Turkey hunters who own handheld GPS units have a great advantage over other hunters.
Handheld units have a big advantage over smartphones in that they are designed around the GPS module and do not add the GPS feature as an afterthought.
Also, they can provide tracks and establish routes to hunting areas and save them to a data file.
And they don’t need constant contact with a cell tower to obtain their map images.
Most importantly, they deliver position accuracy to within 3 meters when using the WAAS differential system.
Modern GPS units can be purchased with electronic compasses, barometers/altimeters and even a high-resolution cameras.
Most are waterproof and can accommodate supplemental mapping programs that offer very, very detailed views in a USGS topographical format and even with aerial photo maps.
All of these advantages allow the user to have reliable mapping data even when out of range of the telephone cellular network. It is well worth the cost and time to have a GPS unit configured with these options.
As for the use of a GPS while hunting, they provide an invaluable tool for marking sign, tracks and stands. It can also provide a trail in and out of the area, which is particularly useful when hunting turkey.
Once a likely area is located, my turkey hunting usually has me scouting the area before I actually begin my hunt for that day, looking for droppings that indicate roosting activity and for clear spots where they were wing scraping the ground and can land from the roost.
I then return silently to the area later to actually hunt.
The problem in the past was finding the exact roosting area again without alerting the entire woods that I was there.
Usually this entailed marking my trail with small pieces of flagging tape or reflective tacks from the roosting areas and following the trail back in again at daylight the next morning to a position about 100 yards away. But sometimes l actually walked up to the roost, which seriously messed up my hunting.
The trail-marking technique usually worked, but it caused me headaches if I had to move around to find a prospective hunting location.
GPS solved the problem. By using the track-back or trail feature of the unit, I am able to electronically mark the locations and approach them in the dark the next morning using the data collected by the GPS unit.
My loving wife made a pocket high on the off gun shoulder of my hunting vest where I carry the GPS unit. I use a shoelace-like cord to secure it to my vest.
From that position, it can easily receive the necessary satellite info to determine my position.
I turn on my GPS unit when leaving my truck. I mark the position calling it “Truck,” and then I begin my scouting. The GPS unit records my wandering trails in the woods.
Once I find a roosting area, I mark it and find a likely stand area about 100 yards away.
I then leave the area and begin looking for other likely hunting locations.
Once home, I download all of the information using the manufacturer’s data transfer program and saved it to a file in my computer. This allows me to edit the data and save it as a backup to my waypoint and track data files.
Use the technology to assist you, but never rely just on it for your safety.
By no means do I suggest that you use only a GPS unit when venturing out. I strongly suggest to all of my seminar attendees and readers that they at least have a hard-copy map and magnetic compass, and whatever you may need to make the GPS work.
I carry a whistle and a spare set of batteries. Today, this usually means only two batteries, but I can remember when handheld units needed eight batteries.
If I am hunting with others, we share the exact location where we will be hunting.
As most turkey hunters know, hunting is often met with failure, but any day in the woods is a liberating experience.
I consider GPS an aid to my safety, and success in the woods and on the water.