If you have a handheld GPS unit, you can really put it to use for your hunting. Even in preparing for the next season.

Of course a smart phone with a GPS program will work to a degree, but it will not be as accurate if you use your GPS with the wide area augmentation system (WAAS) feature activated.

I suggest you make another trip or two to your hunting area, taking your GPS with you. Yes, I know you know the area like the back of your hand, but the positions captured by your GPS might show you shortcuts, as well as improve your hunting next year, especially when shown or transferred to a map.

Put away your forestry flagging tape and mark your locations with the precision of GPS. 

Winter weather should have knocked down most of the ground foliage, or at least have limited it to a great deal. In addition, the leaves on deciduous trees have all but disappeared, and those conditions now allow hunters to scout and mark areas of interest by using GPS units.

Doing so when there are little or no foliage will allow you to see rubs, tracks, scrapes, squirrel nests and turkey roosting sites more clearly.

It will also allow you to mark any of the areas where you harvested game. 

You will be able to see where the most-productive hunting areas are located and will help avoid certain areas because of no activity or hazards. You might end up moving your stand to one of the new areas.

Also, if you hunt with a club, you can mark all the stands and assign them names for next year. You might be surprised to see where these stands are located when plotted on a hard-copy map of the area.

Of course, knowing the deep holes in your duck pond is also a great benefit, and can even be a life saver.

Most GPS units allow you to lay a trail or track to and from an area, and it gives you the opportunity to mark significant locations for future use.

Start with the GPS unit. You should begin your day by clearing your track log. Either save your important existing tracks as a specific number for later use or delete them from the internal memory of the unit.

This will give you a clean slate of new tracks for your present journey in the woods. Be sure to turn on the track feature after clearing the existing memory.

If you are going to a tried-and-true stand, the unit will trace your steps to it. If you have to scout for a stand, the unit will show you the route you choose for getting to the stand. 

When you get to your starting point, turn the unit on and mark the position as a waypoint. I call mine “Start.” Be sure the GPS is recording your position and begin your journey. 

Pay attention to any deer scrapes, rubs, bedding areas, nests or turkey roosting trees and, of course, any antler drops you encounter.

Mark and save these locations for future use.

Also capture special locations such as trail junctions, creek crossings, feed areas and the necessary navigation points.

Mark the locations in your GPS as a waypoint. When your trip is complete, turn the GPS unit off.

After returning to your home or camp, transfer the waypoints, tracks and trails to your manufacturer’s data transfer program in your computer or to an appropriate mapping program such as Google Earth.

Convert the data to the proper data format.

By using whatever program you have in your computer, convert the tracks to a route. It is nearly impossible to follow a track or trail over and over again when leaving and accessing your hunting area. By having the points saved as a route, the GPS will do the work for you, telling you where each turn is located, the name of the location, how far and bearing to the next turn, and how long will it take you to reach the next leg point.

Save the amended track to a route. For returning back to the starting point you should simply reverse the route. 

It is worth your time and effort to get the most-current information you can for the next hunting season.