Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Topo Tips for Hunters

By Bob Humphrey

We hunters are gadget and gear freaks, no doubt. But of all the tools you incorporate into your hunting arsenal, among the most valuable is a topo map. Whether in paper or digital form, topo maps contain a wealth of information for those able to read and interpret the colors, lines and symbols properly. Below are just a few examples of how you can implement them into your hunting plans this fall.

COLOR

Let’s start with the basics. Green means forest, blue means water and white means open land like fields or meadows. Look for what is scarce. A small field surrounded by forest might be a strutting area for spring turkeys. Small patches of green surrounded by white could be pockets of shrub or forest where deer will bed. Any water in arid country will be an oasis for wildlife. Blue lines mean rivers or streams, the margins of which are often densely vegetated providing food and cover for a variety of game.

TOPOGRAPHY

As their name implies, topo maps also show the contour of the land. Those brown lines represent contour intervals or changes in elevation. Lots of lines means rugged terrain, which means it might be hard to reach, but worth the effort. Where those lines are closest together the contour is steepest, which will funnel the movement of deer or other game.

SYMBOLS

A patch of un-evenly spaced green dots represents scrub - dense shrubby areas that could harbor a variety of game like upland birds or bedded deer. Conversely, a patch of evenly spaced dots is an orchard - often a magnet to deer and other game animals.
One of the most useful to hunters is the wetland symbol - a tiny, blue horizontal line with several vertical lines extending upward. Wetland symbols in a green area mean forested wetland, where deer like to hide and turkeys like to roost. On a white background it indicates a marsh, where you might find pheasants or other wetland species. On a blue background it means submerged marsh or swamp, an ideal place to set up for ducks.

SUMMARY

With a little practice you’ll be able to recognize features almost automatically. Now take your maps afield and do some ground-truthing. See what the symbols actually represent. Then you can do your preliminary scouting at home and look for how multiple features might interact. A swamp at the base of a steep ridge, a saddle between two peaks or a narrow strip of shrubs in largely agricultural land might be the ideal place to set a treestand. Parches of marshland along a river or lake margin could be a place to set out decoys or might offer some great jump-shooting for ducks. These are but a few of the possibilities. Get a map and learn the features in the areas you hunt.

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