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7. Best Hunting GPS App: HuntLogix Scoutlook
Available for iOS and Android, ScoutLook hunting is an all-encompassing hunting app by HuntLogix.
It contains many free features along with some very nice paid features.
It includes many GPS features such as showing your location on the map, tracking your movements, and placing waypoints. There are also weather forecasts and advisories. You can see the weather radar and have access to a cloud view.
However, this app also has a bunch of hunting-specific features not yet found in dedicated handheld units.
For example, the app uses the weather information to estimate a ScentCone, which shows on the map where your scent may be flowing downwind.
You can also find the estimated peak game activity times, high and low tides, and see the day’s mosquito level!
Also, you can mark the map however you wish. There’s also a measuring tool.
However, if you pay some money, your experience improves.
First of all, this gets rid of all of the ads. They are not as bad as some apps, but they can still be annoying.
Even better is the property data. It’s a monthly subscription, but you only have to pay for the months you want to use it.
This data includes property lines and information on the type of property, who owns it, and how to contact the landowner—if the data is available, of course. HuntLogix claims they have data for 97% of the US.
With the property data, you’ll be able to tell whether you’re on private or public land, which is very useful for avoiding trespassing!
Why Is a Hunting GPS Necessary?
Many people can navigate with little more than a compass and a map.
Add on an altimeter, and you can more accurately fix your location on a map.
However, these skills take lots of practice and can be hard to use in the field. You don’t want to be learning life-or-death skills for the first time while lost in the mountains.
A GPS may not be a complete substitute for a physical compass, but it can provide a great amount of data to make your navigation easier. Also, it’ll make the map-using part much easier, as most of them can show you, within several meters, your exact location!
How does a GPS work?
GPS stands for Global Positioning System. This is a large array of dozens of satellites orbiting the Earth. Each of these satellites has an atomic clock for accurate timekeeping.
As they orbit the Earth, the satellites broadcast their time and location over radio. GPS receivers take the radio waves from multiple satellites and use the fact that radio waves propagate at a certain rate to figure out the time passed since broadcast and reception.
This data from multiple satellites is collected and compared so the GPS receiver can calculate its current location.
GPS receivers can work anywhere in the world because they are not dependent on cellular data.
Why use a GPS instead of a phone app?
Well, I do like using phone apps for navigation. Your smartphone is also a GPS receiver and can display maps.
But phones aren’t designed for hardcore outdoor GPS use. Most phones aren’t ruggedized or waterproof. Screens can crack, and batteries will die. Plus, in a survival situation, you should save your batteries for communication, not navigation!
The main reason to use a dedicated GPS unit, however, is hardware related. Smartphones may have a GPS receiver, but they won’t be as good as a dedicated unit. The phone typically uses cell networks to triangulate your position, augmented by the GPS.
Handheld GPS receivers will have better satellite antennas and therefore better reception. Not only will they be more accurate, but you’ll be able to use them anywhere in the world, not just where you can find cell signal.
Also, GPS units have many dedicated features useful for hunting. They’ll be able to keep track of many trails and waypoints without having to use a paid or ad-ridden app.
What information does a GPS give you?
Not every GPS capability is included above because almost all GPS devices share the same basic features.
Nearly all GPS receivers give you the following information:
- Your location in coordinates
- Your elevation
- Your heading
- The time
- How far you’ve traveled
- Waypoints, which are useful for marking deer sign, trail cameras, your base camp, etc.
Also, many but not all handheld GPS units have these features:
- Preplanned routes
- New route calculation in the field
- Route recording and retracing
- Sensors such as a compass or barometric altimeter for more accurate elevation and heading data
- Topographical maps
- Satellite maps
Mapping GPS receivers are easy to navigate with. Others are just one part of a larger toolset which you need to use to get through the wild safely.
How To Choose A GPS For Hunting?
You can buy a hunting GPS for a little over $100, or you can spend over $500. While they all share some basic features, mentioned above, there is a big difference between the cheapest and most expensive GPS receivers.
Do you need to pay for the extra features?
GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It was originally a military network developed by the United States but has been declassified so civilians can use it as well.
However, GPS is not the only radio-navigation satellite network.
The Russian Federation developed their own version of the GPS network called GLONASS. That basically translates to “Global Navigation Satellite System.”
Like GPS, GLONASS was originally a military project that can now be used by civilians. So, many GPS receivers can connect to GLONASS as a supplement.
Doing so lets the unit receive info from more satellites, which increases both the accuracy and speed of the location fixing. This is especially notable in latitudes further away from the equator because there are fewer satellites far north or south.
However, operating on two networks increases the battery drain significantly.
So, if you are hunting in the South or don’t mind slightly slower location updates, you don’t need to spring for a GPS + GLONASS receiver.
However, if you’re hunting in Alaska or want quick GPS updates because you’re using an ATV or another fast vehicle, then buying a receiver that can listen to both sets of satellites will be beneficial.
Constantly listening to four or more satellites and calculating your position based on that data drains electronics quickly. This applies to both phones and handheld GPS receivers.
Most handheld units claim a battery life of about 16 hours in the field. That doesn’t seem like much, but you don’t need the GPS unit connecting and recording when you’re staying still.
So, careful battery management can extend that lifetime considerably.
