This is a pretty basic step, and there’s nothing groundbreaking in the process. I pick an area to focus on and devour as much information as I can. I spend hours looking over aerial images (usually on my laptop in the evenings while my wife watches one of the 2,000 singing competition shows on TV). From the very start, I’m planning not just what areas I want to explore but exactly how I’m going to explore them in the most efficient manner possible. The map work isn’t just a way to learn what areas are worth a closer look, it’s a blueprint for maximizing my time. While you can get a pretty general sense of an area’s hunting potential from an aerial image, there’s nothing that can replace actual time spent on the ground. Obviously, that won’t happen until I arrive. But I use aerial images and maps to identify the most efficient process for scouting those parcels when I do get there. Before ever pulling out of my driveway, I know what areas I’m going to look at first, the order in which I’ll look at them, and the routes I’ll travel to get to them. It may seem like a small thing. It’s not. In many of the places I hunt, the areas worth scouting might be 20, 30, 40 miles or more apart. Heading out without a plan has cost me precious hours before. I’ve learned from those mistakes.