onX Hunt App Review

Over the years I have fine-tuned how I scout a new property, however, my basic approach has always remained the same:

  • Step 1 – Determine Property Boundaries
  • Step 2 – Research the Terrain and Walk the Property
  • Step 3 – Scout Specific Terrain Features for Sign
  • Step 4 – Hang Trail Cameras to Inventory and Verify Wildlife Habits
  • Step 5 – Setup Treestands / Blinds
  • Step 6 – HUNT

Steps 1 through 3 are much simpler thanks to advancements in technology. When it comes to locating and scouting new hunting properties, onX is without a doubt the number one tool I have at my disposal.

My favorite feature about the onX system is that you can access your maps directly from a smart device, no GPS or cell service needed. Simply download the onX Hunt App and create an account to gain access. To get you started, onX offers a free 7-day trial to a premium membership which includes access to map data for 1 state.  If you don’t have a smart phone, don’t worry.  You can also use onX through your internet browser.

The paid membership structure looks like this:

Premium Membership
Access to 1 state and includes: Map Layers, Property Boundaries, Points of Interest, Custom Waypoints, and More.

If you currently own a handheld GPS, you can also purchase the Premium + Chip membership which allows you to access your premium membership data on your smart device but also includes a microSD card for use in compatible GPS units.  If you already own a chip, you can use your Premium membership to update it.

Elite Membership
The Elite Membership includes access to all 50 states and all Premium Membership features. This membership is by far the most popular, and when hunting many different states like I do, it is almost indispensable.

The great thing about the onX Hunt app is that it is packed full of great features, all designed to take your hunting experience to the next level. onX was also designed for hunters by hunters. At the backbone of the onX Hunt app is a panel of powerful tools/features: Map View, Map Layers, Off-Grid, My Content, Map Tools, Tracker.

As an individual who hunts multiple states throughout the year, I find the elite membership to be a great deal. I typically hunt Ohio and Indiana every spring and fall, and there are usually a few other states mixed in. But even if you are just planning a hunt, having access to data in multiple states can help you make a decision on where to next pursue your game.

Map View
The primary map view provides access to three main views: Satellite, Topo, and Hybrid(satellite images with topo overlaid). At the top of the map view is a “hamburger” menu-icon that allows you to you quickly manage your account and map settings. Within the map settings you can toggle the units from Imperial to Metric. You can toggle the coordinates between Decimal, UTM, and DMS. You can enable cross-hair visibility and you can also show off-grid area outlines.  I love the “Pinch to Rotate” feature which allows you to change the orientation of your map to view your location from a specific vantage point. I find that 90% of the time, I have the hybrid view enabled. I like having access to the satellite imagery, but the topographical information also plays a big role in identifying funnels and other pinch points prior to taking your first step onto a property. Despite the amount of time I spend studying maps prior to my hunts, I also find myself looking at my map data during the hunt. Especially when I’m turkey hunting and trying to figure out where a bird has hung up on me!

Map Layers
The Map Layers option allows end users to configure what they see on their map view. The main feature of this tool is the ability to enable data for the state(s) you have access to within the onX Hunt App. Each state has different features available, but most states at least have layers for private and public land information. Additionally, you can also see satellite imagery, 24k topographic layers, and national roads and trails for all states.

On top of the state layers, you also have access to many National Layers including precipitation maps, wilderness layers, US Forest Service motor vehicle roads and trails, NWTF Wild Turkey Records, and RMEF maps. Many of the national map layers are free, however there are a few that are paid, these include Prairie Dog maps, B&C Trophy Big Game Records, and Eastmans’ MRS. All of these maps are packed full of great information and really help in your efforts to find a great hunting location. One great feature about these layers is that you can reduce the transparency of layers to easily stack layers.

A note about the private land ownership; the ownership information is generally only updated once per year, and it is dependent on county records with the state. So there is a possibility that landowner names may be inaccurate if a property has recent changed hands.  However, the app shows you the landowner’s tax address in addition to the overall acreage for the parcel, so if they do not live on the particular property chances are you know where to ask for permission.

The Off-Grid feature is one of, if not my favorite feature available in the onX Hunt app. With the Off-Grid feature, you can download your map content for a specific area and go offline. This is great if you are planning a hunt in an area that you expect to have little or no cell phone reception to access the onX content. Your phone’s GPS will still work even without cell service.  To use this feature, simply download your map content to your phone, enable GPS on your device, and you are ready to go! While you of offline, you can still access all of your waypoints which is extremely important. During this time, you can also mark new waypoints and continue using the other features of the application that do not require data transfer over a network. I have more than my fair share of hunting spots that I have poor reception, so not only does this feature help me out when reception is light, I find that it also helps preserve battery life when I can avoid my phone constantly fetching data from the onX servers. This can essentially replace the need for a GPS if you have a way to charge your phone.

