I am one of those bowhunters who doesn’t own hundreds of acres of prime land. So I spend each spring and summer searching for new areas to hunt. Typically I like to give back to the landowner in the form of trail cutting, tree trimming, or other property improving task. I have had good luck with this over the years; farmers typically find value in someone taking initiative with their property. This year I was able to gain access on two brand new farms; one 75 acre parcel in Wisconsin and another 165 acres in southeast Minnesota.
6 hay fields (25 acres total), mature woods (45 acres total) and stream basin (5 acres total).
1 Corn Field (65 acres total), mature oak woods (90 acres total) and stream basin (10 acres total).
The challenge now is to learn all I can about these properties before hunting season. I use the following three key techniques whenever I gain access to a new property:
Online Topographical and Aerial Maps
Before I even think about walking the new property I start by using online maps when I gain permission on new ground. Google Earth or Bing Maps provide aerial and 3D maps for the entire US and are free to download from the internet. I like Bing Maps specifically because they not only have good satellite/3D mapping but they also offer what is called “bird’s eye” view. This is a bowhunters dream with views from a plane a few thousand feet in the air for many cities and surrounding rural areas. The main goal with using these maps is to get a feel for how the property sits, where the funnels and bottlenecks are, where is neighbor’s property line, how do creeks flow through the property, etc. By using these online mapping capabilities I have save literally hundreds of hours of leg work and learned info about the land I never could have before.
Bing Map’s “Bird’s Eye View” allows bowhunters a clear picture of the properties they hunt
After visualizing my properties online, the next key step I use placing trail cameras. If you can afford it, using multiple setups can be extremely beneficial as it allows you to check various parts of your property at the same time (typically I use about three per 80 acres). I try to set the cameras in parts of the farm where different deer may travel; this will help me get an inventory of bucks to develop a hit list for the year. Another tip for using trail cameras in the spring and summer is to create a mineral site in front of the camera. I really like a product called Deer Cain – Black Magic from Evolved Habitats. We were setting up tree stands and checking cameras yesterday and I had over 1,000 images on a single camera in one week! The stuff is truly... well Magic.
The Moultrie cameras I use have had great with battery life and trigger speed.
Talk to Farmers
The last, and probably most important, technique to learning a new property is actually the easiest. I spend lots of time in the bluff country driving and scouting for big whitetail deer and any chance I get to chat with a farmer I take full advantage. No one knows more about the area the farmers who are there 24/7! Where are they seeing deer? Have they seen any big bucks? What are the plans for crops this year? I even have a few farmers’ cell phones I will call in early October to see how the harvest is going. Nothing better than hunting a newly harvest corn field! Being personable and friendly can go a long way, and may help you know a bit more about the deer you are hunting.
A friendly encounter with a farmer will give more information than days of summer scouting.
Try these three techniques and I promise you will be more successful this fall; if nothing else you will certainly have a better understanding of the whitetails on your property. Now is a great time to do it – the season is weeks away and fall weather is just around the corner, check back for my hit list bucks in Minnesota and Wisconsin as I dive deeper into my new properties.
Some tools that I use while scouting can be found right here on bowhunting.com: