The area in which I have been hunting whitetails since 1990 is a large, heavily wooded wilderness area with lots of rocky ridges and hills and only one logging trail. Having long ago discovered stand sites never used before (100 yards or more from any recently used stand site) near very fresh signs made by a mature buck are by far the most productive for taking a mature bucks, I often deliberately spend an hour or so during summer to study an aerial map on my computer screen of my hunting area (usually a Bing map), searching for sites I have never hunted before and/or sites I haven’t hunting for several years.
To illustrate how productive such a map study can be, just a few minutes ago I discovered a spot about a half-mile in diameter that neither me nor anyone else in my hunting gang has never hunted before. I also found a remarkably short tentative route (no specific deer trail yet selected) to get there from crosswind while the wind is blowing from about the south or north that connects with my previously established cruise trail — a series of connecting deer trails that circles widely throughout about a square mile. This trail is used to hike to and from other connecting stand site approach trails and is the only trail I use when scouting for fresh signs made by mature bucks in that square mile during a hunting season.
Now that I’ve discovered this new area, I can’t wait to scout it thoroughly in mid-October, then selecting 2–3 stand sites, and approach trails (existing deer trails), 100 yards or more apart in that same area that need little or no preparation for use with my backpacked stool. Having done this many time before, I know if I find fresh tracks and droppings made by a mature buck in that never-hunted area (almost certain—see above photo), my odds of taking that buck it will be much better than odds of taking a mature buck almost anywhere else in my hunting area.
Experience has also taught me it would now be prudent find 1–2 other promising spots to scout a up to a mile or more away on my map—backups in case something goes awry during my first encounter or two with mature bucks in November, which when hunting older bucks is not altogether uncommon.
Before scouting, I will download and print an enlarged copy of my map, likely taping to it copies of surrounding areas. After scouting, my computer wizard son, John, will superimpose trails and locations of my stand sites, info taken from his GPS, on a similar map, providing a day-to-day means of determining best routes to take and stand sites to use during current wind directions during the following hunting season. You can’t know how amazingly valuable such a map can be until you have one and make use of it yourself. If you haven’t taken advantage of free aerial photographs on the internet before, give it a try. Get help if needed. It’s worth it. If you do, next winter you will probably feel prompted to send me an email to tell me how great this tip was.