OnX Maps has a great reputation with public land hunters in the western half of the United States and they continue to build on that presence as more and more Eastern hunters employ the features and advantages provided through this innovative mobile app. Often the most discussed and frequently utilized feature of OnX maps is that the GPS function, (coupled with parcel boundary outlines), let’s you know exactly where you stand. So much so, in fact, that OnX has started a campaign around the hashtag “know where you stand”. This is certainly a hugely beneficial feature when hunting public land or private lands you are less familiar with. No one wants to find themselves on the wrong parcel or deal with the potential problems that can even accompany what are truly innocent mistakes. As valuable as this feature is, it is hardly the end of the plentiful list of benefits OnX can provide to whitetail hunters across the eastern half of the United States. The following are three features OnX provides that you may be currently underutilizing.
1. Desktop Mapping- Perhaps I am the only one, but it wasn’t until after I had been using OnX for a good bit that I realized a desktop version of the application was available. When I would scout with a hand held GPS I would always mark waypoints and then plug the GPS into my computer and look at my track and pins on a larger screen in order to evaluate how different areas of sign and travel interconnected. This would allow me to fine tune my stand selection and choose advantageous areas that allowed for better entrance and exit routes, as well as locate places that would lend themselves to playing the wind. OnX Maps for your desktop isn’t much different, except it is so user friendly that I now employ it as my starting point for scouting, in addition to it remaining an evaluation tool after my time in the timber.
So, I now plan my scouting trips via the desktop version of OnX maps. By taking advantage of a larger screen I am able to look a bigger area and more quickly zero in on potential food sources, high percentage terrain features and vegetation transitions that warrant a closer look. I can quickly drop pins on each hill point, marsh island or pine transition I want to investigate and progress through the parcel in the same way I plan to walk it. Because OnX waypoints are connected to the user’s account and not a device, the map on my cell phone is updated essentially in real time. The ability to more quickly drop my cyber-scouting waypoints via the desktop version and have them transfer to my phone without a cord or a memory card is an incredible time saver. Likewise, if you lose your device in the field, you haven’t lost your valuable intel!
When I get to put boots on the ground, I am able to walk from waypoint to waypoint, and either confirm or eliminate the area based on my findings. I never name the waypoints I drop when I am on the desktop version, but I do relocate them when I am on the parcel and determine the exact location of applicable sign and I name those waypoints. Afterward, I go back in and eliminate the unnamed points that were initially placed as my guideline, leaving only the labeled waypoints for future reference. This system makes my scouting incredibly efficient and keeps me on course and focused on getting through the property with purpose when I am in the field.
2. Possible Access- This map layer is often turned off, and in my opinion, it shouldn’t be. Ask anyone what the worst part of hunting public land is and the vast majority will say its the amount of other hunters one must inevitably deal with, especially in the more densely populated parts of the eastern US.
The Possible Access feature is a phenomenal way to find parcels that may be overlooked by other hunters. Some of these parcels are available to the public for hunting purposes but they are often not physically as well marked and as such are easily missed by the average passerby. One example of this type of property is conservation lands that may be privately owned but open to the public. I use OnX Maps on my desktop to quickly pan across a large area and locate these parcels. If the piece looks promising, I dig a little deeper. Often these properties come with some level of restricted access or weapon limitation. It takes some additional homework and internet searches to determine if the parcel is indeed open to hunting, and sometimes information is hard to come by. However, the way I see it is that this extra work creates additional barriers to entry. A certain percentage of hunters aren’t going to be willing to take the time to properly research access restrictions. Furthermore, weapons restrictions serve to weed out some of the traffic during hunting season and typically allow for older age classes of deer to survive and reside on the property. Both of these factors make it worthwhile to further research these potential hunting destinations.
3. Off Grid Mapping- A lot of the areas I hunt have little to no cell service. If you hunt in such an area, you may have concluded that the OnX app isn’t worth your while. In that case you would be missing out on one of its most valuable features. The Off Grid mapping feature allows you to trace and load a hunt area to your mobile device. This allows you to view map layers within that area, in addition to toggling between Topo, Satellite and Hybird map views even without cell service. The OnX app still interacts with the GPS feature on your phone, so you will still know where you stand. Waypoints that are dropped when utilizing an Off Grid map are still saved to your account profile and will be there for you when you return to civilization. Always make sure your Off Grid map is properly saved and loaded to your phone before you leave home or camp. You don’t want to get to that remote piece of public ground and find out the map imagery you thought you saved isn’t there and have no cell service available to retrieve it! Areas with low cell reception are also a huge drain on your battery because your phone is constantly searching for signal as you go in and out of the coverage area. The Off Grid feature allows you to put your phone on “airplane mode” and keep on mapping. The battery conservation this provides is significant; and it is a bonus in terms of both convenience and safety. Even so, I almost always take an external power cell that gives me a couple extra charges on my phone as an additional safety precaution.
There is a lot of hunting gear, tools and gadgetry that is specifically developed and marketed toward the casual user. Plenty of other items perform to the extent to which a hunter chooses to utilize all of their available features. OnX is one of the latter. The OnX Maps app will assist your hunting and scouting efforts to precisely the level you ask of it. If you utilize all that it has to offer, it will quickly earn a spot amongst the most valuable weapons in your arsenal.