Help From Above

Help From Above

As I prepare for a moose hunt in Alaska this fall, I can't help but reflect on the risks and dangers of hunting in remote locations. In the past, when a bush plane dropped you off a few hundred miles from the nearest road, on your own, you were, well, on your own. You had no recourse. You either survived on your own, or you didn't.

Modern technology, in the form of communications satellites, has changed that. While technology can't eliminate the dangers, it can sure take the isolation out of isolation. Even if you're all alone out there, you're not necessarily on your own. With manmade satellites circling the Globe, help is at hand.

The most basic satellite-driven tool, the GPS, takes the guesswork out of navigation. No-frills units ($100-$200) tell where you are and how to get to where you want to go. For most situations, those are all you need, and for those of us with simple minds, simple is better. More sophisticated mapping instruments serve as complete hunt-planning tools ($300-$600). Major handheld GPS makers are Garmin (www.garmin .com), Lowrance (www.lowrance.com), Magellan (www.magellangps.com.), and Bushnell (www.bushnell.com).

The satellite phone is not new, of course, but it has evolved and improved until you can now call home or for help from anywhere on Earth as easily as you can call your neighbor -- and with fewer dropped calls than with most cell phones. Wanting the convenience and lifesaving value of this technology, we at Bowhunter have ordered our own satellite phone. Phones cost about $1,500. Calling plans vary, but average somewhere around $2/minute. You also can rent a satellite phone for about $75/week. Our research points to the Iridium (www. iridium.com).

A new device called SPOT combines GPS technology with satellite-based communication. SPOT enables you to perform four functions from anywhere on Earth: 1) Call 9-1-1 for immediate emergency help; 2) Call for non-emergency help from friends and family; 3) Check in with friends and family at any time to tell them you're okay; 4) Track your progress on Google Earth maps. You can create a network of up to 10 people with whom to communicate, and your SPOT unit will always communicate with the GEOS International Emergency Response Cen-ter to provide fast emergency aid. About the size of a cell phone and weighing only 7.37 oz., SPOT can go with you anywhere. The basic unit costs $169, the annual subscription $99.99. You can get an additional tracking service for $49.99/year. For full details, go to www. findmespot.com.

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