August 26, 2016
Like it or not, technology is creeping its way into the outdoors. I'm of the opinion that some of it is good, some of it not-so-much.
For me personally, the not-so-good applies more to the actual hunting than scouting. When it comes to finding killer places to set stands, I like technology. A lot.
I also like it when I know I can get pictures of deer while I'm back home in the office or sitting on my couch with my little girls watching My Little Pony for the 300th time.
Technology also plays a big role in planning when to hunt, how to hunt, and just what Mother Nature has planned for us. When we speak of high-tech deer hunts, we rarely think about pulling up a quick snapshot of the latest weather forecasts.
But really, that's some pretty high-tech stuff right there. I'm 36-years-old, and I can remember watching the weather channel before heading out to a deer stand so that my dad and I would know from which direction the wind will be blowing.
Naturally, things have changed quite a bit since then technology wise. To embrace the latest and greatest, look no further than these five options:
I've preached about ScoutLook a lot. The app is viewed largely as a hunting tool, which it certainly is. The ability to tap an aerial photo of your hunting ground and see where the wind will blow all day is invaluable for picking stand sites. Lately, I find myself using it for scouting as well.
That same feature can be used to plan for when and how to glass late-summer bucks. I like to find places to watch deer where they don't believe they are being watched, which often means getting closer than the typical spotting-scope session. This also necessitates playing the wind, and working harder not to bust any deer.
ScoutLook lets me do that, but what's even more valuable is that when I see a buck walk out of a wooded point, I can see instantly what direction the wind was blowing when he entered the field. That's important. Even in the summer when they haven't been pressured for months, bucks live by the wind.
How they travel and how they enter their food sources will almost always coincide with a certain wind. Nothing tells you where to set up to kill a buck better than that knowledge, because if he thinks the wind is good for him but it happens to be a little better for you, you win.
I use a lot of different programs to look at maps and aerial photos, but I tend to go back to Google Earth a lot. For simply perusing the landscape, it's hard to beat.
This is important for private properties I've got to hunt, but is a game-changer for public-land scouting. The opportunity to zoom in and find tiny waterholes, two-track roads, rocks in a river that might indicate a crossing, and a host of other terrain features is invaluable.
I can remember in the days before the Internet, where we'd use paper maps to find new hunting spots, and when we'd show up we had no clue what was really there. Now when I travel to a new destination three states over, I can know at some level, what is over the ridge and around the bend. It's hard to beat that.
Not every state has kept up with the changing times in regards to an easy-to-use website that contains boatloads of information, but a lot of them have. Take Nebraska, for example. If you want to hunt the Cornhusker State, you can visit the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission website and click on the 'Maps" button. After that, you can scour the entire state for a public parcel that suits your needs.
Other states provide similar, easy-to-navigate options. Some even provide detailed maps of private property that is open to the public through one program or another. It's truly amazing what you can find in an hour of digging through these sites.
Give 'Em A Buzz
I've read an awful lot of articles that espouse the benefits of calling a State Game Biologist to get the scoop on where to hunt. In my experience, this strategy hasn't been that beneficial. When I've asked Game Biologists where the best deer hunting is, the answer is often very general.
On the other hand, I've chatted with Conservation Officers, who are almost always hunters themselves and spend far more time in the woods, and they can provide some killer info. Here's the catch, however. COs are Law Enforcement Officers, who may have better things to do than tell you where to shoot a whitetail. Respect their time and contact them during the parts of the year when they aren't busy. For example, March is a good time to call, not November 15th.
There is usually a comprehensive list of all State employees, that can be found on the State websites. It's not as high-tech as some of the other options, but it can still provide a jumping-off point.
Easily one of the techiest ways to find your buck is to use the latest wave of trail cameras that actually send images to your email or text them to your phone. I've messed around with these cameras and have come to love, and hate, them. I love them because I no longer need to go into the woods and impact a potential hunting site.
I hate them because it feels like cheating. In fact, some states look at them exactly like that, especially when it comes to their usage during an actual hunting season. If you're using them to scout, that tends to be a different story. If it's legal and you've got access to one of these cameras, they can provide up-to-date info on buck movement.