I am a high tech kind of guy. I have all the high tech gear I can use on my “traditional” bow hunts, a high tech bow, fancy arrow rest and expensive release! I also go in for GPS devices, video and still photography, and I carry my cell phone into the forest even if I don’t have any cell reception. But I still like to think of myself as a traditional hunter. One of those traditional things to do is to pour over an old unfolded paper topographical map! But even there, I cheat a little.
Years ago the only way you could get topographical maps was to send away to one or two governmental or semi-governmental organizations and buy a particular quadrangle map. It was always my luck that the area I wanted to hunt was in the edge of at least two maps, and more often than not, at the corner of 4 quadrangle maps. I would diligently tape the edges together, and cut the map down to a size somewhat small than my dining room and stuff it into my pack. Reading the dang thing required excellent light, a magnifying glass and someone under 50 years old!
That has all changed. Today there are a number of resources where you can obtain quality topo maps for your tablet, cell phone, computer and even printed maps. And, they can cover the precise area you want to hunt and in a number of scales such that even an old guy like me can read them. The USGS maps are still available, but there are a number of other resources where you can customize and purchase topo maps.
My favorite place to get these maps is MyTopo.com. I have used MyTopo maps in Colorado, New Mexico, Montana and even Canada. When you purchase a map from MyTopo you will be given the option of which scale you would like to order. Standard USGM topo maps are scaled at 1:24,000. At MyTopo you can select scales up to 1:50,000 and down to 1:10,000. This makes it so much easier to read and see various landmarks. Once you have selected your scale, you can then position your map exactly where you would like hunt, avoiding the cut and paste jobs I used to do. Additionally with MyTopo maps you get a digital version of the map which you can share with a hunting buddy or just study it on your computer or tablet.
MyTopo can also produce fully laminated wall maps, water repellant foldable maps as more as well.
While I love the digital maps, and do study them on my computer, there is nothing quite like laying that map out on a table a pouring over all the potential hunting spots. Scout for marches, ridges, saddles and more. Find those north facing mountains where Elk like to bed down in the heat of the day. Check out the closest water resources, and depending on the map, the open spaces where you might spot a trophy Whitetail deer or a rag horn elk.
In spite of the digital maps that are available and that I use, every paper topo map I own, has scribble marks where I or one of my hunting partners has jotted notes, or measurements or some other notations. So this fall, as I head back to Colorado to hunt a brand new area, I will be using my tablet, my mobile phone, and yes my printed Topo Map. You can find your own MyTopo map at www.MyTopo.com.