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Armchair Whitetail Scouting

by Steve Flores 21. March 2011 13:16
Steve Flores

Flying under the whitetail radar, while effectively locating your next trophy from the comfort of your own home, is actually easier than it sounds using these three steps.

Record Books
They may not have the glitz and glamour compared to other methods used to uncover whitetail hotspots, but don’t kid yourself regarding their value.  If properly utilized, record books are the next best thing to someone actually telling you where the whitetail hotspots are located.  You see, most individuals are reluctant to reveal their exact whereabouts when they experience any type of consistent success; especially when hunting on public land, and without a doubt if the animal is of Pope and Young caliber.  However, upon entering their trophy into the record books, they must at least divulge the general area of the harvest.  And that is where this entire process begins. 

Another good source of information is your local taxidermist. They are witness to a large variety of bucks and usually know the exact details of the kill. (i.e. harvest data: time, date, location)

Searching through the most recent edition of P&Y records will ultimately tell you (among other things), where the best bucks is being taken.  Finding a hotspot is as easy as calculating the total number of entries for any given county within the state you are researching.  Obviously, when you find a county that is consistently producing a high number of record class bucks, then that is where you will most likely want to concentrate your efforts.

Topo Maps
When using the lay of the land as a guide for stand placement, whether you’re in an entirely new spot or on very familiar hunting ground, the first thing you need to do is realize there are 2 types of terrain features….Positive and Negative.  Both will influence deer movement.  Your job is to utilize the clues found on your topo map to determine which types your area holds and how the deer are going to respond to them.  Then, act accordingly.


Don’t dismiss the amount of information contained in a topo map. Take your time and study one of your area before actually walking in on foot to further investigate.

When looking at your map, try to find negative terrain features that funnel deer movement into a pinch point.  For example, a small drain possessing steep side-hills that eventually turn into gradual slopes near the top is an excellent illustration of how negative terrain can funnel and influence deer movement.  Ideally, any deer moving through the area will most likely cross near the top, where the slope is not as radical.  An actual observation of the land should reveal heavy trails at the top which will coincide with the “widely spaced” contour lines from your topo map. For the most part deer are lazy and will often take the path of least resistance; as long as it provides them with the safety needed to get from point A to point B. Use this behavior to your advantage when thinking about possible stand locations.

Positive terrain features on the other hand will include, but not limit themselves to: ridge-top saddles, shallow creek crossings, overgrown logging roads, bench flats, and/or gradually sloping hollows.  In the past, I have set up in saddles discovered using only a topo map and long range observation, and struck pay-dirt my first time in the stand; mainly due to a bucks tendency to use a low lying saddle when crossing over a ridge in order to prevent sky-lining himself. 

Scouting Cameras
You should already have a good idea about where you are going to hang your camera based on the info (lay of the land) gathered from your maps.  Within that chosen area, consider setting up your camera near recently discovered “pinch points”.  Ideally, you’ll want to be set up in high traffic areas; somewhere near bedding/feeding locations or along the transition routes in between. However, if you are unfamiliar with the locale, it may take a little more investigating to discover such places.


Scouting cameras are your eyes when you are not there. Set them up in the right locations and they can pay off in a big way.

  Not only can game cameras reveal travel patterns of target bucks known to frequent your area, they can also provide evidence of NEW bucks that have moved in for any number of reasons. 

While conducting your search, look for heavily used trails leading to pinch points that choke deer movement into a confined area; increasing the likelihood that you will capture useful images.  Remember though, that the overall goal is to remain under the whitetails radar, so try to conduct your camera hanging/scouting before the season starts.  Also, do your best to get the camera location right the first time in order to avoid disturbing the area any more than what is absolutely necessary.  If you have thoroughly studied your maps, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Finding a good location to hang your treestand will be much easier having followed these three tips......

and the rewards will be well worth it!

Locating your next trophy without tipping your hand can be difficult to say the least.  However, with a little more homework, and a lot less footwork, you can accomplish far more than you thought possible.  Remember to utilize the information found in record books and harvest reports to get you headed in the right direction.  Then, obtain a topographic map of the area and study it as if your life depended on it. Lastly, go in and hang a scouting camera based on positive and negative terrain features and see if your hunch was right.  My bet is you will be going back very soon to hang a stand. Good luck and God Bless!











