To get the best results from public land hunting you have to be mobile. I say this assuming that you cannot bait deer and cannot use game cameras. Not having a resource to track deer or bring them in can be a challenge so how do you overcome it?
What is OnX Hunt
OnX is a gps mapping app for your phone. It has the unique ability to show you property boundaries as well as owner information. You start out with a free trail period where you can download 1 map for free. This map can be anywhere you choose. So if you’re planning a hiking trip or hunting you can try it for free! The maps come in 3 different sizes all varying in degree of detail. I downloaded the most detailed map which is 5 square miles. That option will let you zoom in to 50ft with detail. Once a map is downloaded to your phone you can see it with your exact location as long as your phone has battery.
After the free trial period has elapsed you will be prompted to purchase the app. You can choose 1 whole state for 30$ a year or unlimited states for $14.99 monthly or $99 for a year. After you choose option you want you can then begin downloading your maps you wish to be able to use offline with no phone service. When compared to the cost of a gps unit and paper maps this is a great price. Assuming you already own a smart phone you will only have to spend between $30 and $99 depending on how many states you want access to.
Why do you need the OnX Hunt App
Most of the commercials and marketing OnX does is geared toward keeping you on legal hunting land. There is a button you press that will place a map overlay showing public and private land boundaries and your current exact location. While this is helpful I don’t see it as the main strength.
The main thing I use OnX for is scouting for deer. Especially on DIY public land hunts where the terrain is unfamiliar this app is absolutely essential. For example, I used this map to hunt in Osceola National Forest in Florida. Because the area is so big it’s easy to drive all day and never see another person or find an exit. I use the satellite view to find things like potential bedding areas, streams, big clumps of Oak trees, and natural pinch points for deer. Then I drive right to the nearest road and walk in with my phone. I never have to worry about checking my direction which allows me to instead focus on scouting for deer sign and following the trails.
The best deer scouting tip
Download OnX maps. I am not affiliated with the company at all. I’m just a very satisfied customer and the app has allowed me to get out in places I couldn’t before. Find a place where you can clearly see a natural funnel or a clump if Oak trees in between two high fields. Use the app to walk in and turn in the tracker feature before you go. This will show you exactly where you walked and put a line on the map everywhere you’ve been. Once you get in follow every deer trail you see while looking for scrape lines and buck rubs. Once you look at your map you should clearly see a place where all the trails converge on on area. If you’re satisfied with the amount of buck sign in that area you just found your new hunting spot!
What can OnX maps do
Once you have offline maps downloaded to your phone you can go anywhere and see your exact gps location as a blue dot on that map. I will go from left to right on the screenshot image above and explain the feature.
- Map layers- Allows you to add public and private land boundaries, timber cuts, current wildfires, NWTF info, and Rocky Mountain Elk foundation info. I mainly use this to find new smaller parcels of public land that are accessible that are less known by the public. Layers is also packed with trail information like slope and recreation areas so you can have a better experience hiking.
- Off grid- This is where your offline maps are downloaded and stored.
- My content- Keeps track of all your maps,waypoints,lines, basically anything you’ve saved to your map is in this folder as well as on the map itself.
- Map Tools- Several useful tools are in this tab.
- Line distance- Finds the exact distance between any two points. I use this when scouting to see how far off a road I will need to walk to get to an area of interest.
- Area shape- Simply finds the square area of any shaped area you want. So if there is a small pond you could see exactly how big it is to know if it’s worth fishing or not.
- Add waypoint- The most used tool on my app is add waypoint. A waypoint is a location you save on a gps. This means after you hike in a mile to place your new lock on stand you can add a waypoint and your On X app will bring you back to it later. I also use this to mark my truck when fishing a new river to see how far away I am from the dock. It is also useful for marking potential hunting sites and naming the location something you can remember like 10 point deer crossed here. That way months or years later you can see why you marked a certain area.
- Mark my location- Used to drop a waypoint at your current location.
- Tracker- records the time, distance and speed traveled after being activated. This is very useful when on hiking or hunting trips. Say you realize you dropped your car keys somewhere along the route. This will bring you back along your exact tracks to find them. Also great as I mentioned before to mark deer or game trails.
Overlooked features of OnX
I love bass fishing. When my wife and I go out of town for any reason we take our boat with us. Before OnX we would have a hard time finding boat ramps. The ramps marked on websites are often not there or a better boat ramp is not on the website. OnX maps shows every boat ramp in the state you download. In my state of Florida it will even show primitive boat ramps where you can launch a boat but there is no concrete ramp. Add the ability to go anywhere in a big marsh system and find your way back and drop waypoints on good fishing spots and this quickly becomes worth every penny of the $30 yearly subscription.
OnX also has a direction tool. This will show you exactly what direction your phone is pointing on the map. Say you want to hit a certain area or find a waypoint. If you click the crosshairs in the bottom right of the map screen it will show a blue direction beacon on your location. As you turn your body the beacon will turn and show exactly which direction you’re facing. This is useful when finding your way out of the woods at night and also when traveling unmarked back roads off grid.
Some things I have used On X Hunt for
- As simple navigation for driving deep forest roads with no phone service.
- To find hidden boat ramps.
- I have found great stand locations and market them for future use.
- Navigating through the woods on foot at night.
- For sending screen shots to a friend to give my location.
- To find private land adjoining public land to gain owner permission to hunt.
- For navigating waterways with maze-like paths.
- To simply get a birds eye view on the lay of the land to find terrain features.
OnX Hunt Maps is the best app an outdoor enthusiast can purchase.