It used to be that people who like to hunt and fish had to ascertain “the lay of the land” using paper maps, their memory and outdoor instincts — or even some luck — to find out where they were and how they would get back to their truck.
But now, hunters and fishers have more options than ever before, using technology.
Garmin’s top-of-the-line outdoor global positioning sattelite (GPS) unit is the Montana 650t, which has a four-inch display that is readable in sunlight and displays high-resolution images. Garmin also claims the Montana is protected from damage by dirt, humidity and water. It has a five-megapixel digital camera and has mounts for using it on ATVs, in boats, as a handheld or in cars. Its microSD card slot and download functionality lets users load topographic maps, marine maps, road maps and satellite imagery. The Montana 650t uses a high-sensitivity GPS receiver and satellite prediction software to locate positions quickly and maintain its GPS location even in heavy tree cover, near tall buildings or in canyons.
Garmin touts its mid-range GPSMAP line of handheld GPS units as having a higher-sensitivity GPS receiver that can be useful in more remote locations. Some of the devices in the GPSMAP line include a three-axis compass, preloaded topographic maps and a five-megapixel autofocus camera for taking photos of nature scenes. The pictures are automatically geotagged, so their exact locations can be brought back up again on a return trip.
Garmin’s RINO line has two-way radio and position reporting capabilities to let hunters keep tabs on their party. The RINOs can also be used to seek help in an emergency from anyone with a two-way radio that uses the same standard radio frequencies. Some RINO models offer an electronic compass, barometric altimeter and weather radio.
Garmin’s eTrex line is a less expensive line of GPS receivers that can still show maps, but they have a smaller screen and are less rugged than higher-priced units.
Dog tracking with GPS
Garmin also offers its Astro line of GPS-enabled dog tracking systems. Wireless antennas are attached to the dog’s collar to send the dog’s location back to a handheld GPS device, which allows hunters to pinpoint a dog’s position, even when they can’t be seen or heard.
Astro devices also let hunters purchase and load U.S. topographic maps and sattelite imagery to better help find dogs during a hunt or field trial. The system allows tracking of up to 10 dogs at one time, at a distance of up to nine miles away, depending on the terrain.
Magellan, a company primarily known for its vehicle GPS units, also offers its Explorist series of rugged, waterproof handheld GPS receivers.
The Explorist 610 comes pre-loaded with road maps and topographic maps and has a three-axis electronic compass, a barometric altimeter to determine accurate elevation and a 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus. The camera and a built-in microphone and speaker allow users to geo-tag images and voice notes, for re-living trips on a computer or sharing with others.
Magellan brought over one of the features of its car units to its handheld units, the OneTouch favorites menu. OneTouch lets users bookmark favorite places and quickly access them again. All of Magellan’s units come with support for geocaching, a popular outdoor activity in which people find items hidden by others in out-of-the-way locations.
Lowrance, a company best known for its GPS units for boating and fishing, also makes devices for general outdoors use.
Each of Lowrance’s Endura color, touch-screen GPS units come with preloaded maps and road data, the ability to load microSD cards supporting additional trails, geocaches, waypoints, pictures and other data.
Waypoints can be marked using any of more than 190 outdoor icons and a trip computer lets users record trails, map elevation changes and share trip information online or with friends.
One feature that Lowrance emphasizes is its devices use of physical buttons, which the company says are easy to press using gloves in harsh weather or rugged conditions.
Cabela’s Recon Hunt from Trimble Outdoors, is an Android app that allows someone to use their phone or tablet computer as an offroad, topographic mapping GPS device. The maps can be downloaded in advance and loaded onto phones and tablets, so that users won’t need cellular service when navigating. The app can be used to find hunting spots, track wildlife, take pictures and find weather forecasts and sun and moon phases.
HuntingGPSmaps.com offers free and paid custom GPS maps for hunters who use Garmin GPS devices.
Some maps from the site show whether a general area is public or private land, while more specific plat maps have property owners’ names overlaid on the map. The maps can be purchased already installed on an SD memory card or downloaded to a PC. The site also has tutorials for planning trips by creating tracks and waypoints in Google Earth and other computer software, which can then be exported to a GPS device.
Currently, the site does not have any Georgia maps, but does include maps for the whole state of Florida and many western states.
ExpertGPS.com is a similar site that offers downloadable GPS maps for 477 hunting areas in Georgia, including several in Decatur County.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources website offers maps for Wildlife Management areas, such as Silver Lake in Decatur County, and other state-owned hunting areas. The address is http://www.georgiawildlife.com/maps/hunting.