It would be nice if we could put boots on the ground to scout at every location we planned to hunt, but often that’s not possible, especially when you’ll be hunting with an outfitter far from your home turf. But with the quality of maps and satellite imagery available online today, 90 percent of scouting can be accomplished at your computer, on your smartphone, or with your GPS. That goes for both public and private land hunting.
Quality maps allow you to locate hunting areas then zoom in with topographical, satellite image, and aerial photo layers. Studying these carefully, you can pinpoint the exact tree in which you want to hang a stand or the precise hole in the marsh where you want your decoy spread. Plus you can determine the best routes to reach those locations.
OnXMap, My Topo, Trimble, Garmin and more offer maps for GPS, computers, and smartphones/tablets that quickly become a tool you won’t know how you hunted … or lived… without. Fast, intuitive topo maps highlight all public and private property boundaries including landowner information. Imagine coming to a fence you’ve never seen before, popping out your GPS or phone, and not only seeing who owns the property on the other side, but having contact info to find out if you can hunt it!
Another great piece of self-assurance for any outfitted hunt is a simple GPS called the Bushnell BackTrack. It’s a simple GPS that allows you to load in just a few waypoints for any hunt. I’ve used the BackTrack for peace of mind on many Quebec hunts. In caribou camp, for example, I make basecamp Waypoint #1. A promising ridge with a good view of game trails might be Waypoint #2. And where I kill, dress, and quarter my caribou would be Waypoint #3 so I can lead the camp hand right back to that spot. What more do I need?
The simplicity of the Bushnell BackTrack offers several advantages over cell phones or a full-fledged GPS. First is battery life, the BackTrack will operate for 16-20 hours on a set of AA batteries. That’s way longer than a cell phone that would have to grind non-stop to hold a faint signal. The BackTrack costs about a tenth of a full-function GPS.
By Bill Miller.