How to Map Your Next Buck

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Using Maps Now Will Increase Your Odds of Success Next Season

(Shutterstock / Kim Lyman photo)

Each year while doing seminars at various outdoor shows and sporting store events, I‘m often asked, “How do you and the other Realtree pro staffers find time to scout, hang stands and then hunt on a time-conscious schedule? Usually, I plan on one to two days for scouting, hanging stands and then four to five days to hunt. And that doesn‘t even account for travel time. So anywhere you can save time will put you in that treestand a little longer.

The first step, whether hunting a river bottom in Montana or on a newly acquired piece of property just down the road from home, is to get a quality app with topographic map and aerial layers of your area.

Once you have your maps, every nook and cranny of your hunting grounds will be shown on these maps. For instance, picture a map of your hometown showing the streets, hotels restaurants, bars and so on. Now apply that same concept to your hunting area. It‘s the same thing: food, bedding, staging areas and so on. You yourself know the easiest way and safest way to your favorite grocery store, it‘s no different with deer going to a food plot.

Another thing to ask yourself is “What is going to influence the deer movement?” That will depend on what time of the season you‘ll be hunting. Will it be archery, firearm or muzzleloader season? And then, would it be early bow or during the rut? These are key questions you‘re going to need to address when you start your tabletop scouting.

I‘ll list a few tips to get you started. And when you are reading these different scenarios, don‘t forget to figure on access to and from your stand without disturbing the area. Also, find out what the primary wind direction is for your area.

Archery Season

Whether early or late, food sources are great spots. Get with your landowner and see what he will be planting for the season and in what fields. Some crops are hot early on such as soybeans, alfalfa and clover. While corn, milo and winter wheat are better during later season hunts. After finding out what and where the crops are going to be you will want to study your maps and pick out possible stand sites.

Look for where the fields cut into the timber creating an inside corner. This will be a great spot all season. Here, deer have food and security. Also, water can be a deer magnet, too. Especially during the early season or a prolonged dry spell. These areas of water are easy to spot on either map. Look where the water is near cover or better yet, surrounded by cover.

Firearm Season

The big question is how much pressure your area is going to have, along with your adjoining properties? Look for pieces of timber that have numerous fingers of brush or timber creating escape routes. Find a finger that runs from your neighbor‘s property into yours and that might be a place to sit once the shooting starts. If in hilly terrain, look for a saddle (a depression or flat spot between ridges). Deer will use these as crossings instead of climbing a steep inclined ridge. Another spot to look for is called a bench or a flat. A bench is usually a flat spot below a ridgetop that normally deer use as bedding areas.

The Rut

Whether archery or firearms season, concentrate on travel corridors where bucks will be cruising looking for a hot doe. Wide fencerows that connect two pieces of timber are definite winners and are easy to see on either map. Here a buck can scent-check fields and travel between woodlots in the security of the cover. Another good spot would be where a thin strip of timber follows a waterway -- especially where the waterway is in or near a farm field. Here bucks will stay in the timber to scent check does feeding in the field.

Late Season

Once again, you‘ll want to key in on your food sources. Bucks will hit these areas hard trying to pack on feed after getting run down during the rut. Also, does that were not bred during the first estrous cycle should be coming back into heat again.

And there you have it, a few tips to get you started. Some of these will work for you, some won‘t. Remember no two pieces of property are alike and that is why spending some time on these maps will make you a better hunter. The more you use them the better you will be. The next problem you will have is finding out where to put all that venison.

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Editor's Note: This was originally published on May 22, 2003.

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