Spot and Stalk Hunting and GPS Technology

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By Tayler Michels | Passion for the Hunt Television

Tools and technology have completely changed spot and stalk hunting.  Better optics enable hunters to find the desired animal.  Rangefinders eliminate any guess work. Hunters today use specialized pieces of equipment that increase the odds for a successful stalk.  GPS technology is another tool that is extremely valuable for spot and stalk western big game hunting.
Perhaps the most common function for using GPS concerns access.  It’s hard to imagine a hunter intentionally trespassing on private land, as most do not want to be in the wrong place unintentionally.  Some regions have a confusing patchwork of private and public land with no noticeable marker or boundaries.  Public land tracks are easy to find, and with some programs or apps like Hunt Trax, the hunter can also see who owns private land.  Besides remaining law abiding, GPS can also serve as a valuable tool for planning stalks particularly by using the contour lines available on GPS.  With GPS, the hunter can judge distances and plan stalks by using the terrain features – a very valuable tool.

Which do you prefer?


As a big game hunting guide in eastern Montana, I use my GPS every day. I can’t afford to be wrong when defining property lines or planning a lengthy stalk. Features I like in a GPS include a large touch screen, excellent mapping display and two-way radio capabilities as well as weather alerts. Not all GPS units are the same.  It’s important to assess the features of each unit and pick something that fits what you plan to use it for.

One feature to consider when choosing the right GPS is reception.  Accuracy of your position is dependent on how many satellites your GPS can pick up.  A bigger, stronger antenna will give you better reception.  If you are hunting out

west in the mountains covered up in timber, you will want something with elite reception. If you spend most your time in open farm country, most GPSes will have no trouble picking up strong signal.

Not all GPS units have the same display. Definition and readability are key. In a stressful hunting situation, there’s no time for second guessing what your GPS is showing you.  Better units will have adjustable backlighting for the screen display making it easy to see and define during any lighting situation including direct sunlight.  All units will look reasonably good or great in a store with soft light. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the settings and how to adjust for better viewing. This goes along with usability as well.

Many GPS units come with some general mapping software already in them.  You will need to download or buy additional maps to show topography and property lines.  Make sure the GPS you pick can run whatever mapping system you plan to install.

Handheld units can range from $40 to $1,000 or more depending on the unit and capabilities.  Don’t feel pressure to buy the most expensive GPS. You might be paying for features you’ll never use. Read reviews other hunters have on a particular GPS.  For most hunting situations, $150-$300 will get you into a variety of quality handhelds that will last a long time.

GPS technology gives hunters the ability to hunt in a safer way. When darkness falls onto the landscape, and you need to find your way back to the pickup or camp, it’s your GPS that will take you there. Some units can share information with each other. In areas without cell reception, some units can display locations of other units.  If one hunter needs help, his partner can display his location and walk right to him. Hunters can also use GPS features to navigate faster and more efficiently through rough terrain than they could before.  With GPS, a hunter doesn’t have to guess where he/she is or estimate how far they are from the destination. With advancements in GPS technology, hunting changes from a game of estimations and guessing to pure precision efficiency.

How can GPS make you a better hunter?


Here are some tips on using GPS features that will help make you a more successful hunter.  Mark waypoints on points of interest when out in the field. Whether you’re out scouting or shed hunting in the spring and summer, especially during hunting season, always have a GPS along and every time you observe sign of your quarry, map it.  Overtime waypoints will add up and you will be able to identify patterns based on a compilation of your individual encounters. As time goes on,
you will become a more efficient hunter, knowing which types of topography to focus on and what contours the animals like to spend their time.  Essentially, you can eliminate dead space where most likely the animals WON’T be and accurately identify specific types of areas where you’ve experienced encounters before.

Hunt planning is a huge part of each fall, putting together all the details of a hunting trip is a pivotal part of the process.  Reverting to the maps and compiling your waypoints will show you not only where to start but what to look for in terms of topography and habitat.

In a spot and stalk situation a GPS can make all the difference. Spotting a bedded animal at a distance and planning a stalk using information provided by your GPS is incredibly effective. Your GPS will identify topography that may not be visible from any given vantage point. What you see between you and a bedded buck isn’t always what you encounter during the stalk. Things start to look different, and it is easy to miss your mark particularly when you are crawling. Set a waypoint as close as you can to the location you want to sneak to. Plan a course of action based on the evident contours represented on your GPS map and you won’t get turned around. You can use your rangefinder for more accurate distance estimations as well. Couple that with the distance and topography on your GPS, and your stalks will no longer be a guessing game full of mishaps and hard lessons learned.

Hunting techniques and strategies are changing with the times. Hunters are evolving with every new piece of technology invented. Studying the nuances of handheld GPS units is proving to be a revolution in hunting across the board. For expert advice on finding the right handheld GPS for your hunting applications, spend time with the hunting experts at SCHEELS to compare different units and software.  There is no doubt that handheld GPS can make you a much more successful hunter.

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