June 29, 2021
By Haynes Shelton
I’ll admit no one has praised me for being highly adept at using technology. I’m sure North American Whitetail Publisher Laden Force will smirk when he reads this, and he’ll probably have flashbacks to all the times he’s had to train me on “easy to use” new publishing software.
I’m in the minority of my generation when it comes to lacking tech skills. After all, us millennials (a word I cringe to even write) were raised in a modern world — one where electronics play a major role in daily life. Now everything from education, business and even leisure is influenced by digital devices.
If you're like me though, you have enough trouble remembering your email password. That usually means I’m hesitant to adapt to anything new or trendy. And at first I was reluctant to dive in and use many new hunting apps. But dive I did, and what happened surprised me.
In short order, some of the apps I tried changed the way I hunt. For that reason, I want to share how I’ve used new hunting and shooting apps to save myself time, energy and money. And honestly, I’ll explain how certain apps are helping me punch tags.
Mobile Hunt Planning
I mentioned earlier that Laden is better than me at a lot of “tech stuff.” So I wasn’t shocked to learn that he’d already saved hundreds of waypoints on BaseMap, onX Hunt and HuntStand apps before I’d even downloaded them.
As a result, when the two of us leased a property in Kansas together in fall 2020, Laden had that place lit up like a Christmas tree with markers for tree stands, trail cameras, travel corridors and entry and exit routes.
I was in North Carolina, 1,200 miles away from the property, when Laden shared his waypoints with me. Instantly I was looking at a whitetail battleplan for a property I’d never set foot on. It was amazing to see the property dissected so perfectly, with bedding areas highlighted, food sources identified and even best-scenario wind directions marked for certain stand sites.
All the fancy markers made sense, based on my own knowledge of whitetail habitat and behavior. But I couldn’t fully trust the intel until I’d seen it in real life.
In mid-November, I parked my truck on the edge of the property, grabbed my bow and headed in for the first time. My destination was a tree stand in the interior of the property that looked promising on the map.
I’ve looked for new stand sets before, and it doesn’t always end well. In the past, I’ve searched for seemingly non-existent stands “by the bend in the creek” or “just past the oak on the north end of the field.” I’ve ended up lost looking for them, and I’ve definitely spooked deer in the process.
But this time, using the BaseMap app, I walked right to the correct tree. Watching the screen on my iPhone, I simply eyed the moving green dot (me), and waited for it to merge with the stationary red dot (the stand). It was that simple.
No more than 15 minutes later, I watched a mature 9-pointer emerge from a windbreak that Laden had marked on the app as a bedding area. Immediately, I recognized the deer as a target buck that’d walked in front of a Browning Trail camera a few weeks prior.
I used a bleat call to lure the buck to within 50 yards of my stand, at which point he circled downwind and hung up behind some trees that prevented me from taking a shot.
I didn’t kill that whitetail, but he taught me something. Less than an hour after I’d entered a foreign landscape, I’d come extremely close to arrowing a mature buck — no easy feat. It was eye-opening to me how large a role the mobile mapping app played in the hunt.
In reality, I spent more time scouting the land on BaseMap than I did in person. On a short DIY hunt, normally I would have burned at least the majority of one day searching for fresh deer sign and deciding how to hunt it.
Instead of tromping around areas of high deer activity and leaving behind human odor, with risk of bumping or educating deer, I relied on my mobile scouting aid and just hunted. And I came about as close to pulling it off as possible.
I spent the first week of last September bowhunting whitetails at Trophy Ridge Outfitters in Carlile, Wyoming. I’ve found this to be one of the country’s most premier locations to chase mature bucks still in velvet.
Prior to my arrival, guide Larry Brandt scouted a strip of sorghum that had been planted for cattle grazing, and it was teeming with deer. A number of bachelor groups containing mature bucks were using the food source in the evenings.
Prior to departing for the first afternoon hunt, Larry informed me that the area we’d be hunting had limited cellular service. In fact, he handed me a radio to use if I needed to communicate with him.
In anticipation of the poor cell reception, I downloaded an offline satellite map of the property from the BaseMap app. This feature allowed me to navigate the landscape without cell service or the internet. While using the offline map, I could still record waypoints.
