I get asked quite often, how do I know where to go if I have never been there before? Let’s face it, it is not often that you can draw the same tag for the same unit out west unless it’s a rough unit or you have some amazing resident odds. If you are truly trying to hunt some trophy units, it is likely that you are hitting different states annually or at least different units.
One of the nicest things nowadays is the usage of technology. I personally use 4 to 5 different services that will give me ideas of where to go or what to look for when hunting a specific state, unit or season. I think the most important of all is the boots on the ground experience that has taught me what to look for online.
*YOU MUST HAVE THE TRIAL BEFORE YOU CAN FIGURE OUT THE ERROR*
Some might now get what I am trying to say from the quote above so I will explain. In order to learn what you are looking for online, you need to see in real life, where you made the mistakes in the woods and mountains. Once you get back home, check back on your gps, maps, etc to figure out if you were way off or if you were spot on with your thoughts.
- Did you see animals where you thought?
- What did the map show that you thought was great prior to hunting season?
- What did the terrain look like in person?
- Did you find trails that animals used?
- Did you look for water?
- Was bedding where you thought?
- The list could go on and on. The point is, you must dial back and learn from your mistakes.
This is a snapshot directly off my phone. I personally use OnxMaps services and match them against Google Maps. I will give you 3 things to look for
- Water– You must have water. In the desert units, water is alway the key component to where the animals will frequent.
- North Facing Slopes– Most animals will be on the north facing slopes due to food and shelter. The only time this will be different is on the late season hunts where it is so cold that animals would like to be in the sun to warm up.
- Pockets- I look for small pockets on the map that you might overlook on a map and in person. Those are usually honey holes that animals will frequent. This is usually a small looking valley or a bench that you will see on a map. I tend to look at these on Onxmaps but will then really take a look on Google Earth to see what it looks like from the surface. I kidd you not, this is where I have seen some of the biggest Mule Deer in the sage brush year after year.
I would suggest you keep it simple and take a look online prior to your next hunting trip. Map out exactly where you will be wanting to go and then use that as your first plan. Once you get out in the woods, you will know if they are good plans or not. From there, if you need to wing it or learn on the fly, you will do the right thing but I promise you, when you get back home, check out the way points you set in the field relative to what you had set out in the first place. You will be surprised what you learn from your mistakes.
Scout, Hunt, Repeat