How Do You Scout For Hunting Location?


If you were to ask the hunter what is the most important part of hunting, most would reply that it is the shooting part. While that might be what is the final result of the hunting, it is not the most important part of hunting at all! It makes up for less than 1% of the actual hunt itself. The other time, it is all about doing the things that lead up to that point between you and your game. And it all starts with scouting for hunting locations.

So how do you scout for hunting locations? Scouting can happen at any point of the year. Whether it is preseason, during, or postseason, scouting is how hunters gather information about the hunting location. It is important to know the lay of the land and get a feel of what you will expect in different places where you can hunt. I am here to help you get started on scouting for hunting locations and give you the fundamentals of scouting that you need to keep in mind while on a scouting mission.

Key Takeaways

  • You can start your scouting right now through digital map study. Learn everything that you can from different maps online so that your scouting becomes easier.
  • After your digital map study, take that knowledge with you on the ground and do an actual survey of the land so you are familiar with the hunting location
  • Do a checklist for your scouting mission so that you know of the different things that you need to look out for while on the ground.
  • Remember, scouting is all about learning new areas, public or private hunting land. Make sure to be prepared and serious so that you make your hunts all the more enjoyable.

Scouting an Area: Digital Map Study

Scouting an area digital map study

If I were to tell you that you can start scouting right now, you’d think that I am lying. But I am not because you can start your scouting right from your home! Digital scouting may not have been there in the past but it has changed the way of scouting for games in an area and made it a lot simpler as well! You can start right now and see the place that could possibly be your hunting location through Google Maps and Google Earth! So let’s see what you need to look out for in your digital map study of a hunting location.

Edge lines and transitional lines

It is important to understand how you can divide a hunting location into different sections. It will be very difficult to go through one area in a whole day but you can divide the time that you spend on foot by sectioning off sections based on what those areas have. That is what an edge line and a transitional line is the section between two areas and how it goes from a hilly area to a dense forest area. Learning to differentiate edge lines is crucial to scouting so that is the first step you need to take.

For example, fields have an identifiable shape to them with straight lines for edges. Then there are forests and different types of forests as well! Some could of one tree type while the other is completely different like pinecone trees. That is why it is important to mark those areas and see how one area blends into another area.

Identifying markers

Some hunting locations have a marker for different locations. These can be helpful to scout out particular areas. It is also helpful when you are lost. That way, you can make your way toward a marker and immediately know where you are.

Marking them on a physical map

When you are out in the wild, your phone might not be able to accurately tell you the map location because of the small screen. That is why it is important to have a physical map so that you can mark down all the locations you have found on your digital study and take it with you on your scouting mission.

Studying different types of digital maps

Not just Google Earth, there are many different types of maps that are available and they are also able to tell you different types of information! Topography or topo maps, aerial maps, hydro maps, plat maps, weather maps, wind maps, and many more! These can give you the necessary information that you need for your scouting mission.

And once you have all the things that you noted down as a checklist, you can get out and do the main part of scouting, being on the grounds of the hunting location.

Boots on the Ground: Taking Map Knowledge to the Hunting Area

Boots on the ground taking map knowledge to the hunting area

It is very important that you have made all the notes and checklists that you need for your scouting mission. You can do as many scouting missions as possible before your actual hunt and they are a great way to actual exploration of the location. But here are some things that you need to make sure of while you are doing your boots-on-the-ground exploration.

Hunting attire and scouting gear

A scouting mission in a shirt and jeans is detrimental to a scouting mission! Not only are you a scent hazard, but it is one thing to scout casually and scout for a hunt. I firmly believe that you should be in your hunting attire and have all your necessary scouting gear so that you know how it feels to travel the area on your real hunt. You can leave your gun behind at least, since all you are here to do is survey the land in a way.

Determining access points

Access points are very important. The last thing you want to do is go to the wrong places like a bedding area or a feeding area and alert the animals of your presence. That is why when you are on the grounds, make sure to mark where the access points to your hunting stand and other spots can be.

