By Joel Schnell
March 18, 2016
A quiet revolution in upland hunting occurred a few years ago. Everything about how the roving ruffed grouse hunter approaches finding new covers has changed for the better. Mobile GPS apps have changed the game.
What’s New in Phone GPS?
What’s changed a few years ago is the Global Positioning Service function of phones is not linked to cellular service. Which means you can download maps ahead of time, and use the gps locator anywhere- no cell phone signal is needed. Prior to a hunt, from home I identify where I plan on hunting and download the map of the area while I have wifi signal.
So why use a phone instead of a handheld GPS? Better photo-quality graphics on the screen, for one. More computing power is built-in, and more developers are writing software to take advantage of it. And of course, since we already carry a phone for communication and to take pictures, we don’t need to carry another device. All apps were run on an iphone 6 for this article.
ON X Maps Hunt app ($30 subscription)
This first one is a biggie. The Hunt App offers aerial photo display plus all public/private land boundaries. It’s like having the plat book for every county in the state in your hand. I found it particularly useful for finding tax forfeited properties, open to hunt but receiving less hunting pressure than most public lands. The photo display allows you to determine the type and age of cover out of your line of sight. I often found myself driving forest roads with the app running on the iphone mounted to the dash. It makes it easy to see what good covers are off the road you are on. It’s an expensive app, but they have occasional sales if you watch their facebook page.
Last fall I used version 2.x, and they have now released 3.x which I haven’t had a chance to play with yet. Regarding version 2.x, it takes some practice to get used to their interface. It’s a complex program, and I often got unexpected results. Particularly the download maps feature, which requires you to zoom in on map and select “tiles” to save. Not a very simple process on a small screen. But I got the hang of it.
Motion X-GPS ($2)
Motion X will look familiar if you’ve used a cycling or running app before. It’s a simpler road or terrain map, with tracking of your route. I found it a great companion to On X Hunt because it is so simple. Just start recording a track, and forget about it. I draws your route over the terrain map, and includes time and distance.
One really neat feature, is it GPS tags coordinates on a photo. When you save a track, it asks you if you want to add a photo. The photo is then GPS tagged. Later at home, photo programs like iphoto and Lightroom will pull up a high-resolution aerial photo of where you took your tagged picture. Nifty. And downloading maps ahead of time is a snap. Just navigate to your area to save, and drag the radius of a circle out to save how big an area you want. On X, are you guys taking notes?
Polaris Snow Trails (free)
Why include a snowmobile map app? If you hunt Minnesota’s state and county forests in the northern 1/3 of the state, chances are you aren’t far from a snowmobile trail. They are brushed and cleared of fallen trees yearly by the local club for easy walking. And they make great edge cover grouse love. In short, if I had a nickel for every grouse I shot from a snowmobile trail, well, I’d have alot of nickels. And besides, this app is free and simple to use. Downloading the maps ahead of time is the best of all three. Simply choose the state you want the map of, and it downloads the entire state. Are you listening, On X and Motion X?
Joel Schnell is publisher of www.ruffedgrouseminnesota.com
He can be reached at info[at]ruffedgrouseminnesota.com