BirdsEye Satellite Imagery
Seeing vegetated areas is key for seeking out potential bedding areas and travel routes, but I take it a step further by downloading a satellite image onto my Garmin GPS. Iíve been using Google Earth to ďscoutĒ from home and see what my hunting area looks like from the sky, but itís not always easy to remember it perfectly. So, having an areaís satellite image on your GPS can be a very useful tool - especially when hunting elk - to help locate good-looking meadows, timber pockets, etc.
BirdsEye Satellite Imagery: This is a screen shot of the BirdsEye Satellite Imagery from a Garmin GPS; itís not hard to see the value in this, as spotting the best meadows is even easier than reading a topo map.
I was able to get this onto my GPS through Garminís website for $30 (annual subscription with unlimited downloads). If you know all the areas you will hunt in the next few years, you can download everything you need in the one-year subscription.
The product is called BirdsEye Satellite Imagery and you can find it at garmin.com. Click on the ďMapsĒ tab and it will ask you what GPS model you own (to make sure you have a model that is BirdsEye-compatible). The model Iíve been using is Garminís Oregon 550t. This is one of their higher end units with all the frills in a 1.5Ēx2.5Ē high-res touch screen and 3.2-megapixel camera built in, preloaded U.S. topo maps, barometric altimeter, 3-axis electronic compass, and microSD card slot. There are less expensive models that will accept the third-party software by MontanaGPSmaps and also the BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, such as the Garmin Dakota 20 (touch-screen) and the eTrex 20 and 30 models (no touch screen). These will get the job done just fine, but they have smaller screens with a lower resolution and fewer frills.
Topo Map Viewed on GPS: While this topo map, viewed off of a good GPS screen, is clear and easy to read, itís limited in how much detail you can see due to the small screen vs a larger printed topo map. Using both in tandem is hard to beat.
Practice Makes Perfect
Iím not going to try any make anyone think that learning to read maps and understand GPS technology is fast and easy, because it isnít. Itís not much different than learning to become accurate with your bow or rifle; it just takes time and practice.
If you have trouble reading maps accurately, then take the time to stop at a vantage point where you have a good view of the terrain around you and pull out the topo map. Compare how you see thing on the map with the actual terrain, and it will help you improve over time.
The same goes for learning how to use your GPS to its full potential. You arenít going to get much out of it if you only designate a few minutes right before you leave for a hunt to try and load some map software onto your GPS. Designate at least an evening or two prior to your hunt to learn how to load the items you want and then allow yourself time to test it out, so you know you have what you need and how to use it.
Wrapped with a Bow
To summarize, I use three different tools that give me different types of data: 1) a BLM or Forest Service map that shows broad scale; 2) a GPS loaded with third-party map software; and 3) a good 7.5-minute map that can show me detail for reading terrain accurately.
This system may seem excessive to some, but it makes a huge difference in the outcome of my hunts. There is nothing worse than getting up on a vantage point, seeing a large herd of elk a few miles away, and having no idea how to access them or if they are even on public land. Without a good map system, it can ultimately cost you your trophy bull. Take my advice and make sure you invest the time and money in having the mapping equipment and info you need to get the most out of your hunt.
This article originally appeared in Elk Hunter Magazine and appears courtesy of Elk Hunter Magazine. Elk Hunter Magazine is THE magazine for the hunter passionate about elk hunting, and is made up of the most experienced, well-respected elk hunters in the industry.
Join the discussion of this article HERE at the Article Discussion Forum.