December 01, 2023
Today, we repeatedly hear about how cell phones and social media are ruining hunting and our lives in general. I would agree partly that these little gadgets in our pockets take up too much of our time and aren’t always positive. That being said, they are an extremely powerful tool, and I would like to tell my middle school math teacher I do, always have a calculator in my pocket.
Regarding hunters, I find it hard to think of a tool many of us use more than our cell phones. Most people use their phones to research their hunts, map, photograph, and digiscope them. Many folks have seen the need and opportunity and have made numerous products and apps that aid in making our phones a vital part of the hunt. I wanted to review some of these categories and specific products we can use to improve our hunts.
I remember the first time I saw onX, or at the time, it was Hunting GPS Maps. It was a chip in my brother’s Garmin GPS, not on a cell phone. I was blown away by this technology and what it provided the user, but I had no idea what would come when they brought OnX in the form of a phone app. Since that time, it is almost mind-blowing to see how far along these phone apps have come. OnX was the first to market and still seems to have the biggest stronghold, but several others have great products that work very well. Companies like Basemap, HuntStand, HuntWise, GOHUNT, Spartan Forge, and others all have products worth consideration.
Hunting far-off places is exciting and challenging. Boots on the ground scouting several states can be tricky and often isn’t feasible, and these mapping apps make it possible to spend considerable time learning and e-scouting an area. I don’t believe e-scouting will ever be as valuable as seeing the area. Still, it is better than never laying eyes on the area before a hunt.
First, I download maps of every area I might hunt or want to check out once I'm in my hunt unit. Download these maps with all the layers you might want to use when you are offline and relying on what you have downloaded. Once away from Wi-Fi or service in the area, it isn’t the time to realize you wish you would have turned on the public land layer, roads, and trail features. Whatever layers on when downloaded should appear when you use your app offline.
Once maps are downloaded, time can be spent identifying high spots to glass from, thick areas for bedding, feeding areas, water, saddles, and private land boundaries. Finding these areas and marking waypoints of places to check out once in the area can be incredibly beneficial. Sometimes, areas may look different when you arrive in a location, but having predetermined spots to check once on site can make a person more efficient when finally in the hunting area.
Another benefit of mapping apps is planning out stalks. You can identify landmarks, map out routes, and measure how far certain distances will be from you or distances you might encounter on a stalk. Sometimes, when moving in on an animal, especially in thick cover, it can be easy to get off course. A quick check on your app can keep you on course or let you know if you are close and it’s time to start slowing down.
As a magazine writer, I was adamantly against cell phone photography. People would take photos with their cameras because they could. Generally, though, photo quality was poor and couldn’t be used for print purposes, and even enlarging them for personal use ended in a very low-quality product. By no means am I saying that cell phones take as good of images as quality cameras, but many newer models take some nice photos that are quality enough for use in many applications. One caveat to this is to learn your phone. Research the best settings to get the highest quality images with your phone model.
Another thing to note is always to take many photos of the entire hunt, not just the kill. You’ll never regret taking too many; they are easy to delete later. I always try and take too many photos rather than too few. Lastly, just standard vertical images are fine if you only want to post pictures to social media. However, if you want to enlarge them to be printed or even write a story for an article or a blog, you must take vertical and horizontal photos. Take plenty of both, and you’ll get what you need.
Get Some Accessories
I will be short here, but a few cheap accessories work very well. Those include a tripod phone mount allowing you to take vertical and horizontal images. Another thing is a Bluetooth remote that makes taking solo pictures much more manageable. I almost always have a tripod on every hunt, and for $20-$30, these two accessories make taking pictures of yourself or with a group a snap.
Years ago, it was standard practice to hold cameras or earlier cell phones up to the lenses of our spotting scopes to get images of animals. Soon, some companies caught on and started making adapters to hook cameras to optics, and then along came Phone Skope. Like OnX in digital mapping, Phone Skope was the first to hit it big in the hunting digiscoping arena. They did, and still do, produce some great products. In the past many years, multiple companies have made digiscoping adapters, and many work very well.
In the last few years, the focus has been on magnetic adapters from companies like On Glass Adapter, MagView Gear, and Ollin. It would take forever to go into each product and explain them all, but these companies and many others make excellent digiscoping products. Some attach to your case, and some take specific cases, but each makes taking pictures and videos through a spotter, binocular, or other optics much easier.
Once you have your system set up, you can take great images that you can have for memories, but also, having pictures or videos makes evaluating animals much easier. It is also nice when you have a couple of hunting companions; you can set it up and view the animal with one optic.
Yes, mindless scrolling through social media can be a giant waste of time, and much has been said about how social media is ruining hunting. I agree on some fronts; it hasn’t all been good when hunting isn’t always showcased positively, and even hunting in certain areas or states is becoming too popular, causing crowding issues. Still, social media has plenty of benefits if not abused. There is a massive community of hunters on all social media channels, and we can show the positive side of hunting and those involved in the sport we all love so much. Networking with other like-minded people can also lead to hunting opportunities and friendships as well, and that’s a positive in my mind. One thing is for sure: social media isn’t going away, so we must do our best to police ourselves to ensure we aren’t negatively impacting hunting through our social media interactions.
I am often amazed at new technology that can be utilized via cell phones. This tiny object can help us with many hunting tasks and everyday tasks. I am still old school and love paper maps, but I find myself referencing them less each year. I still carry a camera on my hunts, but I find myself taking more pictures with my phone than I do with my camera. One thing is for sure, though, the more you learn about your phone and the apps you utilize, the more you'll realize how helpful they can be.