From phones with a higher IQ than the average teenager, to turn-by-turn GPS units worth more than your rusty pickup truck, modern navigational technology can danged near help a blind man see.
As a hunter, you have a decision to make when you strap on your boots and step into the field: Stay old school and stick to your paper map and magnetic compass, or geek out with new-school gadgets. There are arguments in favor of both choices.
Some of us want to unplug and get lost out there — it's the unknown that's so attractive to us in a generation where Google has more answers than Grandpa. However, it's the same fast-paced modern lifestyle that limits our time with a bow or rifle in hand, making us want to squeeze every drop from the fruit of our outdoor opportunities.
Ready to hit the trail with some of today's top navigational tools? Before you head to your local sporting goods store or fill your online shopping cart, here are some GPS units, maps and apps that might be worth a gander:
Bushnell | BackTrack HuntTrack
Set it and forget it. That might be the infomercial tag line for a popular BBQ oven, but it could easily be used to coin Bushnell's BackTrack GPS
series. The HuntTrack is the latest and greatest option in this user-friendly handheld lineup.
Simplicity is the beauty of all BackTrack units. Each model allows you to quickly save locations by pressing and holding a button. Every location can be associated with a related icon (a house, car, bull's eye, etc.). When you revisit a saved location, the BackTrack will tell you how far away it is, and point you back to the location with an arrow as the crow flies. I've used the basic BackTrack D-Tour for years, and it has saved me from getting turned around more times than I'd like to admit.
The HuntTrack is a hopped up version of the D-Tour, designed more specifically for hunters. It allows you to save up to 25 locations, plus it shows you current temperature, altitude and barometric pressure. You can also view your latitude/longitude coordinates in case you need to summon a rescue crew, and solunar tables to keep tabs on legal shooting hours. The HuntTrack even provides a predictive chart with animal activity times, if you're into that sort of thing. Another upgrade from the D-Tour is the HuntTrack's 'breadcrumbs ' feature, which you can use to record your exact path to and from a location. This could be especially helpful if you've chosen a route that avoids obstacles, instead of following the BackTrack's straight-line navigation.
You don't have to sacrifice your manliness by using a HuntTrack. Set it, forget it and pull it out only when you know you're lost...and nobody else is looking.
Garmin | Epix
Want robust navigation in a unit that's even smaller than a handheld? Garmin's Epix
looks like a wristwatch, but it's much more than meets the eye.
The epix is a full-color touchscreen unit that utilizes GPS and GLONASS satellites for precise navigation. You can purchase and add more detailed Garmin maps, such as TOPO 24K, BirdsEye Satellite imagery and BlueChart g2 marine maps for fishing. It features a built-in altimeter, barometer and compass, and you can sync it with most smartphones to retrieve messages wirelessly.
You can personalize the Epix by tapping into Garmin's growing library of apps, including unique screen displays or even a heart-rate monitor.
This smart-watch is full of geeky features — too many to name here — but it's also rugged, waterproof and it won't get squeamish at the sight of a blood trail.
Garmin | GPSMAP 64st
Garmin is always on the forefront of developments in navigational technology. Among its cutting-edge handheld units, and the GPSMAP 64st
is Garmin's new pocket-sized powerhouse.
The GPSMAP 64st (not the sexiest name) grabs its bearings from GPS satellites and, notably, Russian GLONASS satellites. This means you can get a fix on your position faster and maintain it better, especially when you're in the bush. (No worries, our sources at Garmin assured us they're not supporting an underground communist movement.) It comes standard with topographic map overlays for the entire United States, so you can determine if that bugling bull is tempting you into the point of no return. Add BirdsEye Satellite Imagery to see a real-world view of the terrain if you're dead-serious about planning your hunts.
Some of us are addicted to communication, so Garmin has integrated some 'social ' features into the GPSMAP 64st. Share your waypoints and detailed treks with fellow Garmin users with the press of a button. Don't want to miss an e-mail or text message? If you're an iPhone user, you can wirelessly retrieve your messages directly from the Garmin's color screen.
Take note: Garmin is now building its state-by-state menu of microSD cards that are full of public vs. private land boundaries. These Hunt View map chips — currently available for a handful of Western states — plug in to a variety of Garmin devices, including the GPSMAP 64st.
onXmaps | HUNT App
If you hunt frequently outside the boundaries of your own backyard, it can be complicated and intimidating making sure you're not treading on unlawful ground. Download the HUNT App from onXmaps
for your Android or iPhone and set your mind at ease.
This map-based app displays public and private land information for all 50 states, with precise boundaries that include public land designations (WMA, BLM, etc.) and names of private landowners. You can test the app with a free, limited-time trial. If you're a fan, then it's time to dish out some cash — $29.99 will get you an annual membership per state. A Field Mode lets you save maps on your smartphone for use when there's no cell service, while minimizing battery usage and maintaining the ability to navigate with your phone's GPS.
29.99 per state
You're amped to go hunting, but you need somewhere to go! No need to dig out your dad's coffee-stained maps or even mess with Google. Visit Powderhook
. The team running this operation wants to give everyone a solid resource for finding hunting (and fishing) spots, and so far they're doing a great job.
Powderhook is a map-based online service (smartphone apps coming soon) that offers more than 500,000 public and private land listings in every state and 30 countries. You can use your free (that's right, no cost) account to plan trips with buddies, purchase hunting leases (long- or short-term), or find guides and outfitters. You'll also find thousands of conservation banquets and outdoor event listings to keep you busy when you're not getting your hands dirty.
More than a million users are tapping into ScoutLook's
map-based resources to plan their hunts. This free service delivers pinpoint weather forecasts and other thoughtful tools to help folks make the most of their time afield.
Big-game hunters look to ScoutLook's ScentCone Wind Map to get a 72-hour, hour-by-hour visual wind forecast to choose the best treestands, ground blinds and spot-and-stalk approaches. Waterfowl hunters rely on the SetZone Wind Map to strategically plan decoy spreads based on future wind forecasts (also a 3-day, hour-by-hour prediction). Whitetail hunters can use ScoutLook's DeerLog to record deer sightings, then revisit logs to interpret the data for hunting and deer-herd management.
Many of ScoutLook's tools can be accessed online, but the real meat is in its Android and iPhone apps. For navigational purposes, you can use ScoutLook's apps to track your movements with your phone's GPS on a Google Maps satellite overlay.
ScoutLook will be upgrading its entire platform in the summer of 2015, including a complete overhaul of its user interface and the addition of dozens of new features.
Trimble Outdoors | GPS Hunt
More than 30 years of development have gone into the vast navigational product line currently being offered by Trimble Outdoors. From detailed paper maps (topo, aerial, etc.) to an extensive lineup of mobile apps, Trimble is all muscle.
Hunters are best served with Trimble's GPS Hunt
app, which displays public/private land boundaries and other useful overlay options. It's designed to be used for real-time navigation, so users can save waypoints, track distances traveled and more.
Depending on your membership level, you can leverage other features such as offline mapping for when you don't have cell service. Aside from its mapping capabilities, the app incorporates helpful tools such as ballistic charts for more than 850 pistol and rifle cartridges, and solunar info.
Varying membership levels