On the first evening hunt, a bachelor group containing two shooter bucks entered in the sorghum plot within 100 yards of the Redneck Bale Blind I was hunting from. While glassing the bucks, I recorded where they’d entered the field, as well as the general area where they fed. Finally, I marked where the deer exited the field at dark.
When I shared the information with Larry, he agreed that the bucks had come from a dense bedding area that they’d likely use regularly. Based on the bucks’ feeding pattern, it was evident they were grazing in a slight drainage in the field. Larry and I decided it’d be worthwhile to move the bale blind closer to the drainage, in hopes the bucks would repeat the pattern.
The next afternoon, we moved the bale blind approximately 100 yards closer to the slight dip in the sorghum field. Three hours later, the same bachelor group fed within 40 yards of our position, and I was able to arrow a mature velvet-clad 8-pointer. Our plan came together perfectly, due in huge part to the data I recorded on the BaseMap hunting app. The app certainly influenced our decision to make a move, and the decision paid off.
Map Apps That Work
Hold the power of GPS navigation and deer data-keeping in your hand with the proven BaseMap hunt app. This powerful tool can be used to access information like wind direction, temperature, barometric pressure, moon phase and more. Plus, it can provide parcel ownership intel and clearly marked hunting land boundaries. The app also provides users the capability to download detailed satellite maps for offline use in areas without cellular service.
The onX Hunt app is an intelligent and highly-efficient GPS satellite software with detailed maps of 975 million acres of public land, 10,688 unique hunting units and over 400 map overlays. The app can be used to set waypoints, draw lines, shapes and tracks, and data is now sharable with family, friends and hunt companions. If network service isn’t available where you hunt, the app allows users to download saved maps for off-grid use.
An app packed with great features for deer hunters, HuntStand offers Real 3D mapping to identify topographical changes in terrain. Users can access global weather forecasts, property lines and landowner information. Distance and measurement tools help in planning entry and exit routes, stand sites and more. This app’s satellite mapping layer can be used offline, and the HuntZone feature calculates wind direction and odor impact on game.
Until recently, I largely overlooked how helpful hunting apps can be in whitetail land management. Sure, I used satellite maps to mark food plots, water sources, areas of timber stand improvement and more. Honestly though, that was the extent of my usage.
While these tools certainly are helpful, there’s another feature I’ve found extremely helpful on hunting apps with GPS software. The calculation tools provided on these apps can actually be used to determine exact seeding and fertilization rates for food plots, when used in combination with the information provided by soil samples. For instance, a soil sample I received for a new food plot on my property in North Carolina revealed a lime deficiency. The sample called for an amendment of 1,200 pounds of pelletized lime per acre.
Using that information, I quickly determined exactly how much lime to purchase by measuring the perimeter acreage of the plot on the BaseMap app. As the plot was almost exactly 3/4 of an acre, I applied 900 pounds of lime. Though this example is very small in scale, imagine how helpful the app could be for determining more complicated fertilizer rates on larger plots. Folks planting high numbers of plots can save time and money using this technology.
The same simple calculations help with seed application rates, too. For instance, in the plot referenced above I planted a mix of Buck Forage chicory and clover. Both plantings call for seeding rates of 4 pounds per acre, which was the exact quantity of each I had on hand. Thus, it was simple for me to measure out an exact quantity for broadcasting into the plot.
Nailing fertilization and seeding rates will certainly result in healthier plots. Soil health is a science, and it ensures plants receive the nutrients they need to reach maturity and deliver maximum benefit to wildlife. Similarly, overseeding plots can stunt rootstocks or deprive plantings of nutrients. Not seeding enough can result in a too-sparse plot with high weed competition.
Thankfully, the modern whitetail land manager has more tools at his or her disposal than ever. That means we can be more productive, efficient and cost-conscience in our efforts to better deer habitat.
All this technology and more is creeping into the whitetail world each year. Of course, it’s our job as ethical hunters and conservationists to use it appropriately. So, consider adding some whitetail tech to your scouting, hunting and land management work this year.
From the mapping apps listed here, to ballistic compensation apps for the shooters and more wireless trail camera apps to count, there’s probably a tool out there that will assist with your whitetail endeavors — even if your tech skills are as bad as mine!