A Lesson in Tracking: Finding a Wounded Elk

by Jessica Edd 15. October 2010 03:02
Jessica Edd

Although my elk hunting season started with archery equipment, it ended with a rifle. I realize that this is a sight dedicated to bowhunting enthusiasts, but I learned a very important lesson in hunting, no matter what weapon you choose to use. After spending 14 days in the field over the course of 6 weeks without seeing a single bull elk, just hearing their teasing bugles, I began wondering if my Area 99 tag would have to wait until the next draw to be filled. On the last day of our three day hunt we walked about two miles passed the wilderness boundary to an open park mixed with grasses, sagebrush, willows and aspens with small running creeks throughout the bottom.


Perfect setting for a nice bull elk.

It was a perfect scene after seeing a cow, calf and spike elk and I just knew there had to be a bull running around somewhere. Soon after, my friend, Joe, stopped me and said, "There’s a bull and it’s a nice one." That’s all I needed to hear. What I saw could have been different, however. It was certainly a bull, but he was quartering towards me and was soon on the move. I took my shot and knew it wasn’t a good one. This is when the painful task of tracking a wounded animal began. Anyone who has ever hunted elk knows they are some of the toughest animals to take down and sometimes they simply refuse to hit the ground. This was one of those elk. When we started our pursuit, we saw one single drop of blood and another about 20 yards away. I knew we were going to have a challenge in front of us and anyone who knows me knows how negative and impatient I can be. I immediately thought the worst and had to get a small cry session out of the way before we could continue. Thankfully Joe is single-handedly the most patient person I’ve ever met and while keeping his wits about him, was able to get things under control and we began looking for more sign of the bull together. The elk was bleeding very little, the snow from the day before had melted and the muddy ground was frozen from the low temperatures of the night before, so we had little to work with. After covering close to a half mile, winding through the trees, we totally lost any sign of him once again. It looked in the dirt like the bull had maybe hit the skids and stopped suddenly, or possibly laid down, turning up fresh dirt. We assumed he would move down hill as opposed to climbing over the rock hill to the east but after finding no further sign of him on the slopes below, we started over once again at the sight of the scuffled dirt. This was the fourth or fifth time we had circled back to the last known location of the bull and I was beginning to get desperate. Joe kept me calm all the while hiding his anxiety about the potential of not finding this bull and what it would do to my hunting in the future. We began heading up the rock slope to the east and I was stunned to see the bull running up the steep, slick rock using only three legs. It didn’t take long to realize why the bull was able to move so far, so quickly, without losing a lot of blood. As he ran, I was able to connect with two more shots before he lay down on the highest point he could find. When I saw he wasn’t getting up, I realized I wasn’t either. I had sat down and literally couldn’t get to my feet. Killing a good bull is something I’ve only ever dreamed of and after losing one 4 years ago, I was sick at the thoughts of possibly losing another one. No one likes to lose an animal, but I’ve yet to find someone who takes it as hard as I do. It’s not something I can let go of easily and knowing the will power of an elk was not helping calm my nerves throughout the ordeal. After seeing the downed elk, I could have lost it all over again, but I simply just had to sit down. Joe helped me to my feet and we were able to claim the trophy together as we worked equally as hard to get it.

After retrieving the 5x6 bull, I don't know who was more excited that it was over: me or him.

I suppose my entire purpose of writing this is to advise people to be patient when tracking an animal. You never know what direction they could take and getting frustrated simply will not be beneficial to your cause. Having a good hunting partner that is as stubborn and smart as someone like Joe is also helpful but is not always available. Had I been by myself I honestly feel I would not have found this bull and the ending to my story would be much different. We were able to end our hunting trip with pictures of success and a story I have learned a multitude of lessons from. Hopefully, anyone out there reading this, learns something too and is able to keep composure while tracking a kill and they too can bring their trophy home with them.


Though packing wasn't easy, it was a task I was grateful and thankful for.


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