By: Wade Nolan Bowhunting Biologist

Ohio may be the most under rated and unsung whitetail hot spots in America. I invite you to join us for 5 days of whitetailing in the Buckeye state.

I’ve always contended that peak rut occurs on November 11th if you live north of the Mason Dixon line and East of the Mississippi. This is confirmed by a bit of info compiled by the Pa. Department of Transportation. I base my opinion on the fact that the eleventh is the peak road kill day for the year. That is why I selected the week of November 9-16 for our annual Ohio Whitetail University writers hunt.

This year, like the last ten, we rendezvoused at Clendening Lake in Harrison County. Our lodging this year was the marina lodge, which sits right on the lakeshore.

Marina lodge

In attendance is Whitetail University field staffers, Robert Hoague of from Texas, Brent Henderson of Indiana, Bill Lee from Pennsylvania, Cliff Jones from the southwestern tier of NY, Kirk Horton from the DC area, Cliff Forbes from Titusville Pa, Donn Chapman from Derry Pa, Reed and Candice Nolan also from Derry, Glenn Halter and Mike Middleton from South Carolina and the father/son team of Jim and Connor Tucholski from Pa.. These were all experienced whitetailers.

We rented two pontoon boats and used my square stern Old Town with a new 4hp Evenrude for lake access. These boats made the 38 miles of wilderness shoreline of the big lake reachable. The beauty of this lake system is that the shoreline is not cluttered with private cottages like so many of the recreation lakes in Ohio. Clendening boasts nearly 5000 acres of public land adjacent to the long twisting lake.

Ohio has a long history of producing quality bucks not typical of public land elsewhere. The vast amount of public land under the professional management of Ohio’s DNR’s Deer Project leader, Mike Tonkovich has consistently out produced public land in adjacent states. It is a combination of Mike’s scientific leadership and conservative firearm seasons. Within a 25-minute drive of our lakeside cottage are two more significant public land hot spots. Jockey Hollow and Egypt Valley Wildlife management areas are amazing examples of what can happen when private industry and state agencies cooperate. Both areas were once owned by large coal mine concerns and after reclamation they were acquired by the Ohio DNR for management for public use.

I have personally seen B&C quality bucks on these public lands. Across the past ten years I have introduced nearly 200 hunters to Clendening Lake and this year I may be seeing the law of diminishing returns at work. More on that later. Brent and I got busy on day one and took the Old Town down to a remote corner of the lake to set up in an area we’ve both killed deer in during previous years. The barrier we used that eliminates most other hunters is to first use a canoe for access but in addition to pass under a low bridge that excludes pontoon boats. Motoring down the long lake is a wonderful and welcome experience as most deer hunting is done via a road system or at best with quad access. At a glance we could survey at least 5 miles of uninhabited shoreline.

Once at Dangerous Bay we landed and removed tree stands and full body harnesses. I have switched to a new harness this year that is both comfortable to wear and well designed. It is called a Tree Spider harness. If there is one thing I know it is that using a user friendly harness is one factor that encourages hunters to use a harness at all. Aside from the fact that it can save your life, ease of use is the biggest factor that convinces men to wear their harness. They say… Tree Spider – Light. Easy. Fast. Safe.

After we landed the canoe, Brent and I climbed up a steep pine treed slope and discovered a few old remnants of flagging from 2 years ago. We’d discovered this ridge point three years ago and have had success here with rattling in trolling bucks during the rut. After setting his stand we crossed the bay and set up my hang-on on an adjoining ridge that was scratched up with fresh scrapes and two parallel trails that led down it’s brushy sloping spine. Now we’d let them cool down for a few days and hunt them mid week. We timed the day poorly and drove the canoe back in total darkness. Although not planned, the starlight ride across the long lake was memorable.

That night at the lodge we studied maps and showed the new comers some terrain features to cash in on as they decided where to concentrate their efforts the next morning. With almost a total lack of agriculture fields it is tricky to interpret the contour lines of a map and guess where the deer will be traveling. One valuable and tested tip is to look for connecting ridges where the elevation drops slightly. These are saddles and deer use these connector points to commute between drainages.

Another hot spot is flat spots or benches where the contour lines are wide spread as they trace horizontally across the mountainsides. These attract deer because they are easy to travel. Often deer trails will be paralleling the benches and may even serve as good bedding areas especially if they are on the tip 1/3 of the mountain. A final point of interception is often shallow bottoms where the steep slopes mellow out and form an easy crossing. Deer are not much different than people when it comes to travel routes. The easy route is preferred.

No matter where you find them, whitetails are perfect bowhunter detectors. To do this they rely primarily on their nose. The best way to defeat their nose is to eliminate human odor. My solution is shared by my hunting partners. We shower with Atsko’s Hair and Body soap which is the younger brother of Sport-Wash the famous laundry, also produced by Atsko. N-O-DOR uses the science of oxidation to eliminate human odor and it works. Expert whitetailer, Glenn Halter from Atsko headquarters brought a supply of each to camp.

A whitetails eyes are a unique part of their anatomy. Understanding whitetail vision is a key to your success. A few very important results of recent whitetail research concerning deer vision need to be part of your understanding if you want to outsmart their amazing vision. You can get clued inn and educated if you go too Atsko’s website and watch, “Whitetail Sight and Scent Strategies”. Watching this short video will place you in the top 10% of all bowhunters. Here are some bullet points:

  • Whitetail deer can see into the UV spectrum … unlike you.
  • They can see UV brighteners in your camo.
  • Deer can see in the dark about as good as we see on a cloudy day.
  • Whitetails have a reflector behind their iris that doubles available light
  • Deer see blaze orange as glowing blue because blaze is loaded with brighteners.
  • Atsko developed a blaze orange vest that deer cannot see.

The bowhunt begins tomoorrow…