I’ve always been a huge proponent of using low-impact scouting methods before implementing in-the-field scouting tactics. The digital age we live in puts numerous tools at our disposal that can help us make wiser decisions when selecting, managing and hunting a given property. If you want me to be frank, I get downright giddy when someone brings up maps during a deer hunting discussion. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned one of the seminars at the 2017 QDMA Convention was on the use of maps. Ben Harshyne of Whitetail Properties and Hunterra Maps led the discussion. Here are several types of maps and how they can help you as a deer hunter.
“You have to look at this from two different perspectives,” Harshyne said. “Look at the macro perspective and micro perspective. Don’t just have tunnel vision. Look at the big picture and then dial in. Because unless you manage thousands of acres, you’re sharing deer with your neighbors.”
When I’m searching for places to hunt, this is generally where I begin. I look to the records to see where the biggest and most deer are being harvested. This helps me choose a region and general location based on genetics potential. Sometimes, these can be found in the form of maps. Other times this data is packaged in books and online databases. Regardless, use Boone & Crockett, Pope and Young, and other similar resources to find the information you’re looking for.
This type of map is great for locating different types of boundaries. Using this map to familiarize yourself with property lines is very important. Always consult some type of map that shows you where property lines are, even if you think you know. It’s possible you may not know exactly where the lines are. Knowing your neighbors’ property lines will also help you understand how surrounding properties are hunted and pressured.
“Maps also allow you to identify access points and areas,” Harshyne said. “The less you pressure deer with good entry and exit routes, the better deer hunting you’ll have throughout the season.”
These maps are great for choosing specific properties and for gaining necessary information for hunting a given tract of land. Think of this as the foundation for all map analysis. This map will help locate food sources, water sources, bedding areas, travel routes, pinch-points, funnels and more.
“Decide what is scarce,” Harshyne said. “Is it lacking food? Is it lacking cover? Maps will help you determine these things before putting boots on the ground. You have to put yourself in that deer’s shoes and think about where it travels to get from point A to B and where it’s safest for that deer to do that.”
View this map as a layer for the aerial map. Once you’ve studied the aerial, overlay a translucent topo map over it to see how the land lays. When studying the map, the tighter the lines are to one another, the steeper the terrain. This map is especially good for identifying spurs (they’ll have draws on each side), saddles (tight lines are ridges and saddles), ridges, hollows, etc.
“Maps help you to immediately eliminate areas that are going to produce bad, inconsistent winds,” Harshyne said. “Hollows, draws and other low spots will be difficult to hunt, while higher elevations will have more consistent winds.
“Use maps to identify funnels, pinch-points and other high-odds locations,” Harshyne said. “[Also], use [them] to identify secure cover and to establish sanctuaries.”
Most water sources are visible on aerial maps. But not all are, especially smaller water sources like drainages and wet-weather streams. Mature bucks often live their lives in solitude because they learn to take advantage of these very small water sources which afford them the opportunity to avoid larger sources that hunters focus on. And oftentimes, you won't find these unless you have a detailed water/hydro map to show you where they are.
This one isn’t as common or necessary as other maps on this list. But it has its place, too. Use this type of map to better understand how the land is in certain areas for growing food plots, native plants, etc.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.