Using Aerials to Gain a Hunting Advantage
The Aerial Advantage
By Andrew Walters
Aerial maps have long been used by land surveyors and foresters. They use these maps because it allows them to have an in-depth look at the land from a seldom seen viewpoint. These aerial maps can also be switched from a satellite view to a topographical view, both of which can benefit the hunter who chooses to use them. I will explain how using these maps can assist you throughout the hunting season and why you should always rely on aerial maps.
When scouting during the pre-season, aerial maps allow you to see where potential bedding areas are and their relative locations near food sources. By analyzing the map and figuring out where you may want to set up a trail camera or hang a tree stand you can save yourself time from scouting and exert less pressure on the deer. Topographical maps will also show you the steepness of the terrain, which helps when scouting ridges and drainages. The contour lines on a topo map indicate the terrain by their proximity to one another. In other words, contour lines that are close together represents steep terrain and lines that are further apart represent a more sloping or level terrain. By checking satellite images of maps at various times of the year you can see what the forest cover type is. For example, if an aerial map is viewed during the winter months, the trees without foliage are most likely deciduous hardwoods. If the canopy appears green, it is most likely a stand of evergreens, such as hemlocks and pines. This is tougher to distinguish during the summer months so check out maps of your land at various times throughout the year. Aerial satellite images can be overlaid with topographical maps to create a deadly combination. In this case a satellite image of a stand of hardwood trees can be integrated on top of the topo map with the terrain elevations. This allows you to see if the hardwood stand is an upland or bottomland site. If you are familiar with tree species, you may be able to somewhat guess the tree species and their wildlife value in particular areas.
Aerial maps most commonly used to find pinch points and funnels that deer, especially mature bucks will use during the rut when seeking does. Deer use these areas because they can stay concealed within the cover of the forest and still move in daylight. The featured image depicts a property that I hunt. The area outlined in white is the bedding area/sanctuary. The area outlined in red is the travel corridor/funnel. Many bucks have died trailing hot does through this timber. These maps can even be used to locate edges within a forest. Hunters realize that whitetails are partial to the edges of food plots and agricultural fields but deer also use the edges where two different aged stands of timber join. One of my best hunting locations and trail camera sites is where a 20 year deciduous forest meets a 4 year old grown up clearcut. The edge along these different forested types is a deer magnet regardless of the time of year and many deer have been unsuspectingly waylaid there. I originally located this location from a handheld GPS unit. Now many software programs allow a much crisper look at the site.
As much as I hate it, we hunters sometimes make less-than-ideal shots on game. When this happens I always check out the aerial maps again before taking up the blood trail. By taking just a few minutes to examine the map you can probably figure out where a wounded deer would head to. Following a tough blood trail, or even losing one, is the absolute worse and anything to minimize this is a great aid. I have the aerial map on my phone but I also keep a hardcopy of the property I am hunting in my pack also.
Hunters usually spare no expense when it comes to purchasing new gadgets, trail cameras, game calls, and minerals but many don’t utilize the advantageous aerial maps. There are dozens of software programs that offer exceptionally clear images and some programs even offer a free version. This year take a second to look at a map of your hunting area. It will save you time and could possibly give you the edge to figure out what the deer are doing on your property. Try using aerials to gain a hunting advantage you won’t be disappointed.