Thankfully, almost all of these GPS receivers use AA or AAA batteries, so when the unit dies, you can bring it online again quickly.
Just remember to bring those batteries!
Still, a longer battery life is always better. You’ll have to pay less attention to optimizing your GPS usage, and you’ll swap out batteries less frequently.
However, if you only go on single-day hunts, then you don’t need to pay any real consideration to battery life. Use whichever hunting GPS works best for you, even if it goes through batteries quickly.
A hunting GPS needs at least one antenna to receive radio transmissions from the positioning satellites.
Larger GPS units can support larger and multiple antennas. This will improve the signal reception quality, making your unit fix your location faster.
A GPS receiver will be able to calculate your elevation by calculating satellite angles.
Then, after you’ve moved a bit, it can figure out which direction you’re going and give you your heading. Or, maybe there’s a digital compass that calculates the heading by seeing which satellite is in front of your unit.
Those methods are inaccurate.
If you want the best accuracy, you need a hunting GPS with built-in atmospheric sensors.
A physical compass in the device will be much more accurate than a digital compass. Same with a barometric altimeter. That sensor also gives your unit the ability to make certain weather predictions.
You should carry a compass with you anyway, and an altimeter watch is not a bad idea. Having those sensors in your GPS will make it more accurate and able to offer you more information in the field.
But, for shorter hunting trips, this extra info may not be necessary.
Pretty much every hunting GPS will be waterproof and resistant to dust and bumps.
What use is a delicate GPS in the rough woods?
Even the touchscreens on these units will be tougher than the one on your phone.
However, if you’re going to use the GPS in a rocky area, it would be a good idea to choose a unit with rubber armor. It’s that much more protection against falls.
Map Display Screen
Mapping GPS receivers do a lot of the navigation work for you.
They not only calculate your location, elevation, and heading, but they also display that information on a map, which you can then pan around to get a better idea of the surrounding area.
This is wonderful, but it is a bit of a crutch.
Even ruggedized hunting GPS units can fail, especially with large, vulnerable screens.
Many people recommend knowing how to navigate without a mapping GPS so you won’t be left up the proverbial creek if you realize you left the spare batteries at home.
A GPS without a map display will have a better battery life while being less vulnerable to damage. It’ll still heavily augment your navigation skills, which you should practice anyway.
What I’m saying is that it’s nice to have a GPS unit which can display maps, but you shouldn’t rely on one. You don’t technically need a map display because you should have local maps with you anyway.
Top GPS Brand
There is only one hunting GPS manufacturer to consider at this point in time: Garmin.
They used to have a competitor in Magellan. However, Magellan’s units were almost always poorly received. You can still buy Magellan hunting GPS receivers, but they have all been discontinued. Magellan focuses on larger systems now, such as for your car.
So, if you want a hunting GPS, you have to buy a Garmin.
Garmin originated in Lenexa, Kansas in 1989 and currently has its headquarters in Olathe, Kansas.
Garmin is well known for its hunting and fishing electronics. They obviously make hunting GPS units, but their support for sportsmen doesn’t end there. Garmin also produces fish-finders, dog training tools, and personal training tools.
They also produce GPS-related electronics for boats. For planes, they have more comprehensive avionics, including GPS systems, transponders, multi-function displays, and radar systems. Garmin even pioneered the first GPS receiver certified by the FAA for instrument landings.
Garmin also competes with Fitbit and the Apple Watch for wearable electronics. They started with the Forerunner, a wrist-mounted tool for runners, but they also have a series of smartwatches and other ANT+ tools available.
Through all of this, Garmin has remained one of the top GPS receiver companies in the world. If you have a GPS navigator in your car, chances are it’s made by Garmin.
How do I set up my hunting GPS?
The initial setup for your GPS depends on the unit in question.
Some can be used immediately after opening the box. At least one requires connecting to a PC to go through the initial configuration.
Once you have your GPS set up, you’ll need to go through a short startup every time you use it.
Whenever you turn on your GPS, it has to acquire the satellites because they are in constant motion.
After that, you should reset your device’s trip data and clear any logs you don’t need anymore.
Then, set a waypoint at your starting position.
You’ll also need to calibrate the compass and altimeter, if there is one.
Once that’s all done, your GPS is good to go!
Will my hunting GPS work everywhere?
The GPS network encompasses the whole earth, and so it’s easy to describe a hunting GPS as working worldwide.
While that’s true, there are certain limitations on where you can use your GPS.
Basically, your GPS needs to be able to “see” the satellites it’s listening to. Radio waves can penetrate some objects, such as clouds and light tree cover, but will be blocked by heavy cover.
So, your GPS may not work the best in downtown New York City thanks to all of the skyscrapers.
And if you’re in a canyon, you can basically forget getting signal! The canyon walls will prevent your GPS from reading anything.
Do I need a map display?
Maps are wonderful things to have and use, but an electronic map can be a crutch you’re helpless without it when the device dies.
If you feel you need a hunting GPS which can display a map, then what you really need to do is practice your navigation skills until you don’t need it anymore.
Then, you can use the map display, not as a crutch, but as a powerful navigation tool that will help ensure a successful hunt.
Then, when you drop the GPS on a rock and break the screen, no big deal. You’ll be able to get home without it!