Big Game Scouting (Part 1) - by Mark Campagnola

Submitted By Admin Jul .27.2017

It’s hard to believe that half of 2017 is already gone. If you put in for any big game draw units you should know by now whether or not you were successful. This year I was not successful for my first choice but did draw on my second. It’s a little strange that two years in a row with zero points we drew our first choice archery elk tag in the same unit but this year we missed out and drew our second choice. Nothing had changed from the last two years; our group size was the same and we all had zero preference points. So it is what it is and our second choice is a unit we have hunted before with great results. Now, even though we had hunted this unit before, we still went out and scouted the area over because from year to year things can change. On our scouting trip we did find that there had been some big changes since our last hunt in that unit.

Once you have decided where you are going to hunt you need to get some maps of that area and study them. There are three different maps I use before I physically go out and scout. The Forest Service map and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) map at 1: 100,000 scale. Both maps are a lot alike but the BLM map is a topographic map as to where the Forest service map is not. The biggest reason for having these two maps is that they show you where the private property boundaries are, it is the hunters’ responsibility to know what is and what isn’t private property, it is not the land owner’s responsibility to mark their property boundaries. Both maps show BLM Land, Forest Service Land, and State Land, along with paved roads, dirt roads, and trails. The information you get from both these maps more than pays for itself before you even step foot in the area you’re planning on hunting.

The third type of map I use is computer digital maps. There are many different types of mapping software programs out there like National Geographic, DeLorme, and Garmin just to name a few. I have all three of these programs in my computer and they worked great. Any time I want I can print a close up view or zoom out for a larger area. If I’m going to use a certain map that I’m going to use for hunting I will laminate it and keep it in my pack. I also have the Garmin Topo downloaded into my GPS.

A new company called Hunt Data came out with some new mapping software a few years ago, (Colorado Outdoors Big Game CD and Colorado Outdoors Big Game Digital Maps) that is very simple to use and gives you some of the best detailed maps that you can print out. Both mapping software are excellent for pre-scouting because they offer more then just a topo map. The Big Game CD has so much information on it that anyone wanting more detailed information about any game unit it’s there. It has drawing and harvest statistics for the last 15 years, summer and winter concentrations and migration routes, plus sheep, goat, and moose kill sites. The Big Game Digital Maps has over 350 digitized hunting maps at 1:100,000 scale. Every game unit has three different types of maps, BLM Land Ownership, Animal Concentrations, and USGS Topographical.

The reason I’m so big on detailed maps is I will sit in my office and for hours study the topography. I’m searching for areas I know elk like at certain times of the year and during certain weather conditions. If it’s a new area I will try to memorize all the major roads, drainages, and mountains Plus rivers, streams, and creeks which can tell you a lot. I never throw any of my maps away for the simple fact I may need them again sometime down the road. I make notes on my maps when I’m out scouting, I’ll mark where I see elk, the time of day, how many, and the weather. I may find a new trail or a new spring that is not on any of my maps! I mark it.

All in all pre-scouting starts at home by studying all your maps. Then when you’re done, get out and put some rubber to the ground and start looking for actual physical sign. In my next article I’ll get into the do's and don’ts when you are physically in the area you’re going to hunt.


Mark Campagnola

Hunt Hard and Shoot Straight