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Hunters get help from smartphone apps

7:31 AM, Nov 23, 2012   |    comments
Donnie Kasat, left, and Mike Wagner of Eau Claire, Wis. walk along a trial in the Clark County forest near Fairchild, Wis. while hunting.(Photo: Shane Opatz, AP)
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MADISON, WIS. -- There was a time when hunters took to the woods with little more than a gun and ammunition. But as thousands gear up for the start of hunting season this month, many will be armed with something a lot more technical.

Tim Kuski of Wausau, Wis., will navigate the terrain around Rhinelander with satellite maps he downloaded on his smartphone as he takes part in his state's deer hunting season. "In my whole life, we used topographic maps to move around," Kuski says. "Now, with cellphone reception what it is, the GPS and the satellite views are amazing."

Smartphones are useful to hunters in ways far beyond navigation. A growing number of states and private companies are releasing smartphone apps that hunters can use to access key information while in the field.

Wisconsin released a 99-cent Android app this month that allows hunters to track the exact time of sunrise and sunset through the phone's GPS - information key to determine when it's legal to shoot small game, turkey, deer or bear.

"It's a handy little device and it does all the addition of times because as you move across the state of Wisconsin from east to west, or west to east, or north to south, the (hunting) times vary depending on location," says Karl Brooks, chief deputy warden for the state Department of Natural Resources. "What you see on your smartphone is when you can pull the trigger."

Elsewhere:

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's free iPhone app allows hunters to view season dates and bag limits as well as access a personalized trophy case.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resource's free iPhone app helps hunters find public hunting land in that state.

South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks free iPhone and Android app allows hunters to view regulations, download maps and apply for a hunting license.

A free iPhone and Android app released this month by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division includes maps of wildlife areas, species information and rules and regulations.

"We want to be able to get people information in a way that's convenient for them," says Liz Starkey, a spokeswoman for Georgia's wildlife division. "We are always looking for ways to reach our audience."

In addition to government hunting apps, hunters can use many private apps to monitor the weather, predict when game will move, measure ballistics and even find their tree stand.

The Whitetail Freaks Property Manager, a $2.99 iPhone app, lets hunters mark and share hunting land boundaries, the location of tree stands and other details important to hunters, such as where deer have rubbed antlers against a tree. The $1.99 iPhone RangeFinder app helps hunters in tree stands compute data, including the effect of gravity, for more accurate shots.

"Ten years ago, it was the Internet - everything's got to get on the Internet," says Chris Marsh, a habitat biologist for South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks department. "Now, everything's got to be an app for a phone."

Otto Bowe, a hunter from Mount Calvary, Wis., carries a compass, not a smartphone, when hunting. "(Smartphones) are useful to a point, but you have to remember they run on batteries," Bowe says. "If you are not going out fully charged or you dunk your phone, you are probably going to lose everything on it. ... A compass will still work 100% of the time."

Gannett

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