By Pat Lefemine
The first two deer showed up early, then 4 more came in. I pulled back an arrow and carefully picked a spot on the last doe in the bunch. The arrow hit the deer where I was looking and a short time later I was dragging out my deer.
Sound Normal enough right? Well this scenario was a little bit different. Here's why:
- I was hunting during the firearms season
- I was on State Property - open to public hunting
- I had never hunted, scouted or stepped foot in this town before, let alone this particular forest
I call it the DART BOARD TECHNIQUE. It is fun, challenging and it works. Here is how you do it:
- Choose a totally new piece of public hunting ground
- On a Delorme Statewide Topo Map Book, look for landmarks at the 100,000 foot level
- Now take your PC, and a TOPO Map program and narrow down to the 7500' level
- Look for terrain features that look like good travel areas, bedding areas, etc.
- Set Way points (coordinates) for the areas you want to check out on your GPS
- Plug the coordinates into your GPS and set a proximity alarm
- Take your portable climbing tree stand, your hunting clothes, and visit the coordinates
- Once at that area, find the deer trails, rubs, scrapes, etc. and hunt!
What you need:
- A PC and Printer
- A Topo Map Program for your state
- GPS and Compass
- Climbing Tree Stand
Now that you got the idea of what is needed and what we are doing, let's walk through an example of one of our recent hunts - using this technique.
Step 1 - Choosing an area
Using your State Hunting Regulations booklet, find a public area that you would like to hunt. I will typically look for bowhunting-only areas that are within high deer-density areas and zones. For this example, we chose to hunt an area called Wooster Mountain which is a state park open only to bowhunting. The park lies within Fairfield County - an affluent community within commuting distance of New York City. The DEP opened this park to bowhunting during the firearms season to thin out the deer herd. This is the type of spot we are looking for.
Step 2 - Studying the TOPO Maps on your PC
Locate the state park on your map program. In this case I am using TOPO (www.topo.com) by Wildflower Productions. You can purchase the topo's by state and the program requires a CD Rom drive to view the maps.
Start with a high level view, like the 100,000' view, and look for features like lakes, ponds, houses and roads. Now zoom in and study the terrain. In this example I am interested in a bench at the top of some very steep cliffs.
Step 3 - Record the Coordinates into your GPS
The first thing I do is to input the boundary coordinates into my GPS. I use a simple short name for each area I am checking out. Wooster Mountain is WM and a boundary is B = WMB1, WMB2, etc. Boundaries are important to be sure you are not trespassing onto land that you do not have permission to hunt.
After I input the major boundary features, I then mark individual spots to check out. I place a symbol directly on the map program itself (See the X and Square symbols). When I click on symbol WM3, it displays the coordinates (as shown above). I then create a way point called WM3 on my GPS and plug in those coordinates.
After I am done entering symbols for the Way points I wish to check out, I then print off a couple copies of this map to use in the field.
Note: Some GPS models will interface directly with your PC Software. You can download your waypoints directly into your GPS, or the reverse order as well.
Step 4 - Go to the area, then fine tune
While I have done this with morning hunts, it is much less stressful to arrive during mid-day, and navigate to your spot during daylight hours. In this example, I drove to the state park, navigated to the boundary marker WMB, then navigated to the way point of WM2. My GPS proximity alarm sounded when I was within 100' of my coordinate. Time to start fine-tuning. You may end up a short distance from your original waypoint looking for the right trail, tree, or terrain feature. If this happens, simply create a new waypoint, or point WM2 to the new coordinates.
I looked for the obvious- rubs and scrapes, along with droppings and deer trails. I found several nice scrapes and a clearly defined rub-line. After a half hour of studying the area, I set up my climbing tree stand and hunted until dark. In this example I did not see any deer but it was exciting to hunt this totally unfamiliar ground, far away from the road hunters.
Step 5 - Log your Hunt
As soon as I am back home from the hunt, I record the hunt in a simple log program I wrote for my PC. I note what I saw, the wind direction, the GPS coordinates and any other distinguishable features of the area. I have also e-mailed the coordinates and info to buddies who were looking to hunt a new area on a particular day. They simply punched it into their GPS and went hunting.
This technique teaches you many things. Like how to use a GPS and how to spot terrain features that produce deer. It also allows you to get away from the crowds and leave the road hunters behind. But my favorite reason is the sense of adventure I feel when I am sitting in my stand, looking at totally new surroundings. While I used the example of hunting the area I found on the map, you can successfully use the technique to locate scouting areas as well.
One of my '99 deer, taken using the DART BOARD Technique