When I first started hunting public land, I quickly became overwhelmed. I remember sitting down with a map and looking at 10,000 acres of land that I’ve never set foot on it before and it felt paralyzing. The thought of narrowing down one tree that would put me within 30 yards of a mature whitetail seemed impossible. Questions started popping up: How much pressure does this place get? Is this a road, a trail, or can I even walk through this area?
So many unknowns can genuinely give you paralysis by analysis, or you could just end up throwing darts at the map and start there. I’ve been a victim of both and had limited success using the latter. But, there is a better way — a more strategic way to get it done: onxmaps.com
OnX isn’t a new tool — most hunters are using it in some capacity to access permission to new private properties or to help them navigate new areas of land so they will not get lost. But OnX is much more than a property finder and according to their numbers, hunters added over 5 million waypoints in 2018! If you are one of those heavy users like we are, this post is meant to help you start your 2019 season with a fresh look.
Where to Start: Cleanup
No doubt if you scouted and hunted hard throughout the year, you’ve placed waypoints for everything. If you are stacking waypoints on top of waypoints, your map looks like a severe case of waypoint hoarding. First thing is first: Clean
Here are a few things you might consider keeping:
- Tree-stand locations: Especially those that were good to you or showed promise.
- Access routes: Any place that you might have a hard time finding in the dark, it’s good to lay down some tracks or lines so you can find your way back.
- Deer sign: Beds, scrapes, rubs, and trails fit into this category.
- Food: Oaks that were dropping, and if you are fortunate enough to have ag, mark that and make notes of what fields were planted in.
After you have what you need to keep, you might consider deleting the rest. I’m a firm believer that keeping this view clean will help keep you centered on what’s important instead of being overwhelmed by what’s not. But it’s also important that when you are placing waypoints in the future there is uniformity to what you are doing.
There are a few reasons I think you should have uniformed waypoints, but the best example would be marking your truck. Think about this for a second: If you label every parking area with a truck symbol — What happens when you need to mark where your vehicle is at? It gets lost in the shuffle. Because of this, I like to use the Gate symbol for parking areas and access points — I use the Truck symbol for when I need to mark that as where my truck is.
Now use that same logic for 10+ other waypoints you could use for deer-sign, food, or whatever else. Here are a few ideas for keeping your waypoints
- Wallow pin: Unfortunately, OnX doesn’t have a waypoint for bedding, so most hunters I know are using the Wallow symbol. I like to mark buck beds with only this symbol and doe bedding I’ll stick a Doe symbol right beside it.
- Gate pin: Already mentioned above, but this is great for marking access points and parking areas…and of course — gates.
- Pronghorn pin: There are no antelope in Tennessee, but there are places I want to check out in the future. If there is anything I think I should come back and look at, I throw a Pronghorn pin on the map.
- Bear pin: I don’t have bears here either, but there’s plenty of other hunters. Anytime I come by hunter sign a Bear pin is placed.
There might be situations where you want to mark other types of spots that don’t have a pin and hasn’t been covered; if so, make something up and stay consistent — you’ll be glad you did.
The Hunting Public introduced me to using Area shapes, and as you can see from the video (bottom of the page) they are utilizing Area shapes to mark off areas that are easily accessed.
I think this is a great idea, and I definitely recommend using it for those circumstances. But my number one reason for utilizing this function is to mark areas that I want to put boots on the ground and scout. You might want to highlight terrain features, transition lines, marshy areas, or many other things, but one this is for sure — when you go into a property, you’ll want a plan to maximize your time there. The easiest way to do that creates boundaries for yourself and stay within them.
Distinguish these three factors when marking Areas for your next scouting mission:
- Water access only: These are places most hunters can’t or will not be trying to go. I like to color code these, and I use blue for all of the apparent reasons on this one.
- Hard to access: If you find a place that is hard to get to, consider marking that area. My personal preference is shading it in as green — as in “go here.”
- Easy Access: Sometimes you might want just to have a place that’s easy to get in and out. For that reason, you’ll want it identified, or may identify it as a place to stay out of. For those reasons, you might want to color these areas red.
Where does that leave us?
Once your map is clean, and you have identified areas to scout; the real work begins. It’s time to put boots on the ground and get to work. In the next two posts, we’ll explore cyber scouting new areas, and in-season scouting techniques using OnX. In the meantime, I urge you to check out the video series by the guys from The Hunting Public below.