Every now and then I get emails from folks around the country about guest blog posts and a few peek my interest. Below is one of those posts. Justin and I have traded quite a few emails and he asked about a couple of guest posts and based on our previous interactions I was on board. I’m a little late posting this but it’s a good throwback to the spring! Justin talks a little about the challenges of scouting from a computer and ways to get a good lay of the land without stepping foot in the area!
Our most recent spring turkey season approached me in a very time intensive fashion. Being a 2L student at the Appalachian School of Law in Virginia is not a conducive atmosphere for one with an adventuresome and nature driven mind. However, the rigors of law school presented me with a different way to chase birds for the 2013 spring season. Late night studying and exam review sessions make tasks of scouting and executing a successful hunt daunting- sure adversity for a student aimed at taking part in the annual spring bird chase.
Sure, local scouting was easier regarding the challenges nature and the Great Eastern Turkey present to us spring warriors- but ambitions for an archery- backcountry turkey harvest made scouting in distant regions a problem and a problem I was not sure how to overcome. I decided I had to get creative and turned to technology for a different method realizing my low chance for success, knowing there is no ultimate substitute for scaling the Appalachian hills yourself to locate your spring gold.
Being an avid backpacker, I was familiar with a software program from National Geographic (Nat Geo) that compiles all Southern Appalachian Mountain Regional maps into one computer software program. This delivers a backpacker privy information regarding distance, elevation, and a 3-D preview of the trail that gives a sneak peak at the peaks to be traversed. From my experience, the computer program allows the adventurer to dial his maps to desirable scales, and allows the user to print his maps on different papers. This makes for a custom map experience and could be my solution to my problems for scouting and backcountry goals.
I combined this technology with the hunter’s new best friend- Google Earth. By taking a picture of the Nat Geo map on my Mac system, I was able to scale the picture of the map and lay the image overtop of the same Google Earth designation using the image overlay option. This is a great tool for any outdoorsman looking to scout and traverse regions that are included in National Forest designations. This technique allows you to overlay your map/picture over a Google Earth region, and allows the picture transparency to be increased or decreased depending on your desire.
These tools provided me with the option of visualizing the terrain I was looking to hunt by using Google Earth, while familiarizing myself with the trails, shelters and water sources in the region provided by the Nat Geo map. Assessing Google Earth, I was able to locate trails and their relation to my targeted fields, making the backcountry trek allot easier by using mapped trails as my highways.
One of the challenges to laying an image/map over a Google Earth region is to pinpoint the accuracy. To make for an accurate overlay, one can use the topography, large water sources, and the easiest I found is near by roads in the region. I was able to align roads located in both images on top of one another, making for an accurate overlay of the maps. When the image is accurately in place, one can use the Google Earth trace option to embed the trails from the Nat Geo map directly onto the Google Earth map itself- using the same color code from the Nat Geo map. The end product provided me with a printable Google Earth map that included all markings from the Nat Geo map. This gave me a map that allowed me to visualize Google Earth fields, streams, valleys and vegetation as they relate to trails and other map markings.
When I determined my image was proper and accurate, I oriented myself with the terrain and compared my image to notes from a previous and extensive backpacking trip to my region of choice: the Mount Rogers National Recreational Area. I took note of the valleys, water sources, and backcountry fields, attempting to scout where my 2013 spring bird may be found. I used Google Earth to zero in on fields, hard timber forests, and regions that looked ideal for pinch points and convenient roaming places for a spring gobbler. My mind was filled with the details and previous notes on the area- a perfect place to loose myself in nature and pursue my backcountry adventure in the next days to follow. If unable to secure a bird in the local areas I had scouted out- then my adventure was set for the eight days of season that remained when my school semester ended.