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Brendan Burns and AJ Kissel compare notes via maps on their smart phones

E-Scouting Strategies to Maximize Hunting Success

Hunting seasons are shorter than many of us would like, and our time/resources are limited for pre-season scouting. The better you prepare for a hunt and know the unit, the more you increase your chances of success. Scouting is the key to understand where big game animals are in your specific unit. Although putting boots on the ground is the best way to scout, most of the time, that is not possible. The second-best way is to use Google maps, OnX, GoHunt, TopRut, Scout to Hunt, or other GPS technology to learn about unknown areas. One of the main goals is to find highly productive areas by eliminating areas that will not hold animals. E-Scouting can be used for all species of animals and different seasons.

A few strategies will significantly increase your e-scouting effectiveness and overall success in the field: Knowing the unit boundaries, access points, areas that hold animals, glassing points, and multiple plans for your trip. Following this simple formula will generate high-quality spots for any animal species that you might be hunting.

Included with OnX Hunt, you can add different layers on your map to see landowner plots, roadless areas, historic wildfires, motorized roads, and trails. When preparing for your hunt, look at remote locations and farther away from roads, creating less hunting pressure.

Start by looking for remote areas and find different ways to get back into the area. Depending on your style of hunting, this will dictate where you will be spending your time. If you are backpacking in, then getting away from other hunters in remote areas is the goal. Always know your physical limits and see the elevation gains/loss.

Find Areas That Can Hold Big Game:

Every hunting unit has particular topography, weather, and hunting pressure. Finding animals in these units, you will need to understand the basic living requirements of each species. Deer and elk can both occupy that same unit but will live in vastly different areas. First, start by researching the type of animal you will be hunting. Find the type of terrain, elevations, food requirements, water requirements, and shelter for the specific animals. Next, you can start pinpointing different areas of the unit that meet these requirements. Now cross-reference access roads/trails into these other areas.

Generally, find a point across the canyon that gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire side. Spending time behind your glass will save your legs and increase your odds of finding animals. In lowland areas, find high hills or nulls that can see a large expanse of land.


Before heading on your hunt, always make sure to have e-scouted at least three different areas within your unit. Understand that many hunters will be doing the same research as you before the hunt, so having multiple plans is crucial. If an area meets all the requirements and has easy access, most likely, it will be crowded during the hunt. Conditions are ever-changing, and one area might not have the caliber of animals or any animals at all. Have a backup plan can save your hunt and give you extra options if hunting pressure or conditions change.


Hunting seasons are short and, in some cases, can only be a week long. With short timeframes to find and pursue an animal studying maps and digitally scouting areas will give you the best opportunity to succeed. By putting in the work now by finding prime locations and eliminating unproductive areas in advance, you’ll be one step closer to tagging out. Make sure to download the specific maps for your unit and mark waypoints of all research done beforehand.

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