I hunted last year for the first time since I was a freshman in college. I spent the past ten years doing other things (i.e. Army, college, chasing women, climbing mountains, backpacking). And I rediscovered last year what I knew instinctively as a boy - that hunting is a great pasttime. This site is a good resource and I look at it often. Thank you, BigGameHunt.net.
When I hunted last year, feeling like a newbie out there amongst the orange-clad mass of hunters, I realized that few hunters are willing to walk very far beyond the jeep trails. My father hunted Wilderness areas on foot and on horseback, and such was my experience with him as a child. So, I humped my rifle and a large CamelBak to the top of Red Slide Mountain and White Slide Mountain and north to the Continental Divide, and was surprised that there was no one except deer and elk to share the view.
Each evening during the hunt I returned to my camp in the dark, with the aid of a USGS topo, compass and a Garmin GPS. I only used the GPS once, because it was cold and I didn't have the patience to plot a compass course in the dark.
But the USGS map was very important to my hunt. I used the map to navigate to a spring in a small ravine one mile from a jeep road (saw deer drinking at the spring and no hunters), and I used the map to identify "routes of least resistance" such as connecting saddles between hill tops and mountains, where I set up stands and saw both deer and elk (up close!) travelling quickly mid-day as a result of strong hunting pressure. To my way of thinking, a good map provides its user with "keys to the kingdom," so to speak . Perhaps maps are more important in mountaineering and backpacking than hunting, but I do not think so.
I suppose my hunting is influenced heavily by skill sets I acquired in the military, and as a climber and backpacker. I ALWAYS, ALWAYS carry good maps when I go outside and I believe orienteering skills can contribute to hunting success. On several occassions I found myself up high with spectacular views, plenty of animals, and no other hunters.
At this point I have to admit for the sake of honesty that I didn't kill anything, because (with my almost complete lack of hunting savy ) I did not have an elk tag, nor did I have an either-sex deer tag. I only had a buck tag and I only saw one of those opening day - I had a stand on a good scrape, but I blew it. This year I will hunt the same area, hopefully with deer and elk tags!!! There are loads of elk and deer up there and I'm hoping to fill the freezer. Also, I have been spending considerable time in the field just to sit and watch game animals and practice stalking, so hopefully that buck will not get away again.
Do any of you make strategic hunting decisions based on topo maps, and do you use maps in the field, or do you simply walk uphill in the morning and downhill at night?