In this world that we live in, it seems that everything we do is at the palm of our hands. My phone or handheld computer does everything I need it to do and more. I think at one point those palm pilots were on to something. Imagine if they had the marketing and if the internet was as ingrained in our lives as it is now. As a hunter, I pride my self in being able to get away and go where there is no reception and explore, survive, and disconnect. Fortunately, or unfortunately, my phone has become essential when I’m hunting. Having a mapping app has become the way to go. I had a different app on my phone before. The maps weren’t bad and it worked fine. It gave me a topographic map and I still carry a compass and my Garmin GPS with me as a backup. The more I can use to know where I am and where I’ve been, the better. Eventually, I discovered OnX hunt.
I’m going to break down the features of OnX but mainly I want to say why I made the switch and how it changed my whole world. OnX has had chips that you can put in your GPS for a while now. I remember seeing that before I even heard of an app. The real introduction to the app came from friends of mine at work. They would want to talk about a spot and I’d get on the computer and pull up google maps and they would bring up this app that did everything we could think of. I was dragging my feet for a long time before I finally made the move. Here’s what I love about OnX. I can log in on my laptop and look at the maps on a bigger screen and start planning my hunt. Then whatever marks I made, automatically sync (are sent) to my phone. Honestly, I never got the chip. I’ve never been able to afford it and I’m ok with it.
I’ve written a few times about how I use the app but instead of putting little tidbits here and there, I want to put it all in one place. OnX offers multiple memberships. There is a trial account that new users can use to see how they like it. I used that before paying for my subscription. It gave me a decent feel for the app but it wasn’t until I paid for it and started using it regularly that I began to really love it. The next step in memberships is a basic single state membership. This gives you all the map layers available for your state and some other basic hunt layers and standard features like weather and property ownership. Going to Elite may seem like a big purchase at 100 dollars but if you plan on going out of your home state, it’s the way to go. I believe it does give you access to a few other layers too but I honestly can’t remember off the top of my head. I made the jump to Elite early on and I haven’t looked back. Let me break down the features I like.
The maps are the main reason I have this app. Like I said before, I had a different mapping app before and it did ok. It had a topographic map but layering was a little complicated. OnX makes it easy as a single button. You can switch from satellite, to topographic, to a hybrid that puts the topographic lines over the satellite images. This helps me in multiple ways, it gives me a point of reference when planning a hike or finding a direction to move around. I like the topographic map since that was my introduction to orienteering and learning how to read a map and find my location. The satellite makes it easy to find other features like fences and dirt roads. Sometimes if enough game moves through an area you can even see some cattle or game trails.
The weather feature has become one of my favorites. During duck season, keeping an eye on the weather completely controls the hunt. On the bottom of the screen, it shows you a basic wind direction, speed, and temperature. When you look at the map you’ll see different weather stations and the information that they are providing. Once you click on the weather station you can get barometric pressure, (if it’s going down then a storm might be coming or the weather will be more unstable) It also provides you a forecast of wind speed and direction hour by hour. It also gives you sunrise and sunset hours so you can plan on your shooting hours. Another feature I use planning hunts, especially duck hunts is the precipitation radar to see the way storms are moving and what to expect. Most animals are affected by the weather but being that waterfowl are my primary target, tracking all of these weather features is important.
I’ve already mentioned some of the map layers earlier. Here are the layers that I like. I like that every state has its own unique layers. I’m sure that the staff of OnX may have their hands tied as to what each state provides their hunters but the nice thing is that when you go to another state, you can look at that map and know that you’ll be getting accurate information that corresponds with the laws of that state. The cool thing about the layers is that you can turn them on and off. When you get multiple layers going, the transperancy of the layers automatically adjusts which really helps out. Depending on what I’m hunting, I like the timber cuts layer, wildfires, and historical wildfires really help me plan out a hunt. Roadless areas layer help me plan out my hikes into the areas and plan out my day. There is a trail and rec areas layer, I didn’t know this early on and I planned a hunt in a recreation area and when I got there and found that out, it totally ruined my hunt and we had to do some serious improvisation. Had I used that rec area layer I would have known that.
Another feature I’ve come to use a lot more is the Off-Grid feature. You can save the area of where you plan on hunting and all of the markings for that area are saved to the app. Before using this, I used to just look at the map before heading into an area with no signal and plan my waypoints and stuff in my head and go out and just put my phone in my pocket. That’s not a bad thing but when you’re using it as your map in case something goes wrong, that becomes a big deal. The other nice thing about it is that I can mark things on the map without having service and it will upload when I do get service again.
That brings me to the My Content folder. This is a great reference point to go to for all of your tracks, waypoints, marks, really anything you mark on the map. I like tracking my hikes mainly out of curiosity but it also helps me plan out my hike out. The nice thing is that to track your hike it’s just a simple button you push and it starts tracking you. That way I can estimate how long it’ll take me to get back and if I can I’ll use that to tell my wife or whoever I have as my contact in case I get in trouble. That way they know what to expect as a hike out and if say I break my legs or something crazy happens, it narrows down the time for help to get to me. I like using the My Locations tab the most, I can easily get to different waypoints I’ve marked. This is especially handy when I’m trying to share a waypoint with a buddy of mine.
The map tools are something I need to explore more. It allows you to draw certain lines and it gives you the distance on that line. There’s an area drawing tool that allows you to mark out an area and it’ll give you how many acres that area is and how long those lines were. Marking waypoints is one of the things I use the most. When you mark a waypoint you have a bunch of different ways to mark it. This is better than using just my Garmin. This makes it specific and easy to notice when you just glance at the map. I like marking spots that I hunt by animal. If I go scouting I’ll mark tracks and other features that stand out to me.
That pretty much sums up the app. There is a new app which takes the road map part of the hunting app and takes it to the next level. It’s called OnX Offroad . It gives you a bit more information on trails and what you can take on them. We haven’t used it yet since we mainly drive the truck and hike but I can see it being useful to other people.
The Desktop version of OnX gives you a lot of the same access to the same features I already mentioned. The one thing that stands out to me is the ability to print out the map you are looking at. This can be handy as a backup to all your electronics. Overall we are happy with our switch to OnX hunt. They are constantly working on more features and are always trying to be the top mapping app in the industry. If you’ve debated on if it’s worth the money, then take our word for it and the word of thousands of other people and make the investment. It’ll make your hunting like so much easier.
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