By Jill J Easton
The antelope did a three-sixty flip and landed stone-cold dead at 220 yards. Jim had made a textbook seated shot on the running doe. We could drive out, gut it and haul the carcass into the pickup with no sweat, thorns or burs. The dim road saved us from a long drag of a heavy animal that thrives in some of the most well-armed terrain in the country.
I was still high-fiving Jim for a great shot on the fast running animal when a dirty pickup slammed on the brake and pulled in behind us. “You are trespassing; get off my land,” said an irate well-worn cowboy looking ready for a fracas. “Leave the antelope and go, or I’ll have you arrested.”
This wasn’t Jim’s first conversation with a western landowner over property boundaries, but I didn’t know that. I jumped in the truck, slammed the door and tucked down in the driver’s seat. Someone had to be able to go for help. My husband calmly pulled out the large-scale topo map that showed a chess board of Bureau of Land Management and private lands in our permit area near Douglas, Wyoming. He spread the big map out on the truck hood and pointed to a spot on the big map.
“I’d like to show you something before you run us off,” Jim said calmly. “This land is clearly marked as being Bureau of Land Management property open to hunting. Your land probably starts about 100 yards west. Are you John Doe, (not his name).”
The rancher looked at Jim in amazement, asked for more details, slowly studied the map and finally said, “Where can I get one of these maps. Since I bought this land, I always thought this was part of the ranch. For 20 years I’ve been trespassing?”
This story is true. The rancher’s name is left off because he eventually became friendly and gave us permission to hunt on his land as long as we shot only doe antelope. Bucks had value since he sold trophy hunting rights, but does just ate grass that his cows could use and western ranchers consider them a nuisance. We consider them excellent grub.
Planning a hunting trip
Let’s look back a few months to when we found out we were pulled for antelope permits and started planning the hunt. Before each trip Jim puts together a book. It contains any game forms that have to be pre-applied for, info on where and how to get licenses, location of check stations if they are required, the state hunting regulations, a good highway map of the general area, any contacts we may have in the vicinity, motels and campgrounds and most important, a topo map that provides a detailed look at the area we plan to hunt.
For years we have been getting maps from My Topo. Jim and I have taken advantage of the extra information these maps to find public areas that are sandwiched between private property, or apparently not accessible from public roads. Many of these small parcels of land are remarkably under-utilized and give a hunter new to an area the chance to find locations where less-harassed game might be found.
Paige Darden, Vice President of My Topo added additional information on the benefits of these big maps.
Why use a topo map?
“Our maps can be specialized, they go far beyond the maps that are generally available from the government showing elevation, roads and trails,” Paige said. “We even offer a hybrid map that combines the topo overlaid with an aerial photo. These maps show information like old fields, and recent changes to the landscape, like developments, gas or oil fields, windmills, burned areas and new logging roads.”
It’s a bummer to walk miles through the woods only to find an area that was inaccessible can now be reached easily by a new road, has been recently logged or has an oil well being drilled. These and many other changes make areas worthless for wildlife.
MyTopo maps include a wealth of information; they are also waterproof and can be laminated for use with a dry erase marker or grease pen.
An old homestead and orchard will attract deer in the fall and may be a sterling place to find morels and turkeys in the spring. These maps can also show water, food sources and bedding. There are thousands of useful bits of information that can aid your hunt.
Maps like the one we were using in Wyoming can even show who owns each parcel of land. This makes asking permission to hunt so much easier.
“We can update the maps with private property boundaries, including owner names, and public land boundaries,” Paige continued.
“This is especially important in the west where there is a checkerboard of ownership between federal, state and private, but also in parts of the country where people hunt in wildlife management areas or other public lands. These maps have everything you need to know to stay within legal public boundaries.”
In addition to private land data, customers can add public land boundaries, US Forest Service Roads and Trails and Game Management Unit boundaries. These are essential if you have a tag for a specific area.
The MyTopo website is a wealth of information on how maps can be customized. Check out their website, get the map you need and soon you may find yourself with a big map spread eagled on your truck hood and your favorite game just over the next rise.