If you are like us, hunting is something you think about 24/7 and, because of this, you’re probably constantly looking at Google Earth and studying the pieces of public land your hunting. But how should you go about doing this on new pieces of public land, especially the ones that encompass a lot of acres? To help you understand the answer to that question, here’s a closer look at how we approach it when we are hunting public land.
Divide the Property into Sections
The first thing we do when we are looking at a new piece of public ground is divide it into sections. This is especially important when you are dealing with pieces of ground that are thousands of acres big. Here in Nebraska, for the most part, we can get away with walking the whole property during one days scouting trip because the properties are only about 100 to 200 acres. But for those properties that are 3 to 5 times that size this step is very important. You won’t be able to scout the whole property in one trip. So you need to really dissect the area with aerial photos and map out certain areas you think are more important to look at then others. One way to find these important areas on a piece of public land is to look at the map and get your gut reaction to the property based on the food sources and cover that your see. It seems overly simple but a lot of times we read too much into a property. Use your gut reaction to focus in on some areas. Once you find those broad areas you want to look at, focus further on things like pinch points and other terrain features.
Look for “edges” and “transition lines”
Deer are creatures of the edge. This is true both literally and figurative. An important feature we look at when we are using aerial phots is transitions lines. This can be things like a field edge, where two crop fields meet, where woodlands meet CRP grasses, where a cedar thicket meets native grasses, or numerous other times when two habitat features meet. If you have the ability, mark these on your map and then look for the edge habitats that lead to food sources. This is very important on public land, where there isn’t likely to be numerous food plots on the property. Also, when you are looking for those food sources, don’t forget about native food sources. Finally, tie it all together by identifying potential bedding areas and transition lines that may link them to other bedding areas (for the rut) or food sources.
Remember that this is only the first step in the process. It’s important to put boots on the ground and reaffirm what you are seeing in the aerial photos.
Figuring out how to hunt a large piece of public land is a long process, but hopefully the above information gives you a bit more understanding on how we approach aerial scouting of large pieces of public land.
For more information listen to episode 014 of the Whitetail Instinct Podcast.
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