Finding a new hunting spot is one of the best skills a public land bowhunter can possess! If you can figure out how to locate quality trophies in different terrains, you can go anywhere and be successful. You can draw any tag for any unit and for every different huntable species and have confidence you can come out on top. Like most skills it is not something that you are born with it is something you have to work at, improve and hone. You have to break out of your comfort zone and leave the country you are familiar with. You have to risk being successful for a chance at a better location or chance at bigger trophies. It is a part of hunting that I really enjoy! If you want to find and harvest huge mind blowing trophies finding new spots is a must in your bag of tricks!
Narrowing Down the Search
Once I have my locations narrowed down to a mountain range or hunting unit I like to dive into map study. I am still old school in the fact and I like to have hard copies of maps. The national forest maps show all accesses, along with closed and open roads. This information does not always show up on topo maps, gazetteers and Google Earth. There is nothing more frustrating than thinking you have the next honey hole dialed in, only to show up and figure out there is an open four-wheeler road right to it. I also like to have a hard copy of topography to get the “big picture” of how the mountains lay out.
I will pour over maps and start incorporating Google Earth and then my new favorite program onXmaps. This relatively new technology is one of the best scouting tools I have come across. I get it on my phone for the state I will be hunting and then have access to topo, aerial photos, public/private and tons more quality overlays. I have only been using this program on my phone for the last couple years and already it has unlocked multiple quality areas for me.
Google Earth is another one of my favorite scouting tools. I know everyone has heard about it but it’s unreal what you can do with this program. This is second only to actually seeing the country with your own two eyes. You can see what the country actually looks like, change the timelines to find good green landscape that shows all the good feeding spots and change the timelines to when you will be hunting to see what it will look like then. You can plot hikes, get distances, see elevation and read the flow of country. You can locate water and good saddles and flat spots for your camp. Google Earth is also priceless for finding good quality vantage points. You can see where the openings are on the mountain and lower your view right to where you want to sit and then spin around to take in every vista. Get familiar with this program it is an awesome scouting tool!
I like to use all these tools to locate quality spots. What makes up a good spot; that is the million-dollar question. I like to look for places that are tough to access and away from roads and trails. Trails and roads are great to get deep in country but they are the highways through the backcountry and game animals know this. I like to get off the beaten path to look for trophies. As far as landscape goes I like to look for big south facing slopes that offer feed along with good cover, multiple bowled basins that offer tons of different options for game and big isolated drainages with multiple spur drainages. My preferred method of hunting is spot and stalk so I look for country that is conducive to glassing. I look for commanding vantage points that will show me tons of country.
You are not going to be right 100% of the time but it is amazing the spots you can find from the comfort of your house. The more you do it the better you will get and getting out into country and proving yourself right only adds confidence. Put in your map study time and remember look over multiple spots for multiple different options. A bowhunter is at his best with a plan and backup plan!
Make sure you have yourself ready for season and ready to find that new hot spot by checking out the entire article in the upcoming EBJ!