Whitetail Deer E-Scouting

Section #6: How To Scout For Deer Using E-Scouting (Google Earth & Onx Maps)


Whether you are for or against it, there is no denying the fact that technology continues to play a bigger and bigger part in our daily lives. Because of this, it is no surprise that it has also helped evolve the way we scout and hunt deer as well. Every year, more and more hunters turn E-Scouting for whitetail deer using online mapping software in order to help them scout and hunt. Two of these applications that are very popular with many hunters are Google Earth and Onx Maps.

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Overview Of E-Scouting For Whitetail Deer

Google Earth has been around for a while and is used to zoom down to a street level of anywhere in the world. It can allow you to see a landscape, what it looks like, and if it would make a good potential hunting area. This can literally save you hours or even days of searching new for new hunting areas, as you can see everything from the comfort of your computer screen and make a quick list of good potential areas. 

How To Scout For Deer Using E-Scouting (Google Earth & Onx Maps)

Using Google Earth, you can zoom in to look for things like certain topography, vegetation, or water sources. You can even use it to show you how the sun moves around the terrain and the landscape. Using this simple sunlight tool can help you decide things like where to place a trail camera, where to place a tree stand, or where to sit on top of a ridge to glass. And this is just the beginning of all of the usefulness that Google Earth can offer a hunter. 

Using Google Earth, you can zoom in to look for things like certain topography, vegetation, or water sources. You can even use it to show you how the sun moves around the terrain and the landscape. Using this simple sunlight tool can help you decide things like where to place a trail camera, where to place a tree stand, or where to sit on top of a ridge to glass. And this is just the beginning of all of the usefulness that Google Earth can offer a hunter. 

Once you gain a good understanding of an area and decide you want to try scouting it in person and possibly hunting it, you can then try out Onx Maps. Onx is by far one of the best resources available to find property boundaries, lines, and land ownership. If will show you where you can and cannot hunt, as well as who owns any of the private lands surrounding your target area.

Onx also works in much the same way as Google Earth and can give you the terrain and topography of an area. With its offline save feature, you can even save a map before heading into the field, and use Onx while in the field even if you do not have cell service. In this way, it functions as a GPS unit, and many hunters are finding it easier to use Onx instead of carrying the extra weight of a dedicated GPS. You can easily and quickly save waypoints, track your trail, and loads of other useful features that most GPS units cannot. 

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Benefits Of E-Scouting For Whitetail Deer

While I truly believe that nothing will ever beat “boots on the ground” hunting and scouting, using both Google Earth and Onx Maps can be an absolute game-changer. No more wasting precious hours or days in areas that are unproductive or have other potential problems. I remember once while deer hunting, I decided to climb to the top of a ridge in order to get a better vantage point and hopefully hunt the other side as that seemed to be where all the deer were heading. After hiking all the way to the top, I was disappointed to not only find a small road that I could have used to get there, but the entire backside was private property. A quick look on my online maps could have revealed both features of the area, and prevented all of the wasted efforts!

Speaking of private property, these tools are a great way to find hidden locations that could be used around private property. Many times people will drive or hike right by an area because they assume that it is private property, and not even question it. With these tools, not only can you find places that are public land and just assumed private, but you can also find landowner information and be able to contact different landowners about possibly hunting their land. Any edge that you can get from doing more work will pay off in the long run!

Potential Downsides Of E-Scouting For Whitetail Deer

While scouting with these amazing programs is very productive, there are a few potential downsides to consider. The first is relying too heavily on them before putting boots on the ground in an area. Using these tools is obviously better than having nothing at all, but the best way to scout a new area is by visiting it in person. The best example of this is envisioning an area based on online maps, only to show up come hunting season and it is not what you expected. I have done this many times with areas and will show up to a spot only to find that it looks considerably different in person than it did on my computer. 

The best way to combat this is to use e-scouting and in-person scouting in conjunction with one another. Find potential spots using a set of criteria that you have in mind, make a list, then take a look at the areas on your list in person. As you go, make notes of which ones looked great and which ones didn’t, and go from there. While Google Earth and Onx are excellent tools to help with scouting, they are only one piece of the puzzle!

How To Scout For Deer Using E-Scouting (Google Earth & Onx Maps)

If you look at the picture at the right, which is ground I used to hunt before google earth and onx maps. Looking now, it only confirms what I knew from putting boots on the ground. The draw in the middle of the picture is a key point of interest and was a favorite of bucks during the rut. Does made their way through the draw in the morning heading to their preferred bedding (outcrop in ag field at the high point). The straight line in the lower right seciton is a power line cut and the triangles south of the cut is thick brushy timber.

This illustrates how best to use these tools, identify and mark areas that look like bedding, travel corridors, food sources or other points of interest.  When you put boots on the ground, take your trail cameras and place those in areas of interest.  Section #5 – Utilizing Trail Cams, gives you tips and trail camera strategies to start unlocking the knowledge of a hunting area. How to find deer and how to scout deer successfully requires a plan and effort.

Words of wisdom, don’t be afraid to mark small plots on Google Earth or Onx Maps, small plots can and do hold big deer. Keep an eye out for spots that other hunters might be driving by to get to “good” timber or woods. If the terrain has points of interest, mark it and put boots on the ground. If those spots show sign, drop cameras and confirm the sign you saw. That is the beauty of this technology, we can review spots from above mark points and scout more efficiently. This technology may just be the key to unraveling the mystery of the monster you have been chasing.

How To Scout For Deer E-Scouting – Wrap Up

E-Scouting for whitetail deer can help you locate and hunt mature deer. Both Google Earth and Onx Maps should be essential tools in any deer hunter’s arsenal. Both of these online applications provide invaluable knowledge and application to your scouting and will help you save a lot of time during your scouting. Technology is constantly evolving, and we now have the luxury of having both of these great softwares in the palm of our hands in the shape of a smartphone. There seem to be new online scouting  and mapping tools being developed each year so as technology improves the usefulness of these tools will as well.  Now is the perfect time to use them! Check back soon as we will continue to dive deep into the how to scout for deer using e-scouting tools in the future.


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