The groundswell of modern technology is a double-edge sword in the minds of many who enjoy time spent in the great outdoors.
For some, the idea of getting out into the field or onto the water in order to hunt and fish is nothing more than a pure effort to try and get away from it all, the all being the endless noise and cacophony of a world that never ceases to be in motion during the endless 24/7/365 cycle.
Such an endless barrage of time demands, hi-tech noise and gadget-led intrusions into our daily lives is why some outdoor types choose to check their laptops, tablets and mobile phones at the door, opting to go afield without any sort of modern day interruption.
But for others, the rush of technological advance proves to be a boon, not a hindrance, in the success and enjoyment of a good hunt or fishing trip.
Especially when it comes to the legal and ethical use of smartphone apps, tools that can help one manage their time and energy spent outdoors in a more efficient manner.
In fact, after conversations with several Outdoor Channel television personalities – and through some of my own personal observations – it seems smartphone apps fall into one of several categories of usefulness.
Those include getting a bird's eye view of hunting land and how game may move across the property; effectively managing a parcel of hunting property; identifying weather conditions and approaching systems; figuring out game movement influencers like moon position and wind; getting the latest in terms of game activity and migrations; figuring out key information like a rifle bullet ballistics and along with bow and arrow tuning information; and even in building a show's own particular brand and appealing to its fan base.
Editor’s Note: Or in figuring out when to watch your favorite Outdoor Channel television show's latest episode – check out Outdoor Channel's free smartphone app for full details.
Outdoor Channel app
Take Lee and Tiffany Lakosky for instance, the popular Iowa-based hunting couple that co-hosts Outdoor Channel show Crush with Lee & Tiffany.
The Lakoskys have taken the idea of a favorite smartphone app a step farther than some, being a part of their own brand's app – Crush TV app – that is available for download (for a nominal fee of $3.99) on IPhone and Android platforms.
Among other things, the Crush TV app offers up-to-the-minute weather and wind conditions, the current phase of the moon, weather forecast information for a specific location during the coming week and technological features like figuring out arrow speed, kinetic energy and FOC (front of center).
The app also offers features like a trip packing section where weights of various pieces of gear can be stored (which can be useful on such things as a trip to Alaska for a brown bear hunt); satellite photos and hybrid maps of hunting spots; an electronic compass; a 3-D shooting log to keep track of yearly archery progress; help on food plot seed and fertilizer calculations; and sections where notes can be recorded after scouting missions.
Oh, and if you're a fan of Lee, Tiffany and their young son, Cameron – and you're simply interested in what's going on in the Big Buck Down! capitol of Crushville – then the Crush TV app even contains a portal to the couple's website.
Crush TV app
Staying in the big buck state of Iowa, Don and Kandi Kisky are a part of the Whitetail Freaks app on Smartphone platforms, a property management tool that can help whitetail hunters be more efficient (for a nominal fee of $2.99).
The app allows hunters to mark property boundaries, to identify treestand and food plot locations, to show where trail cameras are situated and to even order printed maps of hunting properties that contain marked locations, overlays and icons.
Whitetail Freaks app
As the whitetail season plays out in many areas of the country, one of the most popular genres of hunting apps on the market has to do with the weather.
And that's true from figuring out when this infernal mild weather – brought to you courtesy of El Nino – will finally abate to determining when the next front and storm system will push migrating ducks and geese southward.
Such weather related apps can help a hunter determine which direction the wind will blow from, something that helps from setting a decoy spread in the morning to knowing which treestand to hunt in the evening.
But far and away, the biggest usefulness of weather apps according to Raised Hunting's David Holder is knowing when the next rainstorm is moving in, something that's particularly useful when you're hauling expensive video camera and audio gear up into a tree.
Not to mention trying to harvest a rut-crazed Iowa whitetail giant.
"(Because of that), my favorite apps are those that show me weather systems as they move (into my hunting area) with updates every few minutes," said Holder.
Nicole Reeves, co-host of Driven with Pat & Nicole, agrees with Holder's idea.
"It's not really a hunting app per se, but we really love using weather.com when we're out in the field," she said. "After all, it seems like we live outdoors in the weather at this time of year!"
That they do.
While weather conditions, wind direction, radar maps and forecasts are key features that some Outdoor Channel hosts look for in their favorite smartphone hunting apps, others like Heartland Bowhunter co-host Michael Hunsucker look for applications that help them quickly identify topographical features on new hunting properties.
Not to mention how such features can be utilized in formulating a successful hunting strategy when time is of the essence.
"For us, HuntStand makes a great app that allows you to look at such things as weather patterns, to mark trail camera locations, to mark various stand locations, to measure distances from one point to another, to determine the size of food plots, etc.," said Hunsucker.
"It literally is jam packed with features, some of which I haven’t even been able to dive into yet."
Other smartphone apps that prove to be useful to certain Outdoor Channel talent includes applications that help instruct a hunter in certain tasks and techniques that prove to be useful in the field.
That's true not only for hosts of an Outdoor Channel TV show, but also for friends, family and sponsors that might come along for a hunt or be involved in the filming of an episode.
"Primos Hunting Calls has an app where a hunter can learn to call (like using a grunt call properly) by mimicking the sounds (of an animal) that you hear on the app," said Holder. "I've found that to be very helpful (at times)."
Like, for instance, when Holder has returned to the American West where he lived for so many years, except that he is now trying to record a TV show where a bugling elk needs to be tagged or a rutting pronghorn antelope buck needs to be decoyed in.
Apps that can also prove to be useful in such western hunting situations include those that show aerial mapping (think Google Earth); property boundaries (think HUNT App, an app that shows such things as public land boundaries, game management units, roads and trails and even the name of private property owners); and even what a hunter's scent dispersion pattern might be (think ScoutLook Hunting &Weather app scent-cone map).
Keep in mind that laws and regulations vary from state to state – not to mention from one country to the next like the U.S. and Canada – meaning that what is legal in one spot may or may not be legal in another.
Take for instance apps that teach a hunter of migratory waterfowl how to utilize a duck or a goose call. While such apps may be legal for instructional purposes, the utilization of those electronic sounds in the field is not legal (with the exception perhaps of electronic calling measures for snow geese during the spring conservation season).
All of which means that a hunter is legally on the hook to determine whether or not a particular application is both useful and legal in any given place where that hunter will be hunting.
A final type of app that I'd call attention to are apps that update hunters on such things as the current state of the whitetail rut across the country to the current status of waterfowl migrations across the country as reported by the Ducks Unlimited app.
I personally use the DU app all of the time, especially the feature that allows me to search for waterfowl movement within 150 miles of my backdoor step. When I see that ducks and geese are on the move a day or so to my north, then I know to be in a duck blind the next day.
So what's the purpose of all of this mumbo-jumbo and talk about smartphone hunting apps?
Simply this; they can prove to be a bothersome invasion of valuable quiet time spent out in the field.
Or they can prove to be a legal, ethical and useful tool that can help someone make a day of being able to get outdoors a bit more enjoyable and successful.
All by letting our fingers do the walking by way of a smartphone app.