Learn basic map skills, for any state but especially when hunting western lands, and never worry about whether or not you're trespassing.
How can you tell, precisely, where you're at when in the backcountry? By properly reading and making use of both the paper and electronic maps at your disposal. Randy Newberg gives a quick overview of maps that should significantly improve your basic map skills.
It all comes down to knowing how to read maps and having the proper devices with you to be able to read them when you're in the field.
Looking at a map of New Mexico, Newberg goes over the differences in colors and what they represent on the map. Everything in white is private land, which you cannot hunt without landowner permission.
Green colors represent Forest Service, and orange or yellow sections are BLM lands. In almost all instances these green and yellow/orange sections are open to hunting.
Now, there could be travel restrictions such as gates preventing you from driving onto these lands, which you should be prepared for. You can find out which sections do have travel restrictions by picking up a travel management map from the local forest service or BLM office.
Blue sections are called State Trust Lands. These lands are subject to the variances of state rules and regulations. Make sure you know what those rules are for State Trust Lands in the state you're hunting in.
He also points out that 'depending on state and location, other types of lands may be huntable, such as: Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation and certain private lands through state programs'.
Red lines represent roads. A road can travel through both public and private land. Once that road touches private land, things get a little dicey. If the red line is thin, you may not be able to traverse it while hunting. But if the red line is thick and there is a public easement on that road, then yes, you can keep moving. Roads are iffy, let's just put it that way.
Randy carries a paper map with him when he's in the field. He also has those maps loaded onto his electronic device or phone with an onXmaps app. But when he's at home and on his desktop, he makes extensive use of the onXmaps Hunt app, which allows him to layer multiple maps over one another for a super clear picture of the location he'll be hunting.
For example, he will overlay the surface ownership map over the top of an aerial view of the land, for precise identification of the property in question. It is really quite remarkable what the technology enables you to do these days. It alone can help you improve your map skills.
"So, if you're going to be a public land elk hunter, and you want to get serious about it," Newberg says, "...really understand surface ownership, understand how to read a map. Get these devices, this Hunt app from onXmaps. Have a really good GPS. Get the map chip."
"The way I hunt, the way you're probably going to hunt if you're a public land hunter, that product is invaluable," he says. "It's worth every penny that you're going to spend on it."
Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.