When I moved to the Adirondacks many years ago, I was excited about hunting season in the Great North Woods.
On the first Saturday of small game season, I took my dog and shotgun and headed out. I had no idea where to go but was soon parked along the old Gilmantown Road.
There were old, grown-over farm fields with scattered apple trees and such. I shot a couple of grouse and continued along, not paying attention to anything but the hunting.
Before long, I decided to head back to the car. The trouble was I had no idea which way to go. I was confused.
It wasn’t like hunting back home, where I knew every square inch of my woods and every tree by name. This was different. I listened for cars, but there weren’t any. I looked for landmarks, but that didn’t work either.
Finally, I said to my dog Skeeter: “Let’s go. Get to the car.” Without a second thought, she started out and we ended up on the road a few yards from my car.
Let’s face it, I was unprepared. I had no map or compass — not that they would have done any good. But I learned fast and never was unable to get back out of the woods again.
Today that’s no problem. Now with a GPS or even an app on your cell phone, you can find your way in and out of anyplace.
I used a GPS on a snowshoeing adventure near Old Forge a few years ago. My wife, Pat, and I drew up a map and followed a course into some lake northeast of route 28. We really didn’t need the device to get back out with the tracks we left in the three feet of snow, but we used the hash marks on the screen to get back to civilization.
A friend of mine uses his GPS while deer hunting up north. As Al wanders the woods, he marks deer sign on the device. A ground scrape here and some rubs there, as well as other deer sign, soon make a picture of the deer activity that he finds.
He checks out each of the locations every day and has been very successful. Al took an absolute monster Adirondack buck using that method a few years ago.
My son and his friends bow hunt in Ohio each year. After scouting the area they’re going to hunt, they plot good stand placements on their GPS. It’s easy the next morning to get to their tree stands well before daylight. The GPS uses satellites to plot their positions and movement. Today, they can do all that on their cell phones as well.
Randy was just showing me an app he downloaded from Gander Mountain on his phone that will bring up maps of any area in the country and allow him to put in any information he wants.
Today, a company called FTL Information Technologies in Utica has an app for smart phones called Deer Scouter. For $1.99, you can download this technology and “increase the odds of understanding deer movement.”
As you collect data over time while scouting and hunting, you put that information into your phone. Over time, you connect the dots and can begin to make detailed meaning of the deer sign, patterns and movement in your hunting area.
What these devices do is what I did for many years with a topographical map of the area I hunted up north. I marked every deer and bit of sign for several years until I had a clear picture of the deer activity in those steep mountains and thick swamps. I used a paper map and compass, but today’s technology is right in the palm of your hand.
Like many of you older folks, I am just a little electronically challenged. So I still carry a small compass with an arrow always points north in my pocket.
When I’m hiking the Adirondack High peaks this weekend, I’ll have my trail map readily available and use it whenever necessary. I can wander anyplace I want and always get back to where I started. I don’t do well with change and don’t have to worry about the batteries giving out or not having cell service.
But who knows? I might just give the new stuff a try one of these days.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at email@example.com.