Monday, September 18, 2017

OnX for Out of State Hunting

OnX app on your smartphone

I had finally drawn a tag in a coveted area of Idaho for Mule Deer. It was one of the highlight of my hunting career, or so I thought. As dawn broke, I found myself sitting on a boulder overlooking a long valley where I dreamed of giant bucks wandering through the backcountry. As the sun rose higher in the sky, I panned the distant ridges for mule deer. Instead my binoculars were being filled with orange. Blaze orange. Everywhere I looked I saw orange clad hunters wandering along looking for the same deer I sought. Angry and frustrated, I picked up my backpack and headed deeper into the wilderness.

This was many years ago, long before handheld GPS units and certainly before smartphones. As the day drug on, I knew I needed to start heading back. Taking my compass reading, I began heading back. Mile after mile and hour after hour passed with no sight of my camp. I don’t like to say I was lost, but I was confused for several hours. Finally after topping the eleventh ridge I saw a light in the distance swinging back and forth and I knew I was on the right path. My hunting partner grew worried and climbed a tall tree and began swinging the light in hopes I would see it. Dragging in to camp at 3:00 a.m. taught me a valuable lesson about orienteering. Today, I never go out of state, or on any unfamiliar land without a GPS and extra batteries. 

Many hunters like myself spend a lot of time and dollars applying for tags in mid-western and western states in hopes of drawing a tag for the animal of our choice.
When the day arrives and you get the notice that your dream tag has been drawn, the planning begins. Thankfully today’s technological world allows for detailed planning. Much of this planning can be done online. Selecting hunt zones, regions, or even specific creeks can be done with satellite imaging software. But what happens when you are not in the field.

Today’s GPS units such as my Garmin Oregon 650 are designed to get you into and out of the woods safely. But they are only as good as the mapping software installed. This is where OnX excels. (  

OnXmaps offers the user a variety of options that should suit the needs and usages of all different types of hunters, anglers and adventurers. From a micro SD card of specific states to an APP that can be downloaded onto any IOS or Android operating system. These maps offer the best of the best of information available today.

OnXmaps for IOS and Android
First the APP. The hunting app from OnX turns your phone into a high end GPS unit. OnX hunt 3.0 enables the full GPS functionality of your phone and combines it with the proprietary mapping tools. This allows hunters to use their phone as a GPS and know exactly where they are at any given time. But the best feature in my opinion is the detail it provides in property boundaries. Using this APP I can see precisely where I am and prevent me from accidentally trespassing onto land I do not have permission to hunt.
When hunting out of state in areas where seasons, legal animal requirements and boundaries change per species, it is vital to know exactly where you are at any given time. For example if I have a license to hunt in game zone 18, I need to know when I may cross that boundary line. Many of these boundaries are fairly random. A ridge top here, a valley there and none of them are straight. If for example, my zone allows for bulls of any size to be harvested, while the adjoining zone has size restrictions. If I inadvertently pass over into another zone, I can be in violation. OnX enables me to know exactly where I am at all times thereby considerably reducing the chance this can happen.
What if I do not have cell service? OnXmaps provides the option to cover this situation. The app for my iPhone allows you to download maps and features directly into the memory of your phone so that you can use it offline. Cell service is not needed which saves battery life. I simply place my phone into airplane mode to prevent it from searching and killing the battery and use the maps I have downloaded.

Another great feature of the OnX, is the ability to adjust layers. The NEW upgrade for OnX, includes more layers and more detail. Each user can determine how many layers they want to see on their map. Satellite images, satellite images with topo overlaid, migration routes of game animals, prairie dog towns, and other details are available with the app. These use a bit more storage but can make a huge difference when plotting your route.

Even if you do not have a GPS, the offline feature allows you to download onto your smartphone maps ahead of time to get you oriented. These maps are available whether you have service or not. 

Using your OnX on your Garmin GPS
Personally I love my Garmin Oregon 650. (unfortunately the 650 is no longer available but the new and improved Oregon 750 is available. ( It has saved my tail a lot of walking and wandering around confused. On many occasions I have arrived in states where I have never hunted before and gotten to predetermined locations in the dark using my Garmin Oregon 650. With the addition of my OnX micro SD card, I can make these travels a lot less stressful having the details of the terrain in my hand. With my Garmin loaded with OnX, I never have to worry about crossing into other game units, or onto private property. The area I hunt is loaded with BLM land, private parcels, and a national park within walking distance. The accuracy OnX provides means I never have to worry about accidentally crossing over into land not allowed. 
The accuracy of the OnX is so specific that it often is more accurate than fences. One truth about western fences is that they are placed by convenience and not as property lines. Fences can and often are off the property line by a great deal. Some are off by as much as several hundred yards because of the terrain and difficulty of erecting a fence along the actual line, the ranchers build the fence where they can. 

The added features of weather reports, radar maps, national trails, forest service roads, it all allows me to be the most efficient and the safest I can be in unfamiliar country.
As an old timer in many ways who still uses a compass for most of my orienteering, I also like the accuracy and detail of the compass OnX uses. Sure it is still electronic, but when I compare it to my exceptional floating compass the accuracy is excellent. It is nice to have a backup if needed. Add to this the tracking feature, it will trace my track and allow me to find my way back simply by backtracking.

My Assessment of the OnX
The OnX are definitely something I would never leave home without. Especially on an out of state hunt, scouting trip or hike. The features of this mapping software and app allows users the fullest benefits of the GPS units whether it is a standalone unit or on their smartphone. Any GPS unit is only as good as the software it is running and the addition of OnX enables the units to exercise the fullest of their capabilities.
Planning for an out of state hunt can be a daunting task. Spending thousands of dollars and precious vacation days to go hunting thousands of miles from home. The planning that goes into these hunts is very in-depth. Modern technology allows us to do a lot of scouting from our computers at home. The detail of programs like Garmin Basecamp or Google Earth allow us to see clearly locations that are worth checking out. Being able to load these into our GPS units or smart phones will save precious time and miles of walking.  There is no way I would ever consider an out of state hunt without my Garmin GPS loaded with OnX.



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