Friday, March 6, 2015

Three Online Scouting Tools You Should Be Using

      Technology has made drastic advances in the hunting industry. In the terms of scouting, it has never been easier. Looking for certain areas that hold deer, good ambush points and staging areas can all be done from the comfort of your own home. Most of these tools have been mentioned before, but I still see people failing to utilize these tools. Fellow hunters often ask me how I find deer on the vast public lands of Northern Michigan, or why I walk two miles off the beaten path to hunt a ridge or marsh. It’s because I know what’s back there. My brother Arron and I have mastered the use of these tools to cut down on our foot traffic in areas we plan on hunting. I can honestly say these tools are the reason why we are as successful as we are.

Satellite Imagery
Google Earth Image
      Satellite images from google earth or Bing maps have given me the ultimate edge when whitetail hunting public land. Before I even step into the woods, I already know areas I want to check out. I can discard areas that don’t look good before I even set foot in an area. It used to be you had to take a GPS and walk miles upon miles before you could get a good idea of an area. Not anymore. I recall moments where I looked at a certain area on google earth and already knew I would find a scrape line or travel routes to feed and bed. Confirming these theories on foot is the final task before hanging the stand.
Google Earth Image
      I often look for pinch points or funnels that appear clearly on satellite imagery. Parts of where I hunt can get really swampy so I use the images to locate paths of least resistance for the deer. Satellite imagery is so good these days; you can sometimes see deer trails weaving in and out of marshes. Of course, this takes a lot of practice and time spent looking at maps. Along with that practice, you can even begin to identify different types of trees. After many hours of looking at satellite imagery, I can spot oak trees even in small clumps. These small clumps of oaks are hot spots for ambushing bucks cruising for does.
Topo maps
      One of the most talked about online tools is topo maps. Yet I find hunters still do not utilize them correctly. Most hunters look for saddles (a depression between two ridges). Most of my experience with saddles has left me without results. I find that mature bucks walk the very tops of ridges or just off the side of them. A very skilled deer hunter once told me to get on top of the ridges. That’s all he would say. Well that and don’t bait. I quickly found out that a buck will use the tops of high ridges as refuge. It all made sense after seeing multiple bucks bedded on top of these high ridges. Some so high it looked as if a ski resort should have staked their claim there.
www.digital-topo-maps.com
Typical ways Mature bucks use tall ridges.
www.digital-topo-maps.com
Island in the middle of a swamp.
      You can also use topo maps to locate high spots in swamps and marshes. No deer wants to lie down in water, but deer do like to know there is water between them and danger. In fact one of my brother’s go to spots for rifle hunting is overlooking a marsh with a high spot island in the middle. Deer use those islands as refuge. Arron catches these deer coming off the island going to acorns about three hundred yards behind him.
      Topo maps can be confusing to read. Make it simple on yourself comes hunting season and practice now. Using these maps properly can be the difference to filling the freezer or bumming back straps from your friend.

Plot Maps
       Maybe one the most over looked tools are plot maps. I have used plots maps in the past to locate little honey holes of public land that bump up to heavily managed private land. Sorry to inform people who hunt these private lands, but the deer belong to everyone. I have found forty acre public land parcels in between large hunting clubs. Some of these parcels are over looked simply because hunters do not know they are public.
       There are online registries that show land ownership. I suggest you look into these and utilize them. I’m not saying you will have this land all to yourself. I’m surely not the first hunter to think of this. I have run into other hunters who had the same idea as me. One time I got to a spot to late and a hunter was already dragging a deer out. I helped him the rest of the way and we traded deer stories after that. It’s a matter of trial and success. You keep trying until you succeed.

Conclusion
        It can be harsh to admit your tactics are not what they are cracked up to be. I for one am a stubborn hunter and for a long time thought looking out one window to a bait pile was the best way to hunt. This is what I was taught. I broke out of that shell and developed my own hunting techniques and patterns after using these tools mentioned. I have learned so much about deer and deer hunting. Even in one of the most over pressured deer hunting states there is, I manage consistent success because I have kept up with the times and used technology to my advantage. I urge any serious deer hunter to experiment with these tools, even in ways I have not mentioned. If you already are, try learning more. You can never know it all, but it is on the path to perfection that we achieve our greatest goals.
       I hope this kick starts your brain into deer hunting mode. Maybe it will even open your eyes to experiment with different tactics. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at michigangonewild@gmail.com or message me at facebook.com/michigangonewild. I love hearing from readers and fellow hunters. This is Alvin Sitkiewicz signing off. Stay Wild!