The Importance of Paper Maps in Hunting

The Importance of Paper Maps in Hunting

Posted In: Scouting, The Hunt

Posted By: Jordan Ongstad (June 1, 2016)

In a world of so much digital, going a bit analog may be the smartest thing you do to make yourself more successful hunting Big Game this fall.  Being the product that started this all, we wanted to get back to basics and make sure you still know the importance of Paper Maps in your hunting arsenal.

Why It’s Where you Start

The best time to get a hard copy of your hunting unit is right when you draw a new area. Digital Maps (Including Google Earth) are fantastic resources, but there is no better way to understand the lay of a unit like a paper map. Understanding a hunting unit starts with finding public lands, access, wilderness areas, campgrounds, trailheads and water.  If you ask any truly successful public land hunter, learning a unit starts with a detailed map, and getting it in hard copy.

What Paper Maps Provide

The advantage of paper maps is viewing the unit as a whole versus only seeing parts of the unit on a small screen and having to pan and zoom around.  Locating a new spot necessitates evaluating both access and pressure, and this is a breeze with paper maps. Big Game are going to be found everywhere in the mountains, but where they won’t be found, is where there are people pressuring them. This means taking into account multiple potential access points and a large portion of the unit at one time.

Understand Pressure

The best hunters aren’t the ‘Sitka Warriors’ going in 8, 9 or even 10 miles to find animals.  They’re the hunters who can pick apart a unit and find the holes that the onslaught of fall hunters push the animals into.  These areas aren’t a certain distance from a road, at a certain elevation, or distance to water.  They’re the areas that get over-looked by the majority of people who hunt the area. Access and how people move throughout the forest is key.

Movement is done by road, trails, and access points:

Digital Scouting Big Game in ColoradoScreenshot Showing how DIY Hunting Maps makes understanding access and pressure easier than ever.

The Roads

DIY's Maps, whether GPS, Paper or Digital, break down road types.  Using this to your advantage will give you an idea of vehicle traffic within a unit. The better the road, the more traffic you’ll find.  Areas accessible by Improved Paved or Improved Gravel are going to be the lifelines of access for the unit. The Improved Native and the Unimproved Roads will have incrementally less traffic since travel is more arduous and restrictive to vehicle type.

The Trails

Trails throughout the state are restrictive in the type of vehicles they allow. It goes without saying that trails that allow 4WD vehicles and ATV/Motorcycles are going to be used heavily. However, big game animals aren’t likely to be found where access is easy.  Although trails like this can serve as great access points, there are a lot of hunters with ATVs and these trails get hit hard in the fall. They’re definitely a great tool, but you can’t 4-wheel directly to an elk.  Begin by looking for places around these trails that are unlikely for hunter, and terrain that protects draws and ridges from the noise and people on these trails.

Access Points

Trailheads and campgrounds are by far the most common places hunters start. I’ve shown up to our trailhead and been alone, and other times had 20 camps with 4 wall tents set up. As a good rule you should expect people at the trailhead and camps set up often within the first 4 miles down adjacent trails.  When hunting from a trailhead, keep things flexible, utilizing various campsites you’ve researched before the hunt at distances anywhere from 2-7 miles from the Trailhead.  Hunt the pressure and rarely go further in than the pressure is likely to push the animals.

Closed Roads

An over-looked aspect of the National Forest system are the Closed and Decommissioned Roads –roads that were once in service or used for logging operations. These roads are either gated or bermed off to keep motorized traffic out.  Although motorized traffic isn’t allowed, use these roads as access points that others may not think of.  If you have access to a bike, some of these roads are in great shape and you can travel quickly, quietly and efficiently greater distances in than walking allows.

What to Look For Next

Once you’ve located the areas unlikely to see a lot of pressure, then start picking apart the area for habitat. All big game animals have basic needs that you can exploit. Usually areas that have protection, escape routes, water and food. This is how you start finding areas likely to hold Big Game on the ground. It’s only after I start locating potential spots on paper, do I look further into them with Digital Sources like our GPS Chips, Digital Hunting Maps and of course Google Earth and eventually checking them out in person. If you’re finding sign before the hunting season, as long as the animals don’t get pushed out, they should be there for your hunt in the fall. 

Why Our Maps Are Better

This article is written to help you get started and we would be doing you a disservice by not explaining why our maps are a necessity in your scouting plans. What separates our maps from any other maps, whether competitor or government, is how they help you understand everything I’ve covered so far.  Here is a video about our paper maps below.

Watch the Video

Buy a Paper Map ($13.95 - $15.99)

What Next?

I will be adding more articles that go further into depth on what you need to scout new areas. So stay tuned to new articles that are being posted weekly to #ForTheHunt to help you Explore Public Lands this fall!  As they become relevant, I’ll add them below for future readers, or check the blog for the latest articles. If you want something specific covered, don’t be shy and comment below!

Go Back >