Mountain Gazette, February 7, 2013 Edition, page 10

Mountain Gazette, February 7, 2013 Edition, page 10

Off-Season Scouting

Deer season and partridge season are over so it seems appropriate thatthoughts should turn to next year. Do you hunt the same spots again or strikeout and look for some new, and hopefully more productive, locales? Your answerwill likely depend upon your past success. However, even if you’ve enjoyed success, there are no guarantees nextseason. Land may be logged off, posted, or otherwise altered to the determentof your hunting. It is always good to have an eye open for new areas.
Scouting new areas, like hunting gear, has evolved over time. That beingsaid, what may still be the best way to find new hunting ground is through therecommendations of friends. While a friend may not cough up his prime spot, hemay be happy to have some company hunting some very productive spots.
For those without the right kind of friends, all is not lost.There are several tools available to help locate potential hunting areas. Oneof the best places to start is by looking at DeLorme’s Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer. The Gazetteer covers the entirestate and shows primary roads, back roads, dirt roads, trails, and Federal andState land, all in 1:100,000 (1” = 1.6 miles) detail, with contour lines at 100foot intervals. Start by searching for relatively large green areas with few orno roads.
You can help refine your search using Google Earth. GoogleEarth is Google’s free satellite image application that covers most of the habitableearth. Because Google Earth images are updated fairly regularly, Google Earthis a great tool for showing areas that may have been opened up by logging aswell as logged-over areas are recovering. Google Earth provides latitude andlongitude information to input into your GPS, as well as shows roads, points ofinterest, and some topographic information. Having latitude and longitudeinformation allows you to input possible waypoint information into your GPS sothese points of interest are easier to find when you are in the woods.
While contour lines are not available on Google Earth,topological information is available. The quickest way to determine the contourof the land is to tilt your view of the Google Earth map so that you arelooking at the features from a side view, rather than the default top-downview. The name of mountains and hills will appear in the tilted map view. Aleft -click of your mouse on a hill icon will pull up an elevation profile of ahill or mountain. This profile provides information on highest elevation andprovides a relief map (which can be changed to reflect different approachdirections). Another way to get topological information is to use Google Earthpath tool. By selecting the “add path” tool in the icon menu bar at the top ofyour computer screen, you can plot out a specific path through the woods. 
Another resource to hunters is the Vermont Association ofSnow Travelers (VAST) trail maps. VAST maps can be useful for finding accesstrails to hunting areas you have located and want to explore. Snow mobileaccess does not equate to hunting access in several respects. First, many areasare not accessible until the ground is firmly frozen. Second, some VAST trailsrun through land that is posted against hunting. 
Physical scouting has always been an integral part of mostsuccessful hunts. Only boots on the ground will determine whether the land isposted, whether permission is required to access an otherwise huntable area, orwhether your electronic field work is accurate. There is no better time thanwinter to scout. A cover of snow makes access by snowshoe or cross-countryskiing possible. You can enjoy time with non-hunting friends and scout at thesame time–talk about a win-win. The lack of cover allows for a quick assessmentof the overall terrain. Scouting also keeps you in shape and out of troubleuntil opening day.

A copy of the Mountain Gazette

[Update: I just read an article by Jerome Richard in the Northwoods Sporting Journal, March 2013, pp. 4 and 23, where the author shot a nice buck using only Google Earth for scouting. It is an interesting story about applying the technology about which I wrote.]

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