Start Your Hunt At Home
I am an unabashed, unapologetic Luddite. (And yes, I do recognize the irony of making that declaration via the internet). What’s true for my home life is doubly so for my days afield. When I head for the hills, I’m looking to unplug completely. The thought of the latest technological gewgaw hitching a ride in my pack makes me breakout in a cold sweat.
But there are exceptions to every rule. Recently, I’ve started using a distinctly high tech (though not exactly new) tool to make the most of my time in the woods. And perhaps the best part… when I leave the house, it stays behind.
Exploring new territory, both in season and on off-season scouting missions, is one of the best aspects of hunting. The sense of adventure that comes from not knowing what’s around the next bend is something we just don’t get enough of in our daily lives. Unfortunately the other thing we rarely get enough of is time. Wyoming is a big place. Hunt area boundaries often enclose hundreds of square miles, and it’s nothing for your deer tag, elk tag and antelope tag to each be three hours of highway from town… in opposite directions. When you crunch those figures with the number of days available to scout and hunt, the need for strategic efficiencies adds up in a hurry.
Enter Google Earth
Now let’s be clear. You can have my maps when you pry them from my cold dead hands. There’s just no replacing the functionality, reliability or day-dream quality asthetics of old-school USGS topo quads. But as a scouting and planning tool, they do have limitations.
Is that big green patch nice broken timber or acre upon acre of unnavigable dog hair? Is that meadow still a meadow, or has it grown up in the 30 years since the map was made? Does that knob offer a view of the surrounding country or is it all hemmed in with tall trees? You can take your map for a three hour drive and a five mile hike to answer these questions or, with Google Earth, you can find out in fifteen seconds from your living room.
Of course, just as Google Earth will never replace a good map (and the knowledge of how to use it), neither are substitutes for time on the landscape. I’m all for the aimless walk in the woods. In my experience, they tend to be the most illuminating. But the fact of the matter is, I only get to take so many of them. Do I point my boots up Canyon A? over Ridge B, or should I have parked the truck five-miles to the south at a completely different trailhead? Google earth helps identify the most promising options from an infinite number of possibilities. This tool isn’t about cutting your scouting time. It’s about making the most of it.
And if it contributes to a few extra hours of daydreaming in the off season? Well, so much the better.