All About Elk · Elk Hunt · Mule Deer Hunt

How to Scout a New Area

It’s the middle of summer and I’m already thinking about hunting this fall.  My plans are coming together for the fall and its time for me to focus on my hunting locations.

Scouting with friends

I’ve hunted the same general area the past couple years and so one of my goals for this year was to expand my hunting grounds.  This year I plan on hunting both my old area as well as a new area for elk and deer.  In my search for other hunting locations, a friend told me about a particular  area and so I decided to try it.  New area here I come!

When looking at a new location, scouting is crucial to a profitable hunt.  Sometimes time and geography prevents a lot of scouting before the season, but no matter where you are, you can do some form of scouting.  If you are somewhat close to your hunting area, you must take the time to scout during the summer.  While I had great plans for scouting this summer, time gets away from me.  Still I have done some scouting in my new location.  This year to prepare I’ve broken my preparation down into three main types of scouting:

1. Pre-scouting:  This is scouting that takes place well before the season starts.  During the winter months and spring I start my pre-scouting routine.  This is possible because I can do this type of scouting from any place in the world!  This means utilizing tools that allow you to learn about specific area without actually being there.  This starts with focusing on an general geographical area.  I typically get to this point by talking with others.  If people are willing to tell you where they have hunted or hiked, you can get a lot of information about an area before you even arrive.  This is often how I decide to focus in on a general area.  When I talk with someone and they tell me of a “great hunting spot,”  I mark it down to check out in more detail.  If you don’t have friends that offer that kind of information, you can also come up with a general area by previewing maps to come up with areas that look like they may have potential.  If you are coming from out-of-state to hunt, that is typically the way to go.

Nice muley in velvet.  Hope to meet him again this fall

The main part on my pre-scouting then is done online.  There are so many great online resources available today that can aid your scouting.  Using online tools to scout out a new area can give you a good lay of the land and allow you to focus in on some specific areas for further scouting.   I primarily rely on three online tools. Google Earth allows me to see a satellite view of an area and get a general lay of the land.  OnX hunting maps is another tremendous tool that not only has the GPS feature, but also has an online portion for subscribers that allows you to see topographical features, trails, and private property boundaries on your computer.  I use this extensively in my on-line scouting.   My last big tool is the Big Game Hunting Atlas available here in Colorado through the parks and wildlife division.  It is a huge help to see population concentrations and migration routes.  You can also find animal population and density by hunting zone which helps you know how many animals on in the area.  These three tools allow me to gather so much information without even leaving my computer!  My goal in my pre-scouting is to have a good idea of the overall landscape before I even put boots on the ground.

2. Early Scouting: This is on-site scouting I try to do that takes place early in the summer or mid-summer.  Here my goal is to identify locations that may be good hunting in season and to establish my routes in and out.  While I keep an eye out for elk and deer sign, I am not necessarily looking for animals at this time.  Old indicators or animal activity are almost a better indicator of a good hunting spot then a lot of recent sign….especially for elk.

Another muley hanging out

Old rubs are a excellent things to be looking for during this time.  I then go back to my online tools and re-evaluate my ideas based off of what I observed and learned when on-site.  By this time I’m starting to get a overall picture of the area and identify areas of focus for hunting season.

3. Late Scouting:  This is another great opportunity to get back into the woods.  I do this in late summer and fall right up to the opening day of hunting season.  Once grouse season opens up, this is also my opportunity to do a little grouse hunting as I continue getting familiar with my area.  At this point I do spend time glassing for animals and trying to identify where they would be with the current weather situation.  I also look to see what evidence of other people are around.  If I see footprints or other signs of people, I know that I may run into people during hunting as well. I mark that and try to

Third Muley of the trip  

prepare for backup areas if needed.  Recent elk sign is great and wallows, rubs, and droppings get marked on my map for investigation during hunting.  By the time opening day arrives, I know exactly where I want to be!


This all may sound like a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun.  Getting out and hiking in the summer helps prepare you physically for your hunt and seeing the land before you hunt increases your chances so much more!  It may be that your scouting my have to take place primarily off-site but do yourself a favor and do your homework so when you get to your hunting spot you are completely prepared for your hunt!  If you have the opportunity to scout your area during the summer, make sure you are making the most of your time in the woods.  Happy scouting!

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