Using maps when applying for hunts

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Nathan Bare

Maps are obviously extremely useful tools and are widely used in a variety of industries. Before technology, you had to call the local BLM or National Forest Service office and order the old school paper maps for the area you planned to hunt. My old man still orders these maps to this day. I guess not everyone has evolved with the times. Anyway, these maps were very good and very accurate, but they didn’t do much good until you physically got into the field. Now that technology has grown so much over the last 10 to 15 years, for the majority of us, ordering paper maps has become a thing of the past.

When it comes to web-based maps and map apps on your phone, the primary use for this time of year, other than shed hunting, is e-scouting. If you’ve drawn tags or purchased some over-the-counter tags, you’re probably already pretty deep into dissecting your hunt unit. With summer rapidly approaching, you might be using your maps to plan some actual scouting trips. Or maybe you are using them for a completely non-hunting related reason. The good thing about GOHUNT Maps is that it’s readily available for whatever adventure you want to take.

But what about using Maps to apply for a new hunt? Some might think that’s a little risky for being a brand new place or not knowing anyone who’s hunted it before. Yet, it can be a good way to find a hunt that you never would have discovered otherwise. I personally have done this quite a few times and I’ll run you through a couple examples of what I’m talking about. For many people, they already have a handful of units in a handful of states that have their attention. But have you ever hunted one unit and saw a good looking mountain range in another? How about traveling down the highway, looking outside your window and thinking, “Damn, that looks good?” What about randomly stumbling upon an area, while e-scouting another?

I’ve actually done all of those. One example is when I was hunting a mountain range in one state and I could see that it continued into the neighboring state. I was in an area that had water, feed, cover and we were turning up a lot of great bucks. When I looked at the mountains across the imaginary line, I started to think, “If it’s the same mountain range and the same terrain, then it must hold the same animals, right?” So, when I got the opportunity, I hopped on my Maps and started to pick that place apart. The unit had everything that I was after. The water was readily available, it had very little road access and it looked like it had plenty of places to pack in and escape the crowds. I continued to pick it apart pretty hard and it had everything that screamed “big mule deer.” High basins, feed, bedding areas, escape routes, cliffs, timber pockets, etc. Once I realized this unit had what I wanted, I jumped into Filtering 2.0 to confirm if the quality was there and to see what it takes to draw. Turns out I was actually able to draw that particular tag with fewer points than the one I had previously hunted. So, of course, I applied.

I’ve also used my Maps to find some late season bull hunts. I found a state that offered up some of these late November tags, but I’d never hunted that state before. So, prior to pulling out the credit card, I had to see if there was a unit available that matched my style of hunting. Now, a lot of this comes from experience when you are looking at an area blind. You have to know what you are looking for in terms of the animal and their likes or dislikes. Personally, I’m more of an open terrain hunter, which quickly narrowed my search down. I combed the state via Maps and picked a unit that satisfied this requirement. I already know this unit holds good bulls, so I switched gears and looked at roads and access points. By doing this, I can figure out where the majority of hunters will go. And, more importantly, it allows me to see the areas that most likely will get overlooked or never even touched. If I find enough of those “untouched” pockets within a unit, I’m all in. They of course need to have water, feed, cover and plenty of vantage points, but you get the picture. Once I felt confident, it was time to pull out the credit card and give it hell. In the end, after three days, I found a secluded pocket of mature bulls and killed one the fourth morning.

I’m currently waiting to draw a specific tag that all started by looking out the truck window. Traveling down the roadway in Arizona, I spotted a mountain range that looked as if it should hold some good animals. I took a quick look at the unit profile to confirm that it held good quality bulls and I immediately dove into Maps. Using Maps, I was able to see that this unit had what the animals needed and it catered to my style of hunting: very little road access, steep nasty terrain, plenty of water, feed and good honey holes. Luckily, this unit was actually a drawable unit within a reasonable amount of time. So once again; I applied. In another couple of years, I should have one heck of a hunt.

Now this doesn’t always work. I’ve found plenty of other units that just looked phenomenal, but once I dove a little deeper, I found that they weren’t worth pursuing — either because it took 20+ years to draw or the quality of animals and quality of hunt just wasn’t there. It’s not always a slam dunk, but it will at least get you looking and out of your comfort zone. If you know the animals and know how to really read the terrain, using Maps to apply for new hunts can be extremely beneficial.

All of us are different when it comes to what we look for in a hunt. Some people care about quality and some don’t. We all have different goals and we all have our own style. But if you’re using Maps to help apply for a hunt, remember that if the unit accommodates the animal and it accommodates your style, then go for it!

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