Monday, March 10, 2014
By Bob Humphrey
For many a woods-worn hunter, mention of the term "hunting camp" evokes images of a cabin in the woods, dimly lit by gaslight, Winchester 30-30s and Remington 742s hanging in the gun rack while plaid wool jackets dry by the wood stove and venison heart sizzles in the frying pan. But the latest generation of hunters may already have a very different visual image. I visit a dozen or more hunting camps across the country each year and increasingly find one of the most useful and most used tools in camp are a computer and a smartphone.
With a few clicks you can log onto sites like Google Earth and view recent aerial photos of your hunting area. Use them to find habitat funnels that constrict deer movement, isolated beaver ponds that will attract ducks, or recent cuts that might hold grouse and woodcock.
Knowing the weather can make a difference in how you plan your hunt. Just log on to one of dozens of sites to get the short- or long-term forecast. You can check wind direction, tides, barometric pressure and get past, present and future radar images. There's even a sight -- Scoutlook.com -- where you can place a pin on an aerial photo of your location and it will show you your scent cone.
Want to know what's happening in the woods right now? Facebook pages like Maine Deer Hunters, Maine Turkey Hunters, Maine Moose Hunters and Maine Bear Hunters are full of folks sharing information on their latest adventures, successes and failures afield. If you've taken up enhancing your property with food plots, there's even a page for that. Ask a question and you may get more advice than you can use.
Game regulations, seasons, bag limits and hunting hours are complex and constantly changing. If you have a question but left the rule book at home, you can log onto your state's website for a comprehensive summary. Most sites even have maps and descriptions of public hunting areas.
One of the greatest benefits of Internet access is online licensing. You can simply log on to the state's website, buy your license or permits and print them out any time.
Smartphones offer the added advantage of accessing all of the above and more in the field. Pass the long hours on a stand reading online hunting articles or playing games. Look up a recipe for the game you just bagged. Text other hunters or summon for help if it's needed.
If you feel guilty using the latest and greatest technology, bear in mind that our forefathers rarely failed to incorporate technological advancements of their day. As soon as funds allowed they replaced their flintlocks with caplocks, then blackpowder components with smokeless powder cartridges, and later single-shot guns with repeating rifles and shotguns. The bolt-action was supplanted by the slide action and eventually the autoloader. Folks now wear moisture-wicking synthetic base layers treated with anti-microbial scent-suppressers instead of cotton union suits, and carry air-activated hand and foot warmers.
There are still those who eschew technology, claiming it's the ruination of hunting. To each his own. There's still a place for the wool-clad hunter toting a lever action Winchester 30-30 in the deer woods, and a seat in the blind for the duck hunter wearing a brown canvas Mackinaw and shooting a Browning A5 Humpback, right alongside us modern techno geeks.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: