I’m sure like many of you; I spend most of my day behind a computer at work…yeah I know, Mr. Robertson would be ashamed. But, this does afford me the opportunity to do some serious e-scouting. I’ll first state that e-scouting doesn’t hold a candle in the wind to on the ground scouting, observation and beating the woods Intel of a particular location, unit, or state you plan to hunt.
There are many wonderful tools that can be used today to develop, plan and hunt a quality area and specie in most any state every year. It just takes a little time, some well executed planning and dedication. I’m going to share some of my secrets in how I commit to pursuing at least one trophy animal, all the mean time getting in a family hunt and a good “meat” hunt every year. (Note: I said some not all of my secrets)
First I think it’s extremely important that we discuss forum and online etiquette. Why, because I was once that guy…who created an account on Primos cabin chat or Bowsite and immediately started pumping the members for info. Using terms like “not your honey hole” or “I don’t have time to get out there to scout” and then expected the members to provide some kind of alarming news about a unit, location or area along with species activity.
These questions can be asked, but it’s important to gain a little trust with the membership. Introduce yourself; share a little about who you are, what you like to hunt, methods, anything that demonstrates your competency in the woods and your passion for hunting. Private messaging a member about a specific area before making it known to the world that you’re E-scouting can also break the ice in a forum and create a little goodwill. The simple message is be cognizant that we all want information, but its how we present ourselves and ask that determines whether or not we’ll get that information.
In discussing E-scouting, I use a variety of websites, programs, magazines and informational publications to plan. Prior to ever hitting the books, so to speak, I have a three year plan that is the bible for my research and hunt planning. It sets in my office on a white board and is a constant reminder of what I need to be preparing for in any specific year. It dictates to me, draw deadlines, what states I’m applying for or just putting in for points. It highlights specific species for any given year, or what I call my “focus species”. It’s my goal chart for hunting.
This chart is agile too, with work, family and everything else that goes on in any person’s life; you might need to change your focus. I have one goal every year as I previously mentioned. Pursue one trophy animal, have one family hunt and a good meat hunt. Everything else is just a bonus!
The method I use is simple:
First, determine what your focus specie(s) is/are and what states they reside in.
Second, compile a list of all possible websites, publications, programs, etc. that could be useful in preparing for this hunt or hunts.
Here is a list of some of the sites and publications I use. In some cases I use these publications and websites to determine where I DON’T want to goJ
-Any Department of Wildlife Website has statistics that are very useful
Third, dissect the information – Separate the information into three specific categories. Land access, trophy quality, success rates, etc. that help you accomplish your goals. Then begin to narrow the search by selecting 2 or 3 units/areas that fit within the goals you’ve set.
At this point you really have just begun to use this information. Once you have informational categories you then begin a long process of evaluating and qualifying the information. This is done mostly through online forums, publications, past hunters, statistical data, department of wildlife officials in the areas you desire to hunt.
I’m going to use my Colorado hunt plan as an example. Several years back I determined that I would need 10-12 points to draw a premium late season rifle tag for a good mule deer in Colorado. After, moving to Colorado in 2010, that number dropped from 10-12 to 6. This year my odds of drawing this premium 4th season rifle tag are 100% and for the past 2 years I’ve been e-scouting this unit, talking to past hunters, evaluating success rates, mapping different huntable area, getting my hands on every available piece of information for this hunt and even the occasional fishing trip to see what the deer activity is likeJ . I feel extremely confident with a couple mid-fall scouting trips that I’ll have the area dialed come November 13th.
The final step I use in E-scouting is Google Earth. After I’ve narrowed all the information above down to specific locations/unit, hunting season or method of take, and the specie, I’m ready to plot my attack on the unit for actual scouting. I will say it again; it is a vote of confidence to have all the knowledge before going in to an area, but nothing beats on the ground, visual Intel. Even my example from above comes with an extra special bonus. My fishing, hunting and do everything buddy RAMZ lives across the highway from the unit we plan to hunt. Like I said nothing beats on the ground G2.
Its everyone’s desire to be successful. We all want to feel the sense of accomplishment from harvesting a trophy animal and it takes much more than accurate weapons, ironman health and dedication to do so. Gather this information and feel confident that your hunting plans will be maximized during season!
Lastly, my grandfather hunted the western US for mule deer during their mecca, in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Growing up I had the chance to hear great stories of some of the big bucks that horns decorated his garage. He would talk about these places, like “cheesebox” and “hideout” like he knew them better than his own house. I asked him one time, how did you kill so many big deer in these same places. His answer was simple…”I knew they were there”.
With today’s technology we can be one step closer, to knowing that trophy of a lifetime is there. Good luck this fall, next year and beyond and remember, “Aim small, miss small.”