Energy. In the mountains it means everything. You have to have enough to get the job done and you have to conserve it every chance you can. That is what led me to using topographic maps in order to locate and kill big-woods bucks.
Scouting acres of steep, rocky terrain isn’t easy. In fact, a lot of energy can be burned just getting to an area and then realizing it probably isn’t worth hunting. After repeating this process several times and coming up with nothing more than sore legs and busted lungs, I decided there had to be a better, more streamlined approach to locating good big-woods hunting spots. That’s when topo maps came into the picture.
Identifying A Topo Map
When first viewed, a topo map may look like nothing more than a bunch of lines running in different directions with no real rhyme or reason. However, all of those lines, better known as contour lines, are the key to understanding how a particular piece of land lays without ever stepping foot on it.
Technically speaking, a topographic map is a type of map characterized by large-scale detail and measureable representation of relief, usually using contour lines. To put it plainly, a topo map will show you how the land lays, how steep the terrain is and where pinch-points and saddles are located.
Understanding A Topo Map
When viewing a topo map, it is best to imagine you are looking at the terrain straight down from above. It will feel overwhelming the first time you try to understand what all of those Contour Lines mean. However, once you realize what they represent you will have no problem at all locating potential hunting spots.
Here, easy and hard (positive and negative) terrain features are represented by the varying space between the lines. (Steve Flores photo)
First, you need to know what the term “contour interval” means. This is the difference in elevation between successive contour lines. In other words, wide spaces between all of those contour lines will signify a gentle slope and gradual elevation in the terrain. On the other hand, contour lines that are squeezed really close together indicate steep terrain and abrupt elevation change.
For hunting purposes, try to think of both in terms of “positive” and “negative” terrain features. Steep is negative and gentle is positive. Once you do that, it’s time to think about how deer react to negative and positive terrain.