I have made it a major goal to improve my scouting and property awareness. This series on scouting will cover topics in no particular order or schedule, but will instead go over things as they come up in my own evolving process.
My resolutions are: More extensive scouting in the off season; Better use of internet resources regarding satellite imagery and weather; Purchasing a quality scouting optic; Building maps to print and laminate; Keeping updated maps with specific season/animal activity; Attempting to keep a written and typed journal about my findings; and more.
Its February, and we’ve had a pretty brutal winter thus far. Personally, I’d rather wait a bit longer before I decide to trudge around in the woods without skis or snow shoes. However, there are still things we can accomplish, which is why the first topic is on internet resources.
One very useful resource is your county’s GIS mapping website. A simple Google search will lead you there. Every county has a different format, so I will simply use my own county as an example.
Tioga County GIS Website:
GIS maps have many uses, but they are most helpful for understanding legal property boundaries, and marking them off in 3D mapping software like Google Earth.
Once on the website (the URL is typically an IP address), look for links like ‘Public GIS Application’ and/or ‘Real Property Data Viewer.’ The real property data viewer allows you to refine your search to specific properties, as well as find out who owns a given parcel. Once in either application, the sidebar on the right will allow you to adjust the map to best suit your needs. The ‘basemaps’ tab under ‘table of contents’ allows you to choose between options like satellite imagery, topography, etc while the ‘layers’ tab outlines features like roads, school districts, wetlands, water systems, zoning, and more. The ‘public parks and forests’ option in the layers menu gives you a great view of state land and its borders. The measurement tool allows you to measure between points rather accurately.
Tioga County Real Property Data Viewer:
In the “real property data viewer’ you can look up properties by town, owner, street name, etc and see the sales history, tax info, previous and current owners, purchase price and current estimate, property improvements over time, acreage, etc. You can use the option to ‘pin property on GIS map’ to have the property outlined in the mapping application. The option to open a tax map will help you find a property’s specific number and/or letter designation. Type/copy it into the ‘real property data viewer’ search engine in the search box called ‘Tax ID’ to get info on an unfamiliar property on which you may be interesting in seeking permission to hunt.
BING maps is a fantastic tool for looking at satellite imagery from a different perspective than Google, and others. My county’s GIS application has an option to use BING maps ‘birds eye view’ tool built into it, which has been indispensably useful.
Google Maps obviously offers an additional option, and I try to use as many different perspectives as possible. I will also use older and time lapsed satellite imagery. I do this to see how the land has changed over time, seasonal differences in cover and visibility, lighting and shadows, movement of the sun and its effects on temperature/thermals, etc.
More to come in later posts. As I go into map building and other topics, I will explain how I integrate information gained from various internet resources and real life experiences.