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Mapping Whitetails With The Hunting Public: Episode 2

Identifying Access and Hunting Pressure.

The guys at The Hunting Public take you through one of the biggest issues hunters face every year: access. Follow along as they go through identifying and avoiding high traffic hunting areas and finding the perfect access points for your whitetail hunt.

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Video Transcription:

Welcome back to the second part of the Mapping Whitetails series that we’re doing with onX. On today’s video, we’re going to talk more about how to predict hunting pressure and access.

Yeah, we’ve never been to these pieces of public. Today we’re just going to dive in a little bit deeper and look at where the access is and where we expect the hunting pressure to be coming from.

I’ll just take one of these three areas here in the bottom right to start. I think this is the 1,500 acre chunk. But, you’re looking around it and you’ve got-

Boat ramps.

… boat ramps. Road-

Road access where it goes into the piece.

Right, and those are going to be predictable spots, right?

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

There’s going to be people parked there and likely hunting close to that area, at least that’s what we’re anticipating when we’re tracking access. Here’s a good example here of what we’re looking for today as far as access goes. We’ve got this boat ramp up here, this parking area that’s probably going to get a lot of attention, but over here across the water, right here at the corner of this road, you can see, if you zoom way in here, you can see that there’s a little pull-in right here on the corner. That’s going to get way less attention than these designated parking areas all around this public area. Just from first glance, we’ve identified that as a potential spot of interest. So, we’re going to mark a pin right there.

Okay, so we marked it with our truck icon here, and that’s going to be a spot that we’re going to want to drive by and check out. See what kind of access that is. It looks like you can access from that point, but you never know until you get there. So, anyway, that’s one point of interest. There’s a lot of potential for water access on this place, and that’s something that’s always of interest to us, because it eliminates a lot of competition. You can put in at one of these boat ramps, one of these access points in and around this lake, and then use a kayak, canoe, or small jon boat or something and get to lot of these areas where access is difficult.

Right now, Zach and I are going to draw up this map a little bit. We’re actually going take the onX tools here, and block off areas that are not of interest to us, because that helps us a lot. You’ve got a 1,500 acre chunk of land here. It’s pretty big, and it can seem somewhat intimidating, so what we’ll do when we’re looking for hunting pressure and access like this is we’ll just cross off huge areas of land that we’re going to completely avoid. That’s going to help us determine our areas of focus when we go over there and do our boots on the ground scouting.

Okay, now we’ve eliminated some of these areas, and we’ll zoom in and go into more detail here for you. Right here, around this main road and what looks like a main bridge that’s crossing the center of this lake, there’s several access points. We zoomed in over here a minute ago. There’s a little bitty parking lot right there. You’ve got a boat ramp right here. You’ve got another boat ramp right here. Just lots of places for people to access, so we’ve basically blocked off … That’s 40 acres. You’re looking at a couple hundred acres of land right in there around the road. You know, this is just a guess at this point, but that’s how we start to narrow down our areas of focus when we begin scouting. Like you mentioned a minute ago, in this area off the road, we’re marking a lot of that as a dead zone, but it’s really thick the further that you go in there. That could keep people from making it clear in, say, here to this drainage.

Yeah, and some pieces of public land have more terrain, which is a factor. Some have thicker areas, water, anything that we believe is going to deter people is something … Those are all things that we’re looking at when we’re eliminating these areas. These areas are relatively flat, close to parking, and look like they’re going to be pretty decent hunting to keep people occupied in those areas.

Yeah, I mean, there’s good habitat for deer right there. They’re likely going to run into some bucks, especially in Iowa. We have high deer density. They’re going to run into some deer in these areas, but the biggest, oldest bucks that we’re looking for are probably not going to be there very often. And like I mentioned a while ago, this is not an exact science.


You have to get there, and once you see it, boots on the ground, it’ll definitely help you make better decisions moving forward, but this is just our first guess so that we can be most efficient. We’ll use this as an example here in the northern end. You can see we’ve got all that area that we just kind of excluded, and then there’s another piece up here where there’s some parking all along this county road. But in between those two, you’ve got some really good habitat for deer. I mean, there’s lots of thick stuff way back in there.

There’s water.


There’s ag up to the west.

So, we could potentially put in a boat down here at the boat ramp, and then come up in there, and get to an area in which there’s very few hunters.

I would say, in a general sense, a lot of times we are just eliminating right beside the road. You know, essentially what we’re looking for. What’s the deepest middle piece, and that’s going to be our main area of focus.

Right, but we’re also hunting right off the road in some cases. You know, we marked these areas because the access looks really easy, but a while ago, we were talking about this little parking area down here on the other side of the lake that we marked with our little truck button. This is a spot that lot of people are going to overlook because of how easy the other access points are. So, just take that into account whenever you’re looking at these areas. You don’t necessarily have to just hunt way off the road. It’s just finding places where people don’t go.

Now that we’ve discussed hunting pressure, I want to circle back to what you mentioned a while ago, and that is how to predict your vehicle access or your foot access into some of these spots. Because, there’s a lot of areas like that that we look at on a map. I mean, we just moved up here to that big area that’s in the center here, the one that we haven’t been looking at? And there’s a lot of roads around it, but some of these look like minimum maintenance roads.


From a map, it’s kind of hard to tell if that is vehicle access, if that’s foot traffic only. Many of these areas-

Maybe it’s a tractor path.

