The importance of a good map and the benefits that come from them are too often overlooked and unrealized. There is a long list of uses that can come from maps and so many professionals whose careers are related to land, timber, wildlife, etc. depend on good maps. This article just highlights a couple of those important uses and how a good map can be a beneficial tool when making decisions and plans for your property.

Any map is better than no map, and multiple maps are better than one map! Maps are made up of layers in which different aspects of the land can be viewed based on what you are looking for. Topography maps show the contour of the land, aerial imagery shows you a picture from above, street maps, flood and water feature maps, soil maps, and the list goes on. Having a comprehensive map that overlays several of the layers onto one single map can be most beneficial. When it comes to land management and hunting, a good comprehensive map to use is one in which the aerial imagery is most current along with topographic lines overlaying it so you can visualize the contour of the property. The best and most detailed imagery maps are wintertime aerial maps. Having the imagery photo taken from the winter months helps you distinguish between evergreen trees and deciduous trees. In the south, this is most commonly seen as pine plantations and hardwoods. If the imagery is during the summer months it is very difficult to distinguish from the different timber stands due to all the foliage.

Having a good map should be the first tool used for land management planning and a tool that should and will commonly continue to be used throughout the process. Once you have established a goal for your property then the map can be used to help plan out the individual steps needed to be taken in order to reach that goal. From drawing and measuring out timber stands to cut or thin to identifying potential food plot sites. Having the topographic layer overlaying the imagery layer enables you to identify and plan management strategies like creating bedding areas and safe zones for deer in areas that the topography won’t allow for anything else. Maps can be used to plan and create roads through the property, strategize prescribed burning plans based on wind directions and the shape and size of the timber stand you’re burning. The list can go on and on!

When it comes to hunting, mapping can increase your chances of success dramatically. Whereas before being an efficient hunter it takes a lot of time in the woods and studying the game you are hunting to understand their behaviors and travel patterns. Using a map and having a little knowledge on how habitat and contour affect the movements and travel patterns of the game you are hunting, you can plan and strategize the best locations to put tree stands, pattern travel routes from bedding areas to feeding areas, plan entrance and exit strategies to stands based off of wind direction, etc. Having a map and studying it can improve your hunting success dramatically. One overlooked benefit from a map is that is also a great conversation piece! There have been many conversations with a map laid out on the table discussing where that big buck lives and how to approach hunting him!

There is so much that can be learned from mapping and with just a little time studying maps, a person can begin to understand property in much less time than it would take without one. They are a tool that professionals in industries related to land use day in and day out. Whether it is on your phone or on a printout as big as the hood of your truck, a map is so beneficial.