There are a number of apps available now for your smartphone that are extremely helpful for navigating in the backcountry while you’re hunting. I’m a fairly traditional guy in a lot of ways, though, and I’m still clinging to my map and compass. I did branch out into the GPS world several years ago, but I always have a map and compass in the pack wherever I go.
These mapping apps do more than just help you figure out where you are, though, and they can be constantly updated or overlaid with layers that tell you if you’re on public or private property, what hunt area you’re in, and much more.
The apps that cost money tend to be the ones with the best features. BaseMap is about $30 a year; Huntwise is about $50 per year; and OnXHunt is either $20 a year for one state or $100 per year for all 50 states.
There’s at least one other option that’s free, though. FarWide is not as robust as those pay-to-play apps, but it’s decent as a basic navigation aid. I haven’t figured out a way to get a topographic overlay on it yet. I don’t think it has that option. It’s also missing many of the overlays OnXHunt has, like land ownership.
FarWide does have hunt area boundaries, though, and just like the other apps, it can show you where you are on that map when you’re using it with your smartphone.
Any one of these apps would be a great tool for hunting. I am still partial to OnXHunt, though, so I’ll stick with it as a supplement to my map and compass. I just have the one-state version right now, and that’s all I really need.
I will say I’m finding myself using the mapping app more often than my map and compass – at least, as much as the battery on my phone lets me. That’s one good thing about a paper map – it won’t die on you when you need it.