Right, many of these are just walk-in areas, like where you can’t drive a vehicle in there, and that’s going to be a big deal to us, because that keeps people out. I mean, look at this road right here, coming off of the main road that bisects this property. That thing, from a mapping standpoint, looks like it goes straight into that creek, but if you zoom way in, you can tell that that road actually peters out and there’s probably very little vehicle traffic that’s going down that thing. And then they have to cross a river of some sort. Now, just looking at a map, we have no idea how deep that river is, but that’s definitely a point that we’re going to mark to look at. When we go in there and scout in a few days or whatever, we’re going to go to that spot and see if we can cross that river, and if it’s hard to cross, then we’re going to look for potential riffles in the creek, or-

Potential crossings for us.

Yeah, ways for us to get across that thing. I mean, we may have to pull a boat down there just to cross a river or something, but that’s going to eliminate a lot of human traffic.

Another thing that we’re looking at a lot of times, especially in this type of habitat, are these fields. Fields tend to draw a lot of whitetail hunters. A lot of access goes right to those fields. Obviously, a tractor’s got to get to the field to work, so a lot of times there’s pretty easy access. What we’re looking for when we’re looking at the map the first time is where are those tractor paths? Where are the ways that are easiest to get to those fields, and then-

We’re expecting people to be right there and they usually are-


… once you get in there, because, like you mentioned, if you can get a combine or a great big tractor in there, it doesn’t really matter how far it is off of the road or from the parking lot, eventually people are going to make their way to that spot. So, once again, we’re taking those areas, like you mentioned, and we’re excluding them from our areas of interest, so to speak, to try to make our scouting more efficient.

Okay, and now for the third part of this video, we want to talk about more subtle access routes. You can see all these roads. You can see the parking areas and stuff, so we’re immediately looking at those first, but now that we’ve marked a lot of those, we’re looking at the more subtle spots, those little trails that those tractors use and stuff that you just mentioned. Many times, they’re not marked on the map. You have to actually zoom in on the aerial photo to see those trails. So, right now, just take this particular area for instance. You’re looking at it and you can see all the roads surrounding it, but now I’m going to kick on this path that Zach just traced. This is actually one of those tractor paths that he was just discussing. Now, as you can see, it winds all the way through these fields and clear down in to this property.

It actually goes all the way down to where the piece of property is now landlocked by private land, but that’s just showing us that there’s actually walking access all the way to the very back that’s relatively easy. Generally speaking, those tractor paths are pretty smooth walking.

Yeah, people will walk a long distance down those things just because of that. They don’t have to go down through a bunch of ditches. They don’t have to go through a bunch of thick cover or anything. We’re looking at that, and we may use it as an access route, but we’re likely not going to hunt anywhere near that path. We’re going to be off it quite a ways.

Now, once you get to a spot like this, one way to monitor something like the very end of this path is just to walk down it looking for boot tracks, looking for human sign, looking for tree stands, maybe a scent wick. Anything that’s going to tell you that people are hunting around that area is going to help you out, but just simply speaking, we’re always going to mark something like this on the map just to know there is potential for access there.

And to take this one step further, we’re avoiding this line, but we’re looking up here along this west fence, like at this pond that is west of the access. You just mentioned this down here. I mean, this is really thick draw that has got to be several miles to walk in from if you can’t cross that creek, which it looks fairly deep through this portion of it right here. And if I kick over to the topo layer, you can actually see that this is a drainage in between these two ridges that runs in off of private land into public land.

As far as access goes, you know, we’re looking at … generally speaking, we’re looking at places where people are accessing from the public land. In this specific spot, like Aaron was just saying, where this pond is and this thick habitat change is, there is no public access from this direction, from this road. If anybody’s going to come in here, they’ve got to go all the way on around, instead of just coming straight from the road, which would be pretty easy, but in this case, since that is landlocked, that’s where we’re really getting excited.

And here’s an example quick of how we might come in and hunt that top ridge above that pond or even access down in here. We may not use that main trail that everybody else is using. We may just park up here at the road and blaze our own path through the timber to try to get to that pond. In hindsight, when you look at that, that’s way shorter of a walk, but it could be a way in which people are not accessing that particular area. And that’s the key. You want to be catching these bucks by surprise, because they know where the people are coming from. I mean, they live on this public area every day.

I think one thing that stands out to me, and you know, this line is much shorter where we would access, but it’s going to be a heck of a lot harder to get through that thick cover down, up and over those draws, versus, walking right down the flat tractor path. So, sometimes it’s as simple as just picking the area that’s harder physically to access through versus the one that’s pretty straightforward and flat, easy to walk.

I’m ready to get out there and start looking around.


And in the meantime, y’all should check out onX. Go to onxmaps.com. Use our promo code capital T, capital H, capital P, THP. You can save 20% off of their onX Hunt app, which is exactly what we’re using right now.

Yeah, it’s obviously really handy to use. You can put all your points on there. You can map out that access right here on the desktop.

Then when we go out there, we’re going to be on the phones the entire time marking tons more stuff, too. Then we can come back again, and continue our scouting with our database, here.


So, yeah, thanks for watching. We’ll see you guys on the next video out in the field.

Next time when we see you guys, we’ll be afoot in the field.

See ya.

Written by Cavan Williams