Once you have found a quality aerial image of your property its time to put it to work for you. Aerial imagery has come along way in recent years. I am going to focus on "On X Maps" found at onX Maps: GPS Map App for Hunting, Hiking & Off-Roading as that is what I use for all my habitat planning. As I previously mentioned you can get excellent aerial photos free from "Google Earth" and possibly a number of other websites. Added features such as typography, measuring tools and map marking features are all handy to be able to utilize in your planning.
Aerial maps can give us a great overhead view of our current wildlife habitat areas and potential spots where they could be developed. How different habitat types are intermixed within your property becomes even more evident on an aerial map. Depending on the species and their typical home range size it becomes evident pretty quickly what percentage of your current habitat is actually viable wildlife habitat. What we perceive as a good property layout can often take on a totally different appearance when viewed from above. Property layout is far more important than most people believe both in terms of wildlife usage and hunt ability of your property.
The above picture gives you an excellent view of all different habitat types and how they appear on an aerial map; pastureland, brushy areas, crop ground/food plot, timber and water sources are all clearly visible on this aerial. This property also has excellent layout in terms of how habitat types are intermixed as well as access points to hunt various wind directions. If we were to zoom out from this map we would also get a great feel from a deer habitat perspective on where deer may be bedding and/or feeding off the property, as well as the travel corridors they use when utilizing the above property. Quail home ranges, which are fairly small, could easily stay within the property boundaries of this property. As I mentioned before boots on the ground is a great next step in terms of further defining the quality of the habitat pictured as well as verifying that the image is up to date. Areial photos are only updated every few years. Though the option exists now for recent imagery from the last 30 days for a price. Those images can lack the picture resolution quality. Once we have an accurate habitat inventory, we can begin to develop the plan for reducing or eliminating the deficiencies. We can also develop a hunting plan for the property, taking into account seasonality use and accessibility to hunting stand locations. Pinch point locations, (smaller areas where deer are more concentrated in their travels) are more evident often times from an aerial photo as well. If you have a feature to incorporate contour lines into your imagery, you can get a good feel of where deer may naturally be traveling. Next week we will take a look a look at habitat requirements for deer, turkey and quail. I will also use those requirements to layout the habitat plan we have in place for our own farm.