Deer Scouting By Cessna

Deer Scouting By Cessna

Sitting in the cramped cockpit with my pilot friend, we peered down at the Georgia landscape searching for some potential whitetail hangouts. Drowning in the roar of the Cessna engine, we gazed down at the seemingly endless rows of eight year-old loblolly pines.

Then I saw it. Nestled between a briar choked creek and the pine thicket expanse was a beautiful two acre opening. There, I thought, has got to be an ideal location to see some deer, particularly the big boys who live in that pine thicket sanctuary.

I never would have found this spot except by long hours of scouting on foot through pine thickets and briars. But by flying over my hunting property, I was able to save hours of time and miles of walking, and see more terrain more quickly and easily.

Scouting your deer hunting property from the air will save you time and energy and just may tip you off to a hidden hot spot you might never locate from the ground. And by taking your camera along and studying the photos you take, you can learn volumes of crucial information about your property that you would never have know without countless hours afield; if ever at all.

This is especially true when your trying to learn new land. You can get better aquatinted with your land initially from a cockpit or a photo before venturing into the woods. Whitetail feeding areas, bedding sanctuaries, and travel corridors will be much more apparent from a bird’s eye view.

There are basically two ways to obtain an aerial photograph. Quite simply, you go up and get them yourself, or someone else does. There are also two types of aerial photographs: the oblique and the vertical. Oblique photos are snap shots taken by amateurs from a cockpit window. Vertical photos are flat and are shot by professionals that are measured to an exact scale.

To do it yourself, you will of course need an airplane and a pilot. Qualified small aircraft pilots are surprisingly common, so ask around or check at the nearest airport if you don’t know one.

Most airports will rent airplanes such as the two-seater Cessna 152 for about $35 per hour. The pilot should have an aeronautical map and the hunter will show him the tract he wants to see. The next step is to obtain an adequate camera. The typical 35mm. will suffice. Upon locating your land from the air, snap pictures freely of all areas of the land, including various angles and altitudes. Your should also take pictures of areas you may not be interested in for they may later prove to be productive.

You are not looking for deer from the air, rather, you should be seeking to capture the lay of the land. Winter, therefore, is the best time to scout from the air because the leaves are down and the contour of the land is better visible. But, photos taken at any time of year are a valuable addition to your perspective on your hunting land.

A video camera can be used to survey the terrain, but I prefer photographs because they can be studied and pored over time after time. You can also keep and extra set in your office desk drawer for occasional daydreaming and deer hunting scheming.

The other method of obtaining the aerial view is to have someone else take the photos for you. A professional aerial photographer will handle this. The professional photos will be the vertical type on a plat and probably will include the whole tract in one shot. The primary catch to hiring a pro is the cost ($200 and up). But, if you are lucky, these photos may already exist for the area you hunt

Your best bet is to check with the tax assessor’s office in the county seat of your property. They likely will have a blueline photo available at a reasonable cost ($4). Next, try the professional companies to see if they already have recent photos on file of your hunting land.

The Yellow Pages will provide a listing. Another possibility are the government agencies such as the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers, Soil Conservation Corps, or the U.S. Geologic Survey.

There are pros and cons to both professional and do-it-yourself photos. The professional shot is more expensive, less time consuming, to scale, and usually includes the entire tract. The do-it-yourself method will be more personalized, have more variety, and you will likely have a larger number of shots.

After you have a good aerial photo in hand, the next step is to study the photo to learn what it can tell you. You must know what to look for and how to read it. Look for landmarks such as roads, power lines, ponds and clearings to orient yourself to the area you wish to study. After locating the boundaries of your property, detecting deer domain is next.

Look for bedding locations such as thick clear cuts or pine thickets. Feeding areas can be crops, fields and hardwood patches. One of the most valuable discoveries will be the travel corridors and funnel areas connecting these areas. Creek drainage’s and ridges are common travel routes.

Terrain breaks such as the edges of woods to fields, hardwoods to pines, swamps to forests, and clear cuts to old growth will be excellent choices to locate prime whitetail habitat.

The beauty of scouting from the air is that you may discover hidden hunting hot spots off the beaten path. Aerial photography can reveal the lone tree in a clear cut that will hold a climber or, notice ponds and swamp edges as routes that bucks will use to skirt water.

When studying pastureland, look for the strips of woods that connect larger wood lots. These will be the whitetail intestates. As you study the grand scheme of your hunting area, imagine a buck located in one patch of woods needing to travel to another, and discern the most likely path that affords adequate cover. Remember the big boys like the thick stuff, so find the thickest briar-choked creek bottoms and sanctuary thickets for the wall hanger hang outs.

The aerial photos can also help the hunter to not only find the best areas to hunt, but also where and how to hunt the spot, and the best way to approach the stand.

Aerial photography can lead to successful and exciting hunting like the experience I had in the clearing I found from the air that I previously mentioned. I hunted the spot in November of 1988. I had killed a spike elsewhere that morning and felt the time was right to hunt the clearing. I slipped through the pines and climbed up in a tripod stand at the edge of the clearing.

As I quietly sat there surveying the area I smiled, knowing this had to be a good spot. The afternoon crept by with no activity except a squadron of wood ducks buzzing the treetops on their way to a nearby beaver pond. Then I heard some crunching, the unmistakable sound of a deer walking. I slowly turned around to see a large buck strolling by at 30 yards. I jerked the rifle up and caught him in my scope. My first picture was his hindquarter.

I quickly moved the crosshairs toward his shoulder; then he was gone, obscured by the brush. I frantically searched for his form, but he had melted into the thick creek bottom. For a few tense moments I scanned the brush for his reappearance. Then I resorted to grunting; still no show. In desperation, I pulled out my rattling antlers hoping to prompt his return.

After a sequence of horn banging, I heard a racket across the clearing. Making a beeline to me with head and ears erect was a young three-pointer. He stopped at 20 yards and peered curiously wondering where the fight was. I decided to pass on the little guy and he wandered downwind, caught my scent and exited pronto. That adrenaline pumping afternoon was attributed exclusively to the aerial scouting.

Scouting from the air is an excellent way to learn your land and to save scouting time. The aerial view gives the hunter a great image of the overall pattern and scheme of the land and will reveal things about your property that you never knew.

Whether you buy a professional photograph or fly over and snap them yourself, you will significantly benefit from this technique. This could very well be the extra advantage you need this fall to located that secret honey hole or locate the path on which you will meet your trophy buck.

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