Out of State Scouting for DIY Hunt
The quandary of all hunters is how do I give myself the best chance to take home a trophy animal after shelling out hundreds of dollars for that coveted tag in another state. I face this issue this year with an Antelope tag in Colorado. Now I know that Antelope should be the easiest tag to fill in NorthWest Colorado. They are everywhere, but how do we give ourselves the best chance to take home that one animal that eludes everyone else. My advice, first and foremost, is don't shoot your gun on opening morning. Now that is a hard thing to do and there are of course some exceptions. Rarely does anyone have a trophy animal walk into view on opening morning and present itself for a shot. If you have any question in your mind of the trophy quality, then don't shoot on opening day. You will have missed the opportunity to see what else is out there and if you shelled out the money for an out of state tag you will likely go home disappointed.
Now, onto scouting from out of state. There are two things you need to be succesful. A telephone and a computer. In this day of technology just about everyone has access to these two things.
Telephone: Contacts, contacts, contacts. You need to call anyone that you may know in the state you are hunting. Aunt Lucy may be the gem holding more valuable information than any of your friends. People that you know, know other people and those other people may be just the person(s) that you need to talk to. I recently mentioned to a co-worker that I had this tag in Colorado. I had no idea that he used to live in the area and that his son still lived there. I got in contact with his son and got some valuable information. He in turn gave me a few more names, one of which was a guide. I was off and rolling in gathering the information that I couldn't get from home. The second most valuable person to call is the local DOW or BLM office. Sometimes they don't have too much to share as I found out but these are the people who are always in the area and up to date with anything that may hinder your trip. Call them, be respectful and you will most likely find them very helpful. Keep in mind though that the information they give you could also have been given to a handful of other hunters so use it wisely.
Computer: Your computer can be your eyes on the ground. I have never been to the area that I will hunt this year, but I know it well. The second best thing to seeing it yourself is seeing a satellite view of it. I use Google Earth. There are other options out there so if you're familiar with another program, use it. Explore all of the tools available in Earth. You can move the sun to different times of the day to locate the shady areas where the animals will sit out of the heat of the day and I just recently discovered that you can change the date to get another map version to display. Sometimes the current view is the wrong time of the season or their was cloud cover when the shot was taken. Explore the area, find the access points, water holes, ground cover and keep looking at it over and over until you feel like it is your familiar hunting grounds. Don't let Earth replace the trusty map though. If you're going into an area that you have never been to, do not go without a map and compass and the knowledge to use them.
Your computer is also possibly the easiest way to build up contacts. There are numerous websites dedicated to hunting and most of them have a community of forums to use. Also make sure you visit the DOW and BLM website of the state you are traveling to for recent updates and information. There is no bigger buzz kill than to arrive at your new hunting grounds only to find out that a controlled burn or logging operation is happening.