Mapping Whitetails With The Hunting Public: Episode 1

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An intro to scouting public land whitetails.

From the Midwest to the East Coast, the whitetail is king. Every year millions of hunters chase these wily animals and every year hunters are humbled by how cunning and crafty a mature whitetail buck can be. This year onX invites you to get a leg up on scouting for a mature whitetail by checking out the new E-Scouting series from The Hunting Public. Tune in as these master whitetail hunters show you how to find bedding areas, travel corridors, and more in this five-part series.

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Video Transcription:

Hey, everybody. Welcome to the first video of our Mapping Whitetails series that we’re doing in partnership with onX. You guys are constantly asking us how we find good deer hunting spots on public land, and that’s what this whole series is going to be dedicated to. The first part, the one I’m going to get to today, here in just a minute, we’re going to dive into the initial stages of just finding a place to hunt. For the second part, we’re going to talk about identifying hunting pressure from a map.

Part three, we’re going to head out to one of these public areas that we pick, put some boots on the ground, and help you identify access points to use when using the area. On the fourth part, we’re going to come back here, revisit our maps for the final time, and try to figure out exactly where we’re going to hunt. We’re going to look for bedding areas from a map, potential stand locations.

We’re going to talk about our access routes that we already scouted out on the previous video, and then for the fifth part, we’re going to head back out one last time, and actually dive into this public area. Deep in there, find buck bedding areas, find those stand locations that we plan on hunting this fall, and then to wrap everything up, we’re going to bring you guys back in here to the office with us, and shoot a live podcast talking about all your questions and comments over the course of the five video series.

So as we get into these videos, please don’t hesitate to comment, and ask questions below. That’ll kind of help give us some good talking points to get into once we start the live podcast at the end of this series. And to start things off here, I want to talk about the big picture. We use onX all the time.

It really is an incredibly useful tool for whitetail scouting, and hunting, and just finding places to hunt. I mean there’s tons of people out there that are looking for spots to hunt. This is a great tool to use, and if you’re interested in the onX Hunt app, you can go to their website, Just use our promo code. It’ll save you 20%. Our code is capital T, capital H, capital P. THP.

With that said, on this first video, we’re going to talk about how to find a good public area to hunt. I’m going to head down here to Iowa. First thing I’m looking at is where are the highest concentrations of people. In Iowa, there’s not a lot of them. You got Des Moines in the center of the state, and then out on the west side of the state and the east side of the state, you’ve got some bigger cities. So, I’m not really wanting to target public areas close to those cities. Not to say that there’s bad hunting there, there still could be very good hunting there, but what I’m looking for are areas that have less human pressure.

So, I’m going to avoid those just to start out. I’m going to concentrate on the southern part of the state, and I’ve picked these three areas out. They’re a pretty good ways from the big cities, there’s not a lot of towns even close by, so the local pressure should be fairly low, and they’re also not the biggest areas. Many people want to flock to the biggest acreage area to hunt for deer, and that can be good, because it allows you a lot of options, but those are also the ones that really pop out on a map to all the other hunters around.

We’re looking for spots where we can get away from people, which means hiking way back in somewhere. Or finding places that are overlooked. So that’s something that we’re constantly toying with when picking a new area to hunt, and these three little pieces down here are not huge by any means, but they’re big enough that they leave you with plenty of options. You got an area here, at the bottom right, that’s 1,500 acres. Then you got another one that’s 2,500 acres, all within about a half hour of one another. And on top of that, you’ve got these little IHAP chunks which are a walk-in areas. They’re basically just private land that has been leased to the state for hunting rights.

Now another key feature to look for when trying to pick an area, is habitat diversity. When you’re hunting whitetails, you don’t necessarily want the same habitat throughout the area. Deer are creatures of edge, so we’re looking at areas that have a mix of timber, Ag, potentially marsh, water, all these things are necessary to finding good spots to hunt public or private. So I’ll just show you an example of what I’m talking about here.

I’m going to zoom in on this public area. You’ve got some bigger ridges, hardwood ridges here, that probably got a lot of acorns on them. They got some topography there, they look like they’re pretty steep. They fall off into a creek bottom, and then around that creek bottom, you got some pockets of cedar, some thicker cover it looks like. Multiple different tributaries that run off that creek, lots of fields, pastures, and this is all in about a 500 acre chunk.

Another thing you’ll notice on onX is there’s are a lot of different types of public land. There’s different types of areas. You’ve got WMAs, you’ve got walk-in areas, state forest, national forest, national wildlife refuges, I mean the list goes on and on and on. Some areas have different regulations than others, so keep that in mind as you’re looking for spots to hunt.

They can all be good, and some of them can even be overlooked like I mentioned a minute ago with these IHAP tracks. And I guess the point here is, once you find the location that you want to hunt, really dig into the specific areas, and their regulations, so that you’re fully prepared once you get there and actually start scouting.

I guess the main takeaway here is that you don’t want to put yourself in an area where you do not have options. That will eliminate you from the game real fast because public land hunting pressure will change constantly, from year to year, from week to week, you just never know with these spots. Especially in Iowa, I mean we’ll have a group of five to ten guys come in at the beginning of November, and hunt an area that maybe hasn’t been hunted in several years. So by choosing a general location like this, you’ll leave yourself with an out in case you’re initial plans don’t work out for you.

But that’s a general overview of what we’re looking for when we’re trying to find places to hunt. I’ll kind of recap everything we’ve discussed so far. You’re looking for the metropolitan areas, you’re looking for the big cities, you’re trying to avoid those. Then you’re looking for areas with good habitat diversity, and lastly, you’ll want to have plenty of options when you finally pick a general area to go hunting. That way you don’t get handicapped, and end up wasting a bunch of time.

But on the next video, we’re going dive into more detail about this specific area that we picked. We’re going to talk more about how to predict hunting pressure, and look for entry points to access the public land, so you don’t want to miss that one. Thank you guys for joining us, and once again, if you don’t already have the onX Hunt app, you can save 20%. Just use our promo code. Just head over to, use that, save you 20%, but thanks for watching. We will see you on the next video.

Written by Cavan Williams