Many bowhunters do the majority of their pre-season scouting using maps. It is an effective and efficient way to scout with much less human disturbance on the areas they intend to hunt. There are three types of maps hunters can use to scout their South Carolina hunting land and should be used in conjunction with each other.
First, the plat map is an excellent tool for sizing up the lay of the land. The plat map will show you who owns each tract of land as well as prominent landmarks, property boundaries, rivers, streams, houses, lakes and roads. The plat map will give you a good general sense of direction. County plat maps can be obtained from your county courthouse.
Second, the topographical map uses contour lines to portray land elevations in feet, whereby you will be able to identify valleys, ridges and all changes in land elevation. On the Coastal Plains of South Carolina, you won’t see many contour lines because of the flat ground, but as you head toward the Sandhills and the western part of the state, you will see lines, often spaced close together, indicating steeper slopes. Topo maps also use colors to depict the nature of cover. Blue is for water, indicating streams, ponds, lakes, etc., while green represents forest, and white for fields and croplands or clearings. The land configurations that a topo map shows will help you predict travel routes of game animals.
Finally, you can use aerial photographs to get a better idea of the characteristics of your hunting landscape. You’ll be able to see large vs. smaller trees, canyons, draws and clear-cuts. Google Earth is a good place to start to get aerial photographs of your South Carolina hunting land. The tilt feature in Google Earth allows you to see elevation changes in a 3-D perspective.
Once you have the three types of maps of your hunting land, take them out in the field with you and jot down any important information in the exact locations so you can review when you get back to your camp. You might want to mark where you saw scrapes, rubs, bedding areas, travel routes, food sources, etc. This will help you pick out ideal stand locations. Remember that old stand sites were probably selected for a reason.
By using maps, you will know key areas to explore in advance. This will help you make better use of valuable scouting time as well as keep human evidence on your hunting land to a minimum.