Using Hunt Cards for Scouting Can Increase Your Chances of Success This Year
Using hunt maps for spotting can be the difference between finding your targeted game and watching it get away. Since all maps are somewhat different in their use, no one map will suit all purposes for every hunting or recon mission. We’re not going to try to make this a “card usage 101” piece of information, just try to give you an idea of how to use what you might have on hand and key things to look for . Since topographic maps have contour lines that show elevation changes, it’s often just a matter of finding the elevation change distance between these lines, based on the scale of the map. They are quite good at surveying smaller areas for the purpose of planning a reconnaissance trip.
Hunting maps primarily show topography, but also include roads, trails, water systems such as rivers, streams, lakes and ponds, property lines, and sometimes even such detailed features as property boundaries. trees. The value of this type of information for hunters is obvious. Land Management Office (BLM) are among the best use maps for hunters and even shooting enthusiasts since “more than 99% of the lands managed by the BLM are open to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting”. BLM maps can be particularly useful for hunters in locating new hunting and reconnaissance areas, due to the smaller scale of these maps. They can be used to find new available hunting areas on public lands. It is easier to determine where the natural funnels caused by rocks, rivers and lakes are, where possible food sources are, and the best places to ambush game.
Along the same lines, a simple and effective resource for viewing aerial imagery is to use Google Earth. Although they can vary greatly in scale and detail, the view from above of an area can make the difference in seeing everything from vegetation to parks and even campgrounds that may be nearby. We especially like Google to spot possible funnels and sleeping areas. In some places, the satellite views are detailed enough that you can spot individual deer trails. If an area has Google marked trails, you can estimate hiking times by right-clicking, selecting “routes from here” and then selecting another point using the same method. Just click on “routes to here”. You may need to select “walk” from the icon in the top left of the screen for it to show an estimate of the hiking time. It’s not perfect, but it will give a rough idea. In some areas it will even give you some elevation loss or gain along the route.
Whichever map you choose, they each have their pros and cons, but having more than one available to you means a better understanding of what you’re seeing, especially if the map has been properly updated. We strongly recommend that you use all the resources available to you. Pay special attention to the scale which is usually found in the right or left corners of each card. This will help you estimate the distance to that lonely waterhole, or the height of that ridge blocking access to a key litter area.
We’ve already talked about Google, which is a great digital scouting tool. However, there are plenty of great free hunting apps out there, as well as some good paid services. We can recommend onX Hunt and HuntWise. One of the best uses of these apps is to find public hunting lands and especially the boundaries of public lands, because unfortunately these things aren’t always as clearly defined as we would like. This is especially true for western states, and situations arise every year where otherwise law-abiding hunters find themselves in hot water because they didn’t know where the unmarked lines were. The nice thing about some services like onX Hunt is that they sometimes provide hunting maps with landowner names and boundaries with nationwide topographic and aerial imagery. Another handy feature is saving maps for offline use, as the best hunting sites often lack cell signal. These apps will also often track your route, elevation, and location. You can also map pit locations, track cameras and even water sources.
Plan your reconnaissance trip
Studying maps and satellite images of a hunting area can only get you so far. Once you have the right maps, and depending on your knowledge of the area, you should be prepared to inspect what you find on the maps in person. Paper maps are available at BLM Field Offices, but we highly recommend using a GPS or the apps mentioned above to keep an eye on land boundaries as you explore. Keep track of important points of interest as they will be useful in areas where cell service is limited or non-existent.
White-tailed deer hunters will find that they can use maps to plan certain wind directions due to their home region and natural wind sources. This way you can plan to spot food sources or sleeping areas in an area based on your own walking direction. This will help you avoid spooking deer that you are not ready to hunt. In-person scouting allows you to measure and confirm the distances of your walking routes, the exact width of a valley, and the location of the nearest access point. It doesn’t hurt to check cell coverage before you go to determine if you’ll need to use offline maps in remote hunting areas.
Finally, a few safety precautions. Make sure your technology is working properly and your cell phone is fully charged. Take clothes and shoes suitable for the conditions. Above all, remember to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
Success in big game hunting isn’t just about maps, spotting, or wind direction. Think of cards as just one tool in your arsenal, but not the only one. We’re so used to having everything at our fingertips now that it might take a bit of work to really understand the basic reality of what our ancestors used to explore the very remote areas we all wanted to hunt. Our dads and grandpas didn’t have Google maps to use, they based their hunting experience on effort and desire. Those who had access to good quality paper maps are the ones who became the best hunters and what we now call the outfitters. Anyone who wants to become a better hunter must establish themselves as someone who is willing to take the next step towards hunting success. None of us need to become a professional card reader, just that we need to take the time to become better acquainted with a tool that has been around for many years: the hunting card.
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