I think it’s that way!?
It seems with all the new technology advances that happen from year to year, getting from place A to B is nothing more than pressing a couple buttons and listening to a Siri like voice spoon feed you your next move. Hand held GPS units, Cell phones, and google maps make the outdoorsman’s life a lot easier when it comes to getting around in the woods. Navigation is somewhat of a lost art, unless you served in the military. It doesn’t appear to be something that is passed down from generation to generation as it should be. I have seen it first hand with a couple guys I spent some time with last elk season. I swear if they didn’t have their GPS in their hand pointing which way to go, who knows where they would have ended up. I was fortunate that my father taught me the basics of navigation at a young age. We didn’t get into shooting azimuths and reading topo maps but we did talk about how to get out of the woods if you were ever lost. Navigating in the woods of Vermont never seemed to be an issue as it’s tough to find a section of woods greater than a couple miles by a couple miles. With that said, places in New Hampshire and Maine hold vast wilderness that could prove difficult to navigate for even the experienced woodsman. Woods craft is a term you hear thrown around on online forums and by guys who spend a lot of time honing in their outdoor skills. In my opinion there are 4 forms of navigation. The terms I use below are specific to my point of view so don’t expect to find any of them in a google search. “Minimalist Navigation” in its purest form, is reading the sun, stars, and topography to get to the place you want to go. I don’t personally know anyone who uses this method by its self but in reality it is the basis for the next three terms I am going to cover. The parts of the minimalist navigation mentality that I like are; while you need to be aware of your surroundings you don’t always need to be concerned about where you are on a map every step of the way. I actually think that statement hold true to all navigation techniques. Being lost is a state of mind, and when your hunting your never lost, your where you are. With that said, I think everyone should know how to tell which way is North at any point during the day by using the sun, where the North Star is, and how to find water.
If you can do those 3 things then for the most part you will be okay. “Waypoint navigation” which is my preferred method entails using a map and compass with the occasional waypoint from my GPS. I mark my vehicle at a minimum on my GPS on every hunt I partake in in Colorado. Not only for the piece of mind but also so I know the fastest way back to the truck for packing out animals (grin). I do all my navigation using a map and compass from the truck to my camp and all the basins I want to check in the area. If I stumble upon good sign, wallows, or a nice aspen groves I mark those to make the return trip easier in the dark. “Map and compass” navigation is pretty self-explanatory but there a couple things I feel should be mentioned. Buy a good compass, and maps that you are comfortable reading. Both of these things do you no good if you can’t properly read them. Always know what the magnetic declination for the area is and if your compass is capable, make sure to set it. The difference between true North and magnetic North can get you lost in a hurry. Learn how to shoot an azimuth and how that translates to a map. Last but not least mark starting and ending points on your map with a pen. “GPS navigation” is the most common form used by most hunters across the board. There are so many options on what GPS you can buy that it can send your head reeling in a hurry. Depending on how tech savvy you are, with a hand held unit, the options can be limitless. They make chips you can put in them to show private/public ownership lines, different programs you can load to update your maps and some that double as a communication device. I use a basic e-trex as I don’t need the other options and due to the fact that I am super cheap. I was talking with my cousin Nate about this article and he is of the opinion that a GPS isn’t worth having unless it has topo map capabilities. Nate’s argument was that it made navigation much easier in places like Vermont where you may not have a 12000’ peak you can see to help get your bearings. I can definitely appreciate that, so really do you research and decide what suits you before purchasing a unit. Regardless of what type you of navigation you choose to use, they all work. There’s more than one way to skin a cat and one type isn’t any better than the other if used properly. If you don’t know how to properly read a map and use a compass then I would suggest learning. If you spend enough time in the woods I can almost promise you, you will end up turned around and having these skills will save you a lot of frustration and worry if you know what you’re doing.