One of the most important pieces of the successful hunting puzzle is scouting. You can have every other aspect of your hunt down to a perfect science, but if you aren't where the game want to be, your chance of success is slim at best. And that is why every year we hit the woods and waters to observe. To try to pick up any indication of our game's everyday rituals so, when season comes, we can be in that right spot at the right time.
But where do we start? Starting is often where a lot of us have the biggest problem. Between work, family life, and many other commitments, we find it hard to go out and pick a piece of land and just start looking and even more so if you are scouting state land.
Now, there is nothing that will replace getting out into your prospective hunting areas. But you can eliminate a bit of leg work from the beginning of your scouting. And it can be done from the comfort of your home or office on a coffee break or commercial break on your favorite outdoor channel. Cyber Scouting is quickly becoming a popular form of early scouting, if not part of the norm. With programs such as Google Earth and MapQuest, You can get a good idea of the lay of the land. You can find where a field meets a a forested area, or a natural funnel in the middle of that prime deer spot. You can also see the elevation and where the good vantage points may be, along with noticeable landmarks, should you decide to check the area out further. And for those hunting state owned land, some programs show the hunting land boundaries and parking areas. Some programs also show coordinates so you can punch them into your GPS.
While this will not replace the actual footwork of getting into the woods, it will speed the process along. It can also provide that little bit of needed motivation to get out to do your scouting. I know that once I see a spot that looks prime, I want to check out the new spot so bad, it feels like waiting for Christmas morning. So pull up a chair and start scouting!