Having just returned from a western do-it-yourself big game hunt out west, I have some fresh and exciting ideas about how to make one of the tools that was crucial for me out there work for me here in the Midwest.

One of the first things to cross a Midwestern or eastern deer hunter’s mind when considering a trip out west is a GPS or GPS app of some sort. This is for good reason. Head out there without one and one of two things, or both, can happen. You can get lost. Yep, it is seriously easy to do in the big, mountainous country of the west. The other thing is that you may inadvertently wander onto someone’s property that you don’t belong on.  

A good GPS app can eliminate both of these from happening, and there are a couple of other cool features they have that help make your hunt more memorable as well. They can also help you mark where you saw game, sign, etc., or where you didn’t. Should you down an animal, they also can help you get back to the carcass for one of the many pack trips you will have to make to get the goodies out.

I prefer an app over an actual handheld GPS unit. This is simply because it means one less thing I have to carry. Why carry an actual GPS when I already have my phone, which is capable of being one? That being said, there are a couple things to consider. First, most GPS apps are not anywhere close to as good as an actual GPS unit when it comes to their ability and options, and two, apps can drain battery life.

For these reasons, I chose an app called onX Hunt Maps. With features designed not to drain my battery, and its off-grid capability, I also never have to worry about being out of cell service. Once my maps are saved, I easily can use my phone as a GPS device even when I don’t have service. If, however, you prefer an actual separate GPS device, onX Hunt Maps also has a chip available that can be loaded right into your GPS.

Plus, this app is very powerful, every bit as much so as an actual handheld GPS unit.

So, how does this all apply to a small-tract whitetail hunter in the Midwest? Simple. While you may not get lost on “Back 40” when deer hunting, you certainly will love the advantages that the app will give you.

While getting lost may not be your biggest fear here in the wood lots of North-Central Indiana, trespassing should be. With OnX Hunt Maps loaded on your phone, you will never have to worry about stepping foot on the wrong property. Likewise, you will know of those hunting neighboring lands are.

The app also will make you a more effective hunter in a number of ways. For one, you can keep tabs on all of your stands by marking game sightings, shot opportunities, where game was seen, etc. Over time, patterns will develop, better allowing you to set stands strategically based on actual deer movement you have observed. You also will be able to determine the best travel routes to and from your stands based on the topographical map in the app. Lastly, you easily spot funnels, pinch points, etc. from the app as well.

Don’t forget tracking wounded game either. By setting markers in the app, you can mark things such as where the shot was taken, where it was last seen, the spot where you marked last blood, etc. Pretty valuable stuff.

But by far, what makes this app so valuable to us Midwestern whitetailers comes in the form of finding landowners.  

Gone are the days when the owner of that prime looking piece of ground lived in the house right on the property. Nowadays, more often than not, the owner may not even live in the same state, let alone around the corner. For this reason alone, purchasing the onX Hunt Maps app is worth it.  

The app displays landowner information and property boundaries. A very useful tool for trying to find out who owns that piece of property you’ve been wondering about for the last few seasons. 

So, if you think that apps like onX Hunt Maps are only useful when planning a hunt out west, think again.  You could be missing the boat by ignoring them right here in your own backyard!

Besides smart phones and GPS units, the app can also be used on desk tops, laptops and tablets. The membership is quite reasonable at around $100 per year. Check out their website at www.onxmaps.com for more information.