Hunting pressure awareness

You are not the only one in an area, there are other hunters out there. But the important thing is to understand how much pressure that puts on animals like deer bucks. The density of hunters defines the hunting pressure as frequent encounters with a hunter would make an animal more alert to the situation. So look out for trail cams and hunting stands that are not yours. Even look out for food plots and feeders to understand how much hunting pressure there is in an area. If it is too much, you might be better off looking for a better hunting spot elsewhere.

Bedding areas

Understanding bedding areas can help a lot as animals don’t stray far from their bedding when they are resting. So make sure to identify bedding areas and be careful to not disturb them. Otherwise, the animals will have left the area.

Signs of buck scrapes

Animal scrapes are important, especially for bucks in the rutting season. They will be more aggressive and the signs are clear when you see scrapes. So make sure to look out for these on your scouting mission.

Marking trails and roads

Not just access points important, but animal trails are important as well! Learn of the different footprints and signs that an animal has crossed with the help of trail cams in the area high up in trees at 45o. If you find animal trails and roads, you are more likely to see the animals more frequently and figure out how they move.

Food sources and watering hole

When animals are resting, they also tend to be near food sources and watering holes. From your digital study, make sure to mark out ponds, creeks, and lakes in the area so that you can venture out into these parts to see where the animals are coming and going from.

Making notes

Finally, the most important thing that I see people out scouting neglect frequently: making notes! Trust me when I say that you will forget what you thought of 5 minutes before when you are out scouting! There are a ton of information that you need to gather and it is best to make notes of those areas so that you don’t forget them. On your second scouting mission and onwards, you can use these notes to make further verification of your initial observation!

All in all, a scouting mission is never done! You can always scout out the area in all seasons and see how the animals behave. The more that you know about them the better your hunting experience will be!

Scouting Checklist Completion

While you are out scouting, here is a handy table that you can use to keep track of the important things. Along with this checklist, your notes will help a lot to add context to your information! Note that I am doing this specifically for deer scouting but you can more or less use this for other game as well. And finally, you don’t have to complete the scouting checklist in one session! You can do this over many trips so that you are checking out all the areas and finding out their hunting locations.

Scouting LocationScouting Location
RangefinderWatering hole/source
BinocularsFood source
Scent coversAccess route 1*
BootsHunting stand location
Hunting apparel and bootsAnimal trials and road 1 **
GPSBedding area location
License and MapsHunting location 1***
Food and waterBuck scrapes
First-aid kitLocation marker 1 ****
Trail cams 
Hunting stand equipment 
Wind checker 

*= There could be many access routes

**= There are many trials and roads that animal take so there can be multiple

***= This is basically dividing up the hunting location into different sections

****= An identifiable marker in an area to let you which area you are in. There can be multiple ones

This is just a rough list of what you need for a scouting mission. You can also add more depending on how your scouting area will be. I just wanted to give you a checklist of what you need for the scouting itself and the things that you need to look out for during the scouting. So feel free to change and modify this checklist to your liking!


What does scout mean in hunting?

It means learning the terrain of an area and planning out your hunt by understanding your prey’s behavior before you embark on the actual hunting.

What type of land is best for deer hunting?

Deer like to walk where there will be the least resistance. This means that they would like low terrain near water sources and shaded areas during mid-day for bedding.

What are the best hunting conditions?

A clear bright sky where it is not too hot or cold is the best hunting condition. It makes the weather tolerable while the animals are active as well.

Final Thoughts

Scouting is more important than you think. When I was an inexperienced hunter, I used to not scout much at all, or at least not seriously enough. That led to many failed hunting trips because my scouting was poor. That is why I dedicated more time to scouting and it has helped me tremendously! Take joy in scouting missions because they are more fun than you think, especially if you are going into a new hunting location. Remember to have fun and learn all that you can about the hunting location and take that information to your hunting trip for a more successful hunt!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *