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JEFF KNAPP: Chip can aid hunters using GPS technology

by By JEFF KNAPP, sports@indianagazette.net on August 13, 2013 10:40 AM

Third-party software programs designed to assist a particular user group –— such as hunters — can increase the usefulness of a GPS unit. A good example is Hunting GPS Maps’ chip.

Among its product line, this Montana-based company makes the Hunt Premium series of state-specific electronic maps that can be plugged into a Garmin GPS unit. While aimed at hunters, the many advantages the map offers would be beneficial to all outdoors folks.

The list of features includes 24K topographical background map; roads and trails; water data such as lakes, rivers and streams; public hunting areas such as state game lands and state and national forests; and geographic features and names. All of these are highly valuable assets. But its most useful feature is that of displaying private and public land ownership.

The ability to determine public/private land borders is powerful tool for the hunter. But this feature doesn’t end there. In most cases, on private land, the display also shows the name of the landowner.

The first step in acquiring permission to hunt private land is in knowing who to ask, often not an easy task when that person might live in a location distant from the area you’re interested in. County-based plat books are helpful, but aren’t always available; those that are become quickly outdated, as such books are not revised on a frequent basis. And they are not cheap, costing an average of $40 to $50 per county/book in this region of Pennsylvania. If you hunt several counties, as many of us do, county-based plat books represent a significant investment.

With the Pennsylvania Hunt Premium map, plat information is not available for every county. Our state has 67 counties; the map chip provides plat information for 57. That could increase, and when it does, map owners will have the opportunity to receive that additional information via updates, another major advantage over paper maps. I’ve used the map chip for nearly two weeks, at home and in limited field work. The only county I’ve found in our immediate region lacking plat info is Clarion.

Besides the electronic map chip, the program is also available via download at a slightly higher price. Though there are advantages to each, the maker recommends the chip, which doesn’t require the computer skill helpful in accomplishing the online download. I have the chip; installing it in my Garmin Oregon 650T was as easy as opening up the battery compartment, popping out the battery, inserting the chip, and then reinstalling the battery. When the unit powered up it was a simple matter of choosing the Hunt Map option from the unit’s map page; plug-and-play, as advertised.

In normal field use, naturally the GPS screen will show the data pertinent to your location. During my initial use with the program — from my living room — zooming in soon had me looking at my name on the display.

The chip’s use isn’t limited to a GPS unit. It can also be used on a computer; to do so you’ll need to download Garmin’s Base Camp program, which can be done free of charge. The chip format is a micro SD card, which is what most recent hand-held GPS units take. To load the map into my computer I just plugged the micro SD card into the SD card adapter, which was included with the product. The standard SD size then plugged into the card reader on the side of my laptop, and I was able to view the maps on a full screen. This is a great option for trip planning; just reinstall the chip in the hand-held when it’s time to head afield.

As was stated earlier, this product only works with a Garmin GPS. Also, the unit needs a color screen, as well as expandable memory (to accept the chip).

Additional information on this product, including computer system requirements (for computer use) and GPS compatibility, can be obtained by visiting www.hunt inggpsmaps.com.

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