Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Apps for Outdoorsmen

    While I am a firm believer in keeping unnecessary technology, like cell phones, out of the outdoor experience, after driving several miles and spending several dollars to get to a river a few times, only to find it bone dry or spilling over its banks, I learned to rethink my priorities—somewhat.  There’s an app for that.  In fact, there are several good smartphone apps available to the outdoorsman that can help make the most out of an outing.  Here are a few tools that I have come to know.

Hunt Fish VA

    There’s nothing quite like local knowledge, and that’s just what you get when you download this VDGIF free smartphone app.  Without paying a cent, check on outdoor news relative to your area, review hunting and fishing regulations, double check sunrise/sunset times in your town, or even buy your license.  Plus, using the app’s built in GPS, discover WMA’s, lakes, and boat accesses within a selected radius from your location.  Each location is detailed with a page similar to what can be found on the Department website—biologist reports, fishing opportunities, photos, directions, and other information.

Google Maps & Earth
    I often find myself alone on the road in search of a foreign pond or WMA access.  The Va. Gazetteer can only do you so much good while you’ve got your hands on the wheel, and Google Maps presents the best free GPS option.  Plug in an address or drop pins at recently-visited locations, and have Google lead the way.
    Google Earth has been praised in the past few years as a revolutionary scouting tool, and for good reason.  Having this tool on your phone can be especially beneficial when visiting new areas, when having a satellite image of the property will help in formulating a game plan.  Mark locations, scout, and eliminate the need for a GPS with these two handy apps from Google.

River Data

    The U.S. Geological Survey maintains water data graphs for watersheds throughout the country on their website, but River Data compiles all of it into one free app, and putting knowledge at your fingertips.  Checking stations are arranged by state and watershed; and the user can even favorite frequently-checked locations.  Be observant with this tool, and recognize how different rivers and stretches fish in different conditions.  This will ultimately result in better trips and less wasted trips.

Marine and Lakes:  USA

    Navionics established itself as the world’s foremost electronic charting company back in 1984.  Now, they’ve gone mobile.  This app was sent to me upon its completion as a courtesy gift, and does cost present a relatively steep price.  However, with a nation of registered, detailed lake maps; weather and tide information; a collection of free, knowledgeable articles; and a searchable archive of marinas, fuel stations, repair shops, and boat dealers, having this app in your pocket is well worth the expense.


    iSolunar is another app that comes at a small price from the app store.  Featuring top-rated solunar tables, iSolunar generates the important feeding and movement times for fish and game that can be tailored to your own specific location via a built in GPS system.  The app also offers moon phase, sunrise/sunset information, a four-day weather forecast, and multiple ways to share information.  But take heed, fellow hunters and fishermen.  Pay too much attention to solunar tables and you might catch yourself getting out less or in a weakened mental state at that.  Use them merely as a minor influence in planning an outing.

    No matter how paradoxical it seems, cell phone technologies are making inroads into our outdoor pursuits.  However, it should remain the goal of every outdoorsman to disconnect himself from worldly influences when in the field.  Instead, use these tools to plan your trip and in getting to the field prepared and efficiently, and you will surely enjoy more productive and exciting adventures afield.

*First published in The Rural Virginian

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