There’s something fun about hunting that same spot your family has been using for years. Maybe its a blind your father or grandfather built. It is good to be a part of a tradition. However, if you are a serious hunter you know that one of the secrets to success is that you need to be constantly finding new places to hunt. It is far too easy to burn out a property by overhunting it. Especially if you are hunting public land, you cannot have enough options when picking a property to hunt. If you show up and someone is in your spot, or the wind is wrong, or that agricultural field is flooded—you need to have a backup plan.
Finding a new hunting location would be a whole article on its own. You can go door to door asking for permission. Scout maps for public land with enticing terrain features. Buy or lease a piece of property. Beg friends to let you come out and hunt. However you do it, when you do decide to hunt a property there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of success in a new spot.
- E-scouting with digital maps. Onx is one of the best hunting tools to be invented in the past century. For a small fee each year, it provides hunters with up to date maps that distinguish private vs. public land, lists out who owns each parcel, and provides detailed topographic and satellite images. Learn to utilize topography to figure out where animals are likely to be. While not a sure thing, you can eliminate sections of land unlikely to hold game animals before you even get to the property. This can save time and increase your chances of finding the animals you are looking for.
- Talk to people. This seems obvious, but in this day and age people seem to be losing the fine art of conversation. If I am in a new area, I will chat up anyone I can to get ideas of what property I may find a particular species. This doesn’t mean that someone is going to give you all their good spots, but it can help narrow your search. Hanging out at a local bar, talking to the staff at a hotel or campground, contacting the conservation officer for the area are all great ways to get a tip. A couple of the best properties I hunt were discovered by mentioning that I am a hunter and making friends with strangers who later offered to let me come out and hunt their land.
- Get on the ground. If you are going on a trip plan an extra day or two to spend time scouting a piece of property. Setting up your tree stand on a random spot and sitting all day to hunt does not count. Leave the hunting gear at your truck and just get out in the woods with a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. Walkthrough those areas you identified as being likely places for animals. Look for sign (tracks, rubs, scrapes, scat), glass the area with your binoculars, and cover a lot of ground. Use a notepad or your phone to make notes when you find animals or fresh sign of them.
I guarantee you that if you incorporate these three strategies in your hunting you will increase your chances of success in new areas. By checking maps you narrow down where you should be looking. Talking to locals can provide a much-needed tip you may not have otherwise found out. Finally, getting out in the woods and scouting will confirm whether or not the area contains the animal you want to hunt. This is not a recipe for success every time, but by implementing these tactics and then spending time hunting you can start to drastically increase the places you have to hunt.