I hunt on both private and public land in Ontario; mixtures of cut overs and big woods. Because the forests are continuously changing (fires, trees growing old, logging, changes in ownership, etc.), our group is continuously on the lookout for new areas to hunt. As such, I've developed a methodical approach to locating good hunting land (private and public), for example:
[ol][*]I use aerial and satellite photography (Google Earth) to locate larger tracts of forest. I'll identify big blocks that provide good security which also provide enough space to harbour several deer, and potentially a large buck. Hard to reach areas near cut-overs or beaver meadows are good bets. It's important to get a least half a mile from the nearest road.
[*]Once I've got a list of candidate parcels, I then compare the aerial photography to topographic maps to get an idea on elevation and soil drainage. Where I hunt, upland sites would grow species such as poplar, birch, spruce, jackpine, and balsam fir while lowland would grow cedar, black spruce, or larch.
[*]I then check land ownership maps to give me an indication if the parcel in question is public or privately owned. If private, I'll try to determine who the owner is (we don't have plat maps).
[*]If I find an interesting chunk of public land, I will contact the timber company who holds the cutting rights or the local natural resources department to get a forestry map of the area. This map will tell me what the tree species, along with the forest characteristics (age, height, stand density, etc), exist there.
[*]Once I'm serious about about hunting a location, I'll go back to the aerial photographs, topo maps, and forestry maps to locate feeding/bedding areas, funnels, and other ambush sites.
[*]I'll then prioritize the locations in terms of potential.
[*]Because I live a considerable distance from where I hunt, I don't get an opportunity to ground truth the sites or do site tailoring (locate potential treestands and clear shooting lanes): I have to rely on my research to get me through.
[*]It's easy to get coordinates from topo maps or Google Earth which I then enter into my GPS.
[*]Once hunting season rolls around, I finally get a chance to see if my reaserch was all for not. With my treestand on my back, rifle in one hand and GPS in the other I head off to the promised land. Most of the time, things have worked out quite well.[/ol]
"The true hunter counts his achievements in proportion to the effort involved and the fairness of the sport."
Dr. Saxton Pope