Help reading topo maps?


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I've been having trouble seeing deer on a consistent basis. someone suggested I look at topo map to save time on scouting but I'm not real familiar with them. Is there any spot in particular that stands out to any of you guys? <iframe width="100%" height="500px" src=""></iframe>
Welcome to the forum Gabreal. I see it is your first post. Hope you enjoy all of the topics and threads we have.

I will allow others to advise you on the best stand sight in that mountainous terrain. My hunting area is very different.

Glad to have you here, if I can help please let me know.

Forgive me as I'm on my phone and limited. But off hand. Without knowing status of reclaim, I would be hunting those saddles in the ridge particularly where the T is in mountain and the one at the 2400 denotation. And I bet there are benches around that point that deer travel. Also having hunted strip land, it is amazing how they follow roads to access the steep terrain.
Look for acorn flats abutting steep thick covered bedding areas. They will tend to bed on the lee side of the mountain from your NW winds. Try to find some edge with the flora i.e. Conifer/ hardwood , etc in relationship to the topo edge and you increase your chances.
And speaking from experience pray the brute you shoot doesn't make it to the real nasty and steep stuff. Makes for a long night. Good luck.

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Ok - here is what I saw.
Red lines are high areas/ridges.
Blue lines are saddles
Green areas are potential bedding areas

In most areas bucks will travel the ridges or near the top of them as they work thru an area or work from higher areas to lower ones. I would suspect to see buck activity along these with rubs and scrapes. The saddles are areas where deer will cross the ridge and exert less effort to do so by crossing in these lower areas. Find one with an oak dropping acorns and you might be in business. As for bedding areas in steep areas deer will look for areas where the ground is still elevated, but flattens out. long drawn out points of places along ridges where things flatten out tend to be places where deer can bed down and have easy access to escape cover while still having a view and using wind or thermal currents to their advantage. Your key to a pattern is going to be locating the food source. Once you have that determined then you should be able to put the other pieces together. Look for other edges as well, edges of habitat changes especially as these tend to be places for food as well as travel for deer. If this is an area where you will get snow - nothing is better than getting out there after a fresh snow and start following tracks. These deer are the ones that have survived and they will more than likely do the same thing next year when the hunting pressure affects them. You will see travel routes, places they browsed around as well as the fresh beds in the snow.

This is all simply my opinion - I hunt a very flat area, but deer still key in on terrain and will use the differences to their advantage. The magnitude of your elevation change is far different than mine, but I still think the concepts are the same.
J-Bird did a great job. The blue line on the right is close to multiple bedding areas.

As he said, if you have any Oaks in that saddle, it will be a very productive stand location - just find the right tree as the ole' bow hunters say.

If you get a snow after the season, you can check those bedding areas.
A good book to read regarding hunting terrain features and looking at various maps to help with hunting is "Mapping trophy bucks" - I have the hard cover as part of my "deer library". It may not put you in the exact spot, but it will certainly help guide your efforts on where to scout and what sort of sign in those areas to look for and WHY. You then have to put the pieces together.

J bird pretty much nailed it. Your markings of bench rub and trail pretty much lines out the line of least resistance for travel. Of course the deer need a reason to travel there. What's in the bottoms? Any ag around? A northwest facing slope would not be prime bedding when it gets cold IMO. Conifers and south facing. Got any of that?
Welcome to the forum. I'll apologize in advance. This one got a little wordy.
My property is very steep with ridge tops, saddles, benches and ravines. I wont tell you where to hunt but can give you some pointers on how to read a topo and what to look for in such terrain. For starters this type of terrain can be very challenging to hunt. Line of sight is diminished and air currents (scent flow) are not going to follow your weather forecast. Here is what I have found by hunting areas with steep terrain over the last 15 years:
1. the closer the lines on a topo, the steeper the terrain. Ovals and wide circular patterns are the tops of hills. The areas that look like fingers are ridge tops. The wider the finger, the flatter the ridge top. Where ridge tops end (looks like the tip of a finger or thumb) the lines usually tighten up indicating a steep drop in the terrain like this : Air flow can be very unpredictable in these areas.

2. contour lines are all of the squiggly lines on the topo map. The darker lines are marked with elevation numbers. These are called index lines. Here is a good example of how to visualize index lines and elevation: The area between the two humps is a saddle. As mentioned already saddles are good ambush points.

3. Air flow and your scent will flow down hill similar to water anytime the sun has not warmed the upper atmosphere. In other words if your at the top of a ridge and its a cloudy cool or cold day your scent will flow downhill until the sun warms the upper atmosphere and your scent begins to rise or go uphill. This can be the 1st hour of a day or last all day long depending on the weather.
4. The head of a ravine will suck the air flow and your scent down to its bottom like a vaccum regardless of the prevailing wind direction. Areas where 2 or 3 ravines meet are HOTSPOTS. If a deer wants to go from one ridge to either of the other two ridges ridge they will travel through these areas. Also, deer crossing through these areas can scent check huge areas and remain in the cover of the ravine. There is usually one ridge here where the wind "usually" goes uphill. That's where you want to be.
5. Deer like to bed just over the downwind side of a ridge top where they cannot be seen from the top of the ridge. Being on the downwind side allows them to smell whats on top of the ridge behind them and see downhill in front of them. I've never seen a deer bed facing uphill.
6. Benches are great places to hunt when the air currents are flowing downhill. A bench is used to scent check what is above and still have a visual of what is below without being exposed. They also provide an easy travel route as they are usually fairly level.
7. If your in the South your North facing ridges will be thickest. Think cover and food. South facing ridges have the hot sun beating down on them all summer. Any fallen leaves or vegetation dry up and are windblown off of the ridge. North facing slopes will be lush with ferns and wet leaf matter on the ground. Good soil = good food and cover.
8. Hunt near the top of ridges when the air current is flowing up, and hunt the ravines when the air current is flowing down. Sounds simple but it's rarely that easy.
Best of luck to you