My Content
The My Content feature enables you to disable the view of stand locations, and other waypoint markers that you have added to your account. I often times find that when I am looking at a map from a wider/zoomed out view, I like to disable the my marked locations so that I have a cleaner view of the map.  Another great feature I like to enable/disable as needed, is property outlines that I have created. Often times, farms that I hunt are made up of multiple parcels. In this instance, I like to create one large outline of the property and then disable the state layers. Like I mentioned above, this often times helps me view a cleaner map.  Last but not least, you can also share waypoints and coordinates with your friends/hunting partners from this screen.  Just be careful that you aren’t sharing your favorite honey hole!

Map Tools
The Map Tools screen is packed with great features. Through this feature, you can measure line distances, outline and measure area, add waypoints, and mark location with custom icons. The vast majority of the time that I am using my onX, I am using the Map Tools. This feature is invaluable with measuring the size of food plots. This is helpful to not only help me determine how much food I will be providing to the wildlife in the area, but determine how much seed will be necessary to plant a given plot.

Another feature I really like about the onX measurement tools is that I can measure a particular trail or path of entry to a given hunting spot, and based on having a known distance, I can come up with a more educated estimate of the time I’ll need to get set up for a morning hunt. I find this feature particularly useful when hunting an area for the first time. It’s easy to get to and from a stand in the broad daylight, but when you are suddenly plunged into darkness and trying to stay quiet to boot, it is nice to have a good idea of how long it will take you to get you and your gear to your spot. This can be a real life saver and help you avoid a prematurely ruined hunt.

Additionally, all of your content can be sorted by type and by date.  This is particularly helpful if you can’t remember what you named a location/waypoint, but you recall when you created it.

The tracker tool is useful when you want to track a particular hike or path you have travelled. I often times use this feature to help me trace my steps when approaching a stand on public property in the dark that I might not be extremely familiar with. I also occasionally use this tool when I hike with my family or kids, and once or twice I have used it to track a bike ride. The use cases for this feature are endless.

If you are the kind of person who relies on mapping technology to assist you in your hunting experience, I highly recommend you give onX a try. They have without a doubt changed the way that I approach hunting and property scouting in general. To learn more about onX, you can visit them at https://www.onxmaps.com/.

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SELFILMED 101 – Part 8 – Shot List

Part 8 – Shot List

When illustrating the hunt of a lifetime, it is often stated that a picture is worth a thousand words. How much is a video clip worth? When you are self-filming, it is important to remember that you’re trying to tell a story – not simply showcasing a kill-shot. The general rule-of-thumb is if you’re going to talk about it during the video, you should try to have a cutaway to support it.  B-roll can make a video great and put your video above other self-filmed videos and if done correctly, on par with dedicated cameraman hunts. Lack of B-roll can do the opposite.

One of the most often overlooked video opportunities is the pre-hunt preparation that each of us go through. This pre-hunt preparation footage is good footage to not only build up interest going into the hunt, but also serve as a good lead-in to begin the video and set the stage for the viewer.  Here’s a quick down and dirty list of pre-hunt shots to shoot on your next hunt:


One of the most-used (and arguably the most important) clips are scenic shots that describe your surroundings. I’ll often grab most of my area shots post-shot, when I have an idea of what I’ll be describing in the video. However, prominent features are always a quick and easy item to grab during the hunt.  Again, if you mention it in your hunt interview, its a good idea to try to get supporting shots for it.  Here’s a quick list of area/scenic shots to capture in your next hunt:

It is very important that you gather the above mentioned areas shots on the day of your hunt.  The “look” of your video due to available lighting, cloud cover, weather, etc. need to match that of the actual hunting conditions.  Not too often is the weather, cloud cover, etc. the same from one day to the next.  Speaking of weather…cut-away shots of the current weather conditions are also great shots to capture.  These shots help put the viewer in your shoes and better set the stage for the hunt.  Here’s a quick list of weather shots to capture:

Hopefully you have read Part 6 on the importance of second and third angles (If not, click HERE). These shots also can help bridge the time from the start of the hunt after you’ve already recorded your pre-hunt interview, to the eagerly awaited shot opportunity.  While these second and third angle shots can be recreated after the fact, we strongly recommend continuously recording 2nd and 3rd angle shots to help capture the true emotions of the hunt.  The excitement on your face after connecting on a monster whitetail is very hard to re-create after the fact, and the viewer will appreciate seeing the raw emotions instead of a staged reenactment.

With a 3rd person view setup, