Maps are a big part of the reason I hunt

A hunt isn’t just going out and shooting an animal. There’s a whole lot more to it than that. In fact, everything leading up to taking the shot is a whole lot more memorable than the shot itself.

There’s a whole lot more to hunting than taking aim and pulling the trigger. There’s all the stuff you see while you’re out in the wilds. You’re away from civilization, roaring traffic and demanding bosses. You’re surrounded by millions of pine trees and towering mountains. Instead of ringing telephones, you hear trickling streams, the yips of coyotes and, if you’re lucky, the bugles of bull elk.

All that stuff makes me feel like I’m the king of the world. There’s very little on this earth that makes me feel more alive.

But before you get to camp, there’s plenty to do. You have to plan your menu, check your gear, buy your groceries and pack the truck. All the little pre-hunt chores can get pretty tedious. But there’s one part of the planning process I look forward to all year. Call me crazy, but I enjoy poring over maps almost as much as the actual hunt.

I’ll spend hours at the dining room table with a stack of maps laid out in front of me. I start months before the season begins. In fact, I start well before the Game and Fish approves the year’s hunting regulations. I dig out all my topographic maps and start looking for a place to go.

Part of it is looking at the map and remembering hunts from earlier years. I haven’t been to places on all my maps, but I’ve done a lot of exploring on most of ‘em. And that’s the other exciting thing. Looking at a map of a place I haven’t been yet, and trying to picture the scenery in my head. Most of the time, when I get to a new place, it’s even better than I imagined it.

Some of my maps are taped together. If I’m planning a trip for an area that jumps from one map to another, I’ll stick the two maps together so I don’t have to keep flipping from map to map. Others are for areas I’ve gone year after year, and they’re so beat up, marked up and folded and refolded, it’s amazing they’re still in one piece.

But whatever shape they’re in, maps are what get me in the mood for hunting season.