Determine Winter/Summer Range
One of the most important components of deciphering a new hunting area is distinguishing between the summer and winter ranges for the game that you plan to pursue. Without knowing this you cannot make reliable assumptions about where the game will be come opening day. Knowing these areas will allow you to take the current weather (as well as the past couple weeks) and apply that to the landscape and make an educated guess as to where you might find that big buck or bull.
There are a couple ways to go about locating these areas. The first is to just arm yourself with a map and get out in the field and find out for yourself. Take a look at a map and locate the higher ground in the unit that you have selected. Game animals will generally use this higher elevation terrain during the summer. As the seasons progress and the temperature drops and snows accumulate, these animals will move to lower adjacent elevations. Females and younger males will generally migrate first, with the mature males staying up high a little longer. You should be looking for drainages that will connect the summer and winter range that will allow game animals to slip by more or less undetected. In many cases, deer and elk will start out in their summer range (public land), move along their migration corridors (a mixture of medium elevation public and private) and then end up on the winter range which is more often than not privately owned. There are some really good late-season public land hunts that one can consistently take home meat however.
I suggest to contact your local fish and game department however and speaking with the biologist assigned to your area before heading out to investigate for yourself. This will save you a lot of time and help focus your efforts. As these people are typically over worked and thus very busy you need to contact them in the offseason. Spring and early summer are good times to contact them and you will find that they will be much more divulgent in their sharing of information. Ask about winter/summer range and concentrations, migration corridors and resident populations (those that don't migrate).
Use this tip to help narrow your search for that next buck or bull.