OUTDOORS: Maps remain a valuable tool
October 18, 2013 10:30 AM

The planning phase of a hunt is often an enjoyable ingredient in the overall process. The many high-quality electronic maps now available have diminished the need for hardcopy maps — diminished perhaps, but not eliminated.

There’s something special about grabbing the stack of maps from the backseat of the truck, an act that’s especially convenient when you’re actually afield, perhaps developing a strategy for the afternoon’s activities while on a lunchtime break. Here are a few resources I’ve come to rely on.

The DeLorme Atlas has been around a long time and continues to be a great source of information. These state-specific maps have a 1:150,000 topo map background. They are updated on a regular basis, the Pennsylvania edition being revised in 2012. Some authors of destination-type articles index the places they are writing about to the pages of a DeLorme Atlas.

Sportsman’s Connection’s All-Outdoors Atlas is a recent addition to state-specific atlases. It features greater detail than the DeLorme product, with 1:100,000 scale maps. Pennsylvania is covered with a Western and Eastern edition. To cover the entire state you’d need to purchase both books. The division is a north-to-south line that runs, appropriately, through Centre County.

The All-Outdoors Atlas provides locations for many outdoor activities. Hunting is well represented, with borders between public and private land one of the included features.

The first look I had at one of these atlases was early this summer. One member of our party, which was headed to the Little Juniata River on a trout fishing trip, had recently bought it at a Huntingdon County gun shop. That version was spiral bound, rather than the glued binding often standard on large format books of this type. I really liked that style, as you can lay the maps out flat. It seems so often what you’re looking for is close to the fold and hard to see with the bulky glued fastening. However, the All-Outdoors Atlas I bought locally, the Western Pennsylvania book, is glued. Perhaps ones purchased directly from the Sportsman’s Connection website have the ring binding. It’s something to consider should you decide to buy one.

During 2013, National Geographic released the Pennsylvania edition of its Recreation Atlas. I’d picked up the Michigan edition last fall when in that state during a week-long grouse hunt and added the Pennsylvania book to my backseat collection this summer when it came out. While the Pennsylvania Recreation Atlas doesn’t provide quite as much information as the Sportsman’s Connection product, its pages are less cluttered. It all depends on what your needs are. For some, the cleaner pages of this product might work out best.

Regardless of the atlas, I find that a big magnifying glass is extremely helpful, a reflection more of my 55-year-old eyes than any cartographic qualities.

The other hardcopy maps I find particularly useful are PennDOT’s Type 10 maps. These are county-based and show just about every passable road out there. This is a large format map, so it’s easy to read the fine details.

Other excellent maps to carry are ones of state forests, such as Clear Creek State Forest, as well as Allegheny National Forest. State game lands maps can be created and printed from the Game Commission’s new mapping application, found on its website.

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