Smartphones changing the rules in hunting and fishing

Jim Freeman In The Open

May 17, 2014

To quote Yogi Berra, “the future ain’t what it used to be.”

Growing up when I did, the popular vision of what the future held involved cities on the moon and flying cars, neither of which has come to pass, but I never imagined the real future would be symbolized by an object a little larger than a pack of cards with the ability to put the whole world at our fingertips.

Ultimately we’re all going to have to decide for ourselves whether technology is improving or ruining outdoor pastimes like hunting and fishing; I assume it’s a question that came up the first time homo erectus attached a sharp rock to a stick and used it to clobber some unsuspecting Pleistocene critter.

I recently got a new smartphone, a move I had been resisting until my “dinosaur” cell phone finally died. Up to that point, my experience with smartphones was pretty much limited to asking my wife to look at the weather radar or to find the cheapest nearby gas station.

For some of you, particularly the younger crowd, this column comes a couple of years too late, but for some us just getting used to the technology it can be a little overwhelming.

After a little familiarization I began downloading apps for bird identification, weather, stargazing and other outdoor related things. As my oldest daughter put it, I actually managed to make an iPhone 5 “uncool.” Success!

I have this discussion with other hunters recently, and fishermen too, where they have posted photos of their trophies or their children’s trophies and catches on social media directly from the field, sharing them with all their friends and family in seconds. In most cases they have checked their deer or turkey from also right there in the field.

On a more serious note, your phone can also alert you to the approach of dangerous weather, summon help if you are lost or injured, or even let your friends and family know precisely where you are.

A quick search of the internet revealed smartphone apps that can do all of the following:

Identify some strange bird you just saw.

Predict the best times for hunting and fishing.

Help you practice calling for waterfowl, wild turkey or predators.

Record your hunts and save data for statistical analysis.

Get tips from a survival manual.

Assist you with marksmanship and calculate bullet trajectory.

Look at maps and aerial photographs of your hunting areas or even track your hunting buddies.

Find places to fish and check reports and reviews.

Find the closest or cheapest gas station.

Check out places to eat and read reviews.

Read your favorite hunting and fishing magazine or chat with friends if you get bored.

Find a Geocache.

The list is literally endless. For the record I haven’t actually tested all of these apps (who has time for that?) but they are out there and all of this power is at your fingertips… that is, if you have signal or if your battery doesn’t die.

Of course you can buy hunting and fishing licenses and tags and check your game on a smartphone, and take a photo of your license and keep it on your phone so that if you lose it you can print out another. The paper copy of hunting and fishing licenses may soon be obsolete, but for now Ohio Revised Code still requires you to carry your printed license(s) on your person while hunting and/or fishing.

A smartphone literally takes the place of several commonly carried items: a phone, watch, computer, camera, etc. From a safety point of view, make sure you carry your phone on your person instead of in a bag or pack - it doesn’t do you any good if it is still up in a tree while you are sprawled out on the ground below after a fall, also invest in a good case and perhaps a portable power pack for recharges afield.

I will leave it up to you to decide if it is a good thing to literally carry the world in your pocket with you when you are hunting or fishing, but one thing for sure is that it isn’t going away.

Jim Freeman is wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District and a long-time contributor to the Sunday Times-Sentinel. His column generally appears every other Sunday. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at