GEAR 101: eHunting for eLk
Thirty years ago, elk hunters took to the woods with map, compass and wood sense. Now, thanks to the digital age, hunters can scout on their cell phones. Somewhere between old, barely legible quad maps and overwhelming varieties of electronics, there is middle ground where you can still hunt with your head in the game and use only as much technology as you need. The following is a guide to just a few of the many gadgets available, plus a couple old favorites.
Your biggest investment will be in the gadget itself. The Garmin GPSMAP 64st (1) is a user-friendly, bomb-proof hand-held that has more features than you have time. One especially useful feature is a barometric altimeter that tracks changes in pressure to help keep an eye on changing weather. At $500, it’s pricier than most models, but it leaves you wanting nothing more in a unit. Magellan’s eXplorist 350H (2) is similar to the Garmin model for half the price. It features more than 30 unique hunting specific waypoints as well as preloaded GMUs and WMUs, though it features only 2GB of internal memory compared to Garmin’s 8. Because everyone has one, cell phones (3) are becoming popular to use with mapping apps, though they have limited coverage deep in elk country. As back-up, always take along a compass and know how to follow a bearing. It might be low-tech, but it will never run out of batteries.
Elk hunting is half luck and half know-how. You can’t do much about the former, but you can prepare yourself with accurate maps and data. The best I’ve seen to date is onXmaps (5), formerly Hunting GPS Maps. These maps work on Garmin GPS units, computers and mobile devices. For $30, I downloaded their app to my iPhone last year and had satellite imagery, ownership boundaries and real-time info on my location at all times. For $100, you can purchase a chip to install on your Garmin GPS and update it every year. Even if onX wasn’t a RMEF partner, I’d still recommend their product because it takes the guesswork out of hunting near private land. And it’s always a good idea to keep a photocopied topo map of the area you’re hunting in your pocket just in case.
A major downside to modern gadgets is their need for energy. Lithium batteries are a good choice for GPS units as they perform better in colder weather. But keep in mind extreme cold will zap any battery’s life, so keep it close to the vest (warm) when not in use. For cell phone users, you need a battery pack. While searching for service, your phone’s power supply will not last one day using a mapping app in the woods. I used the iBattz Mojo Refuel case (4), and it easily doubled the life of my phone’s battery and kept out dirt and snow. For a $700 phone, it was a
no-brainer investment for $90.