By Jared Bloomgren
Referencing Google Earth and my map
When we decide we want to hunt in a new location we preferably like to set foot on the ground, on location, to determine the terrain features and lay of the land. But often times that is not a possibility due to limited time, resources and various logistical constraints. I have been asked numerous times, “How do you scout an area that you have never set foot on before?” “How do you decide on an area to hunt out of state when you are unable to go there yourself?” These questions have became very common with my most recent hunt where I was able to take down a 400”+ Public Land bull elk in a General Area in a location that is not known for monster bulls! “How did you find this spot to hunt?!”
I first decide on an area to hunt by calling local Wildlife Biologists in the state where I have decided to hunt. I narrow my options down by checking on which states and areas offer a good chance of drawing with at least 2 preference points. I look at past records that I can find about these areas by checking out various talk forums that are geared towards a state by state basis and my species. General tags are also easier to draw than that of a limited tag unit. This means I usually need to find where the public land and general areas are since I do not have a lot of money to throw around to pay access fees or an outfitter/guide. I am a Do-It-Yourself hunter and have extreme pride in doing my own hunts from start to finish!
Next I start making phone calls to local Wildlife Biologists in the areas that I am interested in. When talking with the local Biologists I ask various questions such as:
1) Where would you consider the healthiest animals are located this year? (For whichever species you are pursuing)
2) How have the winters treated the animals in this area and have there been any known diseases lately?
3) What is the hunting pressure like in this area?
4) What is the maturity level of the animals in this area?
5) How is the forage in this area?
6) What is the terrain like in this area? (most often found out by maps)
7) Would you hunt this area if you had the option?
If possible, I like to talk to local hunters as well that have firsthand experience about these places. Some ways to go about this is to again visit various talk forums on the internet and put a post on there. Those that are willing to share advice will do so. This can be a huge help as well! A good title for the post would be, “Looking for advice for Unit 127B in Utah. Help please!” You will find that there are many others out there that like to help others become more successful in their hunting endeavors.
I also like to take a look back at the last year and figure out what the weather was like in the past. What is a dry year, wet year, record harvest year? Etc… Much of this information can be obtained from the Wildlife Biologist that you talk to. This will also help me determine some good areas geographically where there could be a good chance to find an animal of my liking.
Mapping software and maps come in very handy.
When I have this information compiled by writing it down in a notebook, printing off maps, ordering topographic maps and having the Forest Service send me maps; I spread all the information out in a spare bedroom on the bed. This area gives me a chance to lay it all out so I don’t miss anything. I grab my computer and fire up Google Maps and Earth and start studying the lay of the land. I compare the paper maps with that of Google and get a really good understanding of the area I am most interested in. I identify the key terrain features that will likely make animals call it home!
Technology has become a great thing for us to be able to use. I like to find a location that offers everything that my prey needs to survive; everything that my prey needs to feel secure and safe. I go over my information and find areas that look promising. Google Earth allows me to start dissecting that area looking for food, water, shelter, bedding areas, and good travel corridors. When you are using Google Earth you can determine where the feeding areas are simply by looking at open meadows, timber and field edges. Finding water is easy to do as well. Look for low areas that may have plenty of run-off from higher elevations or an area that may have a spring nearby. Wetter areas on Google Earth really stand out by the brighter green shades of foliage. Look for streams or creeks. Look for small ponds; anything that will yield water. Water is essential and almost every animal you will hunt depend on a daily water supply of some sort. Locate bedding areas by looking at a topo map and also Google Earth at the same time. This will help determine potential bedding areas by locating benches, thicker cover, dark timber, rough rugged nasty terrain that pressured animals like to hang out in, etc…Now combine everything; the bedding, feeding, and watering areas will be connected by travel corridors. When looking at travel areas look for pinch points, saddles, benches, anything that will allow an animal to travel more easily.
Like stated before, I do not have all kinds of money to be able to make long trips to scout before season starts. Being able to use maps and technology really make it possible for me to scout an area without actually being there. Often by the time I step foot on the actual area I know almost as much about the lay of the land as if I would have if I have been there before. Granted, I will not know what is there for animals but if I have done the research right there will be animals there, no doubt! Doing just this allowed me to take a bull of a lifetime in 2012 and quite possibly one of the largest bulls ever taken on Public land in a General area with archery equipment! A DIY bull that will rank high in the MT record books!
This is a very low down and dirty process and a lot more details go into it. For blog purposes you get the point. Feel free to look for more detailed and future articles and stories at my web site that I am expanding called Trigger Addiction located at http://www.triggeraddiction.com. What Triggers your Addiction?
Picking out favorable terrain features that will help hold animals
Jared “J-Rod” Bloomgren is a hardcore Do-It-Yourself bowhunter who strives to better himself each year in the outdoor community. As a professional hunter, freelance writer and photographer, he likes to relive his outdoor adventures through written expression and photography making the reader feel as if they were along on the hunt. He attributes much of his success to the vital education he has learned from the various big game animals that he hunts. He is quoted as saying, “In each and every hunt, success or defeat, I learn something from every outing and that I can put in my arsenal of knowledge to use at a later date, a later date that will again put my wits against that of my prey.”
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