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"Preparation is the key to success." -Alexander Graham Bell
We've longed for this time for almost a year. Archery season begins across the western states in a few weeks. Muzzleloader and rifle are right around the corner. Want to be better prepared? Don't think you have time to dig through countless data sources and spend days of driving and hiking across the region to find the best spots? No worries, we've got you covered. Take your e-scouting to the next level and quickly solidify your hunting strategy with the Outly interactive map. This email tutorial is mainly focused on big game hunting, but even non-hunters and wildlife viewers will gain some insights on how Outly can reveal your adventures.
I'll walk through a systematic process for using Outly to pinpoint archery elk hunting spots in Colorado. You can use the same approach for other species and seasons across the western states. To up the ante, I'm going to select a unit that I'm not familiar with for my hunt plan, GMU 421, east of Grand Junction. According to the Colorado Big Game brochure, unit 421 has over-the-counter elk tags available for archery, 2nd rifle and 3rd rifle so we could pick up a tag even if we weren't successful in the draw. Let's find some elky spots where we're likely to come face to face with a screaming bull in the rut...
Find the elk in your unit - Hunt Unit & Wildlife Layers
We'll start by turning on the Hunt Unit layer to see the boundary of GMU 421. Here's our playing field. Now let's enable the Wildlife layer (Colorado - Elk - By Month - SEP) to see where the elk will be during archery season. The Wildlife layer allows you to focus on where the elk range, concentrate or move, while eliminating the rest of the unit. In this case we can key in on the Concentration and Migration Paths. The elk will be located on the edges of their summer Concentration areas in the high country, starting to move into those Migration Paths as the season progresses.
Pinpoint public land - Land Layer
Most of us don't have access to any private ground out there, so we'll enable the Land layer to see where these elky areas intersect public land. We can see that a majority of the elk are concentrated on National Forest and BLM land in the northern and southern sections of the unit, so we're in business.
Plan your approach - Trails & Roads Layer
By enabling the Trails & Roads layer we can see the routes we might use to approach these areas and what modes of transport are allowed along each segment. Keep in mind, roads and trails are a double-edged sword. They make it easier for you to get into the area, but that goes for all the other hunters and recreational users too. I recommend you pursue areas as far away from motorized trails as your own fitness level will allow. The animals will naturally move to those areas as the pressure picks up. Whenever possible, also hunt uphill. If you park your vehicle and hunt your way down in elevation, you'll be lugging 150-200 pounds of meat back uphill if you harvest an animal down there.
We see a few spread out ATV trails that navigate the perimeter of some large basins in the north portion of GMU 421. You can use those trails to your advantage. First, you can use them to get into the area whether or not you have an ATV. Second, you can focus on hiking into the spots as far away from the trails as possible. That's where the elk will move as traffic picks up on the trails. I dropped some pins (My Places - Create Point) to show some areas far from the trails that we should investigate further.
Identify Feeding and Bedding - Sat Base Map
At this point we'll zoom in and toggle between the Map and Sat base maps. Map gives us a topo view to assess the terrain contours and steepness. Elk typically bed in thick timber on north facing slopes through the middle part of the day. The thick timber is easily identifiable on the Sat base map as dark clumps of trees. Then the elk will feed into open areas and aspens on south facing slopes in the early morning and evening. These areas are identifiable as lighter green on the Sat map. I've annotated the screenshot below to highlight these zones. You're best bet is to intercept them in transition between these zones.
Save and share your plan - My Places
As you narrow down locations that meet your criteria (elk range/concentration, public land, accessibility, bedding/feeding transition zones), drop pins to mark your spots (My Places - Create Point). Save your favorite map views and enabled layers (My Places - Create Map). Draw potential access routes (My Places - Create Route). Note, this is a sneak preview of the Create Route capability that will go live on Tuesday! As you create each of these features you can organize and save them to a Collection. You can even Share your map features and collections with your hunting buddies to plan your trip together.
We've identified quality spots from the comfort of our home before our boots ever hit the ground. Now we can take full advantage of our limited time in the field with a focused strategy that maximizes our chance of success. Give it a try and you'll quickly become efficient at using Outly's map layers to pinpoint your own spots.
Check out the Outly Maps and System HERE.