Hunters take early morning trek at Clothespin Farm in Dublin

  • Sarah Salo sips coffee around 5:30 a.m. before a hunt led by her brother Zach Letourneau at Clothespin Farm in Dublin. Staff photo by Emari Traffie

  • Zach Letourneau pauses to listen after walking the woods behind the farm for a few minutes. “Squirrel sounds like a deer, but a deer doesn’t sound like a squirrel,” he whispered. Fellow hunter Doug Seppala of Rindge agreed, “Squirrels sound more like deer than deer do.” Staff photo by Emari Traffie

  • Sunrise was at 6:46 on the morning of the hunt. New Hampshire Fish and Game regulations allow for a half-hour before and after sunrise of legal shooting light. —Staff photo by Emari Traffie

  • Sarah and Cameron Salo hunt together. Cameron doesn’t have a hunting license, but is allowed to hunt on Sarah’s. —Staff photo by Emari Traffie 

  • Zach Letourneau drops the hunters off on Fiske Road in Jaffrey and gives them directions before returning to the Dublin side of the farm. Staff photo by Emari Traffie

  • Zach Letourneau has been hunting the same farm in Dublin since he was young, and his family hunted the land for generations before him. —Staff photo by Emari Traffie

  • After the hunt, the group discusses the tracks and glimpses of the elusive whitetail deer. “The NH ghosts, we don’t see those things,” said Doug Seppala of Rindge. Staff photo by Emari Traffie

  • The Monadnock Conservancy protects the 500 acres via a conservation easement agreement with the Clothespin Farm landowners. As the caretaker on the farm, Zach Letourneau has developed an agreement with the owners to allow a limited number of friends and family to hunt the land. —Staff photo by Emari Traffie

  • Rick Brackett, who oversees the monitoring, management planning, habitat improvements and public access for Monadnock Conservancy lands, said, “Up here, if we don’t graze it, mow it, cut it, we just generate forests. Many of the species that are on our rare, threatened or endangered list are grassland/shrub land species that require that kind of open habitat.” —Staff photo by Emari Traffie

  • “I’ve never gone out hunting in New Hampshire and not seen a deer,” said Roy Geesey, who was visiting from South Carolina, after the hunt. He saw a doe, which was legal to harvest on his archery license, but the deer was out of range. Staff photo by Emari Traffie

  • ”Deer thrive in some of the most heavily developed places in New York and New Jersey,” according to Rick Brackett, “But the opportunity to hunt in those heavily populated areas might be limited, whereas if we have wide-open conservation land that access is protected as much as the wildlife and the habitat.” —Staff photo by Emari Traffie

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/2/2021 9:35:17 AM

Hunters, conservationists and landowners have developed a mutually beneficial relationship thanks to a long history of all three in the Monadnock Region.

Zach Letourneau, whose father and grandfather hunted the same land he hunts on today, makes it his goal to hunt as “ethically and prudently” as possible. As caretaker for the Clothespin Farm in Dublin, he has developed an agreement with the farm owners and a limited amount of hunters with permission to hunt the land.

“The goal is first and foremost to be outside,” said Letourneau. “People think hunting is automatically associated with killing, and that’s such a small portion of hunting — at least for me. My goal for these guys, is to be able to get out and enjoy the woods.”

Letourneau led a drive for a group of hunters by walking methodically from the far side of the 500 acres owned by the McIntyre family and protected by the Monadnock Conservancy early morning on Saturday, Nov. 20.

“Traditionally, in New England, if a property wasn’t posted by the land owner ‘no trespassing’ or posted signs along the boundary every 300 feet, it was safe to assume that that property was welcoming of the public for passive outdoor recreation,” said Rick Brackett, land manager and geographic information systems specialist at the Monadnock Conservancy. “Whether that’s hiking, bird watching, hunting … as long as it wasn’t motorized access, you were safe to go out there and do that without repercussions from the landowner.”

Landowners have the right to regulate their land, but if they don’t want hikers or hunters on their land, they are required to make the effort to post against all public use or a form of access they are comfortable with.

“I think that’s quite a shock to people who move here from out of state — that it’s on them to restrict people from using their property,” said Brackett. “It’s certainly a changing sort of land ethic… we have to be respectful and leave it better than we found it in order to maintain the system we have.”

The conservancy leaves most of its 226 protected properties as of last year unposted, except in a couple of instances where the property donors restrict the property, such as the land Letourneau hunts in Dublin.

“My dad would take me out here when I was little,” said Sarah Salo, Letourneau’s younger sister, who grew up on the land and was hunting with her husband Cameron Salo.

“Last week, I took her out on the land I grew up hunting around Windblown [in New Ipswich],” Cameron said.

He is enjoying being back in the woods again.

“It’s very grounding, and it’s the wildest it gets,” he said. “We saw a bobcat. We saw three doe; we found a really cool ravine.”

“Stuff like that is just enough to get you back out there,” said Sarah, who holds the rifle-hunting license that allows them to hunt together. Cameron recently got back into hunting and doesn’t have a current license, but the New Hampshire Apprentice Hunting License allows him to hunt “under the guidance of an experienced hunter.”

“I feel like a lot of folks have this separation between the natural world and the human world, almost like a Venn diagram, one circle of the human society and another world, and they sort of overlap where there’s trails or recreation,” said Brackett. “I see it very differently — there’s really only one circle, there’s one globe and we are a part of it.”

Brackett uses all of his vacation days to hunt and sees it as an opportunity ground himself and “connect more deeply to the complete system.”

Letourneau, who is also a Rindge Police Department patrolman, hunts with the intention of experiencing the fields and forest.

“It says in the Bible, Jesus went into the wilderness to pray, and I firmly believe that is biologically implanted in people,” he said. “If you do get to harvest an animal, that’s an added bonus.”

Letourneau grew up with a mentality that “guns are tools” from his police chief father and said as hunters, “we are supposed to be the responsible, reasonable and prudent gun owners.”

By the time the sun was up, fellow hunters Doug Seppala and Roy Geesey waited in tree stands as Letourneau walked a few miles from one side of the property to the other in an attempt to drive any deer toward the waiting hunters.

After the hunt, the group discusses signs and glimpses of the elusive whitetail deer.

“The NH ghosts, we don’t see those things,” said Doug Seppala of Rindge, after returning to the truck without seeing a deer. “I’ve been sitting in tree stands for 14 years and have seen three.”

Geesey saw a doe about 80 yards from his stand, but it was too far for his bow-and-arrow range.

According to Brackett, who is researching the effects on deer population in Cheshire County, there are actually too many deer in the state.

“Our deer population is managed at a level higher than the forest might want it be, if you can anthropomorphize the forest, but it’s still a lower deer density compared to the states lower and higher than us — so being in the right place at the right time can feel like winning the lottery,” he said.

This year’s regular deer-hunting season ends in New Hampshire on Dec. 5 for firearms and Dec. 15 for archery. In the northernmost areas of the state Wildlife Management Units, the season already ended this week.

“All it takes is one bad experience,” Letourneau said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a hunter or you’re using OHRVs (recreatonal vehicles), all it takes is one person leaving trash or doing something stupid — to be a prudent and reasonable hunter not only makes you an ethical hunter, it makes you a conservationist.”


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