Scouting From Home

Some of you out there have no doubt drawn elk or mule deer or pronghorn tags far from home and will soon be heading west to chase your bowhunting dreams. In many cases you've never laid eyes on the area, leaving you wholly without a clue of where to start when you arrive. Yet there's no reason to arrive unprepared. It's easy to tip the odds of success in your favor, by engaging in desk-jockey scouting right now.

Sleuthing productive hunting country far from home starts by poring over maps of your chosen hunting area, quickly narrowing prospective hotspots. U.S. Forest Service, BLM, or U.S. Geological Survey maps get you into desolate areas effortlessly. Wilderness areas are prime suspects, but any large swatch of roadless terrain should raise a red flag. Some basic knowledge of the game and the habitat they prefer also proves useful. Poring over maps, especially topographical maps, gives you a better idea of what you're in for. Water's always important, most notably in drier portions of the West, so permanent creeks, springs, or even man-made drinkers or tanks, are of major interest.

Key contacts include US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and US Geological Survey. Too, indexed to accurate topographical maps, today's GPS units can take you right in to remote spots, without worry of getting lost.

Next, seek people who might know something of the area you have in mind. State game and fish biologists often participate in aerial game surveys and can be quite helpful. Summer fire crews are often a great well of information, spending weeks in backcountry few trod, making a call to an area Forest Service office worthwhile. It's also often worth chatting up sporting goods employees near prospective hunting areas, getting the latest on recent weather conditions dictating where you hunt due to moisture or lack of.


Further research may involve referencing a state game department's annual harvest statistics. Hunt areas with success rates above 25 percent for deer, 30 percent for elk, and 50 percent on turkey are good places to start. Another good source of helpful information is the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (formally Soil Conservation), who collects data on the flora and fauna found in particular areas across the nation. Their reports can lead to specific food supplies, water, and animal populations in a particular area. Get more info at www.nrcs.usda.gov/.


Another sometimes productive — and fun — way to scout is through on-line aerial photography web sites. TerraServer USA, GlobeXplorer, and US Geological Survey aerial surveys.


Scouting from home will never replace getting your boots on the ground, but the West is vast and narrowing prospects simply eliminates wasted time during limited vacation time. And you just never know — I've discovered some of my hottest hunting areas by carefully studying maps, at other times a tip from a conservation office biologist leading to a remote canyon or ridge where hunting proved exceptional.

Recommended for You

Bill Winke says don't waste your time hunting these deer. Whitetail

Are Some Bucks Unkillable?

Bill Winke

Bill Winke says don't waste your time hunting these deer.

Follow Bill Winke's tips to ensure you have the most accurate bowhunting setup possible. How-To

Goof-Proof Tips For Sighting-In Your Bow

Bill Winke

Follow Bill Winke's tips to ensure you have the most accurate bowhunting setup possible.

Is your bow setup a bit noisy? Try these tips to silence it. Bow Accessories

6 Ways to Make Your Bow Quieter

Darron McDougal

Is your bow setup a bit noisy? Try these tips to silence it.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Ravin Broadheads – 3 New Mechanicals

Ravin Broadheads – 3 New Mechanicals

Designed exclusively for their crossbows, Ravin has announced three new mechanical broadheads to maximize penetration and overall performance.

First Look: Mathews Vertix Bow

First Look: Mathews Vertix Bow

"Petersen's Bowhunting" editor Christian Berg and Mathews design engineer Mark Hayes talk the smooth, quiet and fast shooting qualities of the new flagship Vertix bow from the Wisconsin bowmaker.

CenterPoint CP400 Crossbow – First Look

CenterPoint CP400 Crossbow – First Look

CenterPoint Archery evolves in design and performance with the introduction of the new CP400 Crossbow.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

We've rounded up the best new fixed-blade broadheads from the 2019 ATA Show. Check out our top picks! ATA Show

New Fixed-Blade Broadheads for 2019

Brian Strickland - January 10, 2019

We've rounded up the best new fixed-blade broadheads from the 2019 ATA Show. Check out our top...

We've rounded up the best new compound bows at the 2019 ATA Show. Here are our top picks for the year! ATA Show

Best New Bows for 2019

Tony J. Peterson - January 10, 2019

We've rounded up the best new compound bows at the 2019 ATA Show. Here are our top picks for...

We got our hands on the brand new 2019 bows from Bowtech. See how the Realm SR6 and the Realm SS performed in our technical tests! Bows

2019 Bowtech Launch: Realm SR6 & SS Review

Jon E. Silks - November 07, 2018

We got our hands on the brand new 2019 bows from Bowtech. See how the Realm SR6 and the Realm...

See More Stories

More Stories

There's always that one special bowhunter we all looked up to as a kid, whether it was a family Stories

Bows in the Movies: Our Favorite Archery Characters

Bowhunting Online Staff - August 09, 2013

There's always that one special bowhunter we all looked up to as a kid, whether it was a...

Each season brings a new crop of high-performance bows, crossbows, new accessories and new — and Stories

The Pros Explain How to Master the Mental Game

Mark Taylor - September 08, 2016

Each season brings a new crop of high-performance bows, crossbows, new accessories and new —...

With the news of Mel Johnson's passing at the age of 84, there's little doubt that the legacy of Stories

Despite His Passing, Mel Johnson Casts Large Shadow Over Bowhunting World

Lynn Burkhead - May 31, 2018

With the news of Mel Johnson's passing at the age of 84, there's little doubt that the legacy...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.