I plan to experiment with decoys in the future. I will try just about anything if the situation is right. I have stalked up and shot them off the ground. I do find more mature deer in treeless places and open places on public lands. It seems the deer in certain places have learned trees equal danger. This has been especially true in open country with limited cover for traditional tree stand set ups. 90 percent of my hunting is done during the rut. I try to avoid the bedding areas and food sources. I set up where I can get in and out clean and just wait in the spot that gives me the maximum odds at getting a close range shot with a bow and arrow.
Q: What pieces of equipment, if any, do you rely on with your style of hunting?
A: The Lone Wolf Assault stand and climbing sticks are my best piece of equipment. Warm quality clothing is a must too. You have to be able to stay in the stand. It’s pricey, but the Sitka Stratus with wind stopper has helped me log more stand time. By far my body and mind are the most important. You can use all the fancy gear you want but they aren’t necessary. Do some help? Sure, a little bit, but I know guys that hunt from the ground with 20 year old bows that put down big bucks every year.
Q: What bow do you use? Do you use any ground blinds, natural or pop up?
A: I shot a Stalker Stickbow Coyote recurve, its 62” and 44 lbs at my draw weight. All the deer I have shot have been with 40-44lbs and it will blow right through a deer. I have never really used a pop up blind for deer. I have built natural blinds and used ghillie suits and 3D leafy suits. I prefer a tree stand but sometimes to get in the game you got to get on the ground.
Q: Do you prefer to hunt alone or with a partner? Depending on your answer, do you think that aids in your success?
A: I am kind of a loner by nature. I like to do my thing and let others do theirs. I enjoy the solitude and the outdoors. I also like to share a camp with some friends and cut up and tell some lies you know too! About the thirty pointer! I am perfectly fine solo or with good frienda. From a productivity stand point though, I’m more successful solo, but it is not all about the end results.
Q: I find you to be a very motivating hunter. Do you get motivated by other hunters?
A: I absolutely get motivated by other hunters. I love to see a guy work hard and get it done. It’s exciting to see the reactions from them. It gives me energy to drive on when my motivation is low. I have been in situations where the logical thing would have been to call it and go home, but the stories from other people and their success kept me grinding. I think there is something to be learned from guys out there, even if they are hunting in different environments then your current situation.
Q: You’re a grinder and hunt the hard way in difficult areas. Where does the decision to challenge yourself come from.
A: I like to be challenged mentally and physically by the outdoors and the animals. I have learned the most about the animals and myself when I did not make a harvest. I gain a new respect for the animals and Mother Nature after I’ve been punished by them both. I think it’s human nature to want to stay comfortable but when you get comfortable you stop growing as a hunter and person.
Q: Can you tell me a brief version of your traditional bow journey?
A: I love archery and love simplicity. I shot compounds for many years and loved them. I wanted a new challenge and the stickbows were the obvious answer. There is a learning curve to it, but it’s not as hard as it’s made to be with proper instructions. For the most part with proper set up and techniques it’s as effective as modern bows for normal deer hunting ranges. I love their simplicity and not much can break on them. A wooden bow sure feels nice in the hand on a cold November day.
Q: Where do you think the average guy fails at consistently killing mature bucks every year?
A: You have to hunt in a place that gives you chance. Public land in some states is better than private in others. Hunting public land has a stigma. It’s all a mental game in the beginning and guys kill big deer on public every year. Why not me? Do the work and put the time in and it will be you! It takes time and some success to gain the confidence. Don’t be afraid to knock on a door either. You might get told no but that’s ok, but you might just get lucky. I once asked 20 people in a row and number 21 said yes.
Q: Give on tip/secret for the readers that you think will improve their game on mature bucks.
A: Just get out and do it! If I can find success on a shoe string budget and get it done, anyone can.
Q: How about one more tip in regards to mature deer tendencies. Can you think of a tip about mature buck behavior that would help our readers?
A: I think with the evolution of whitetail hunting and all the information at our disposal we can over-think hunting a mature deer. I know I have gotten back to the basics and rely on woodsmanship more than anything anymore. I would have to say keep it simple. This may sound elementary but if you truly think about it you might be surprised at what you’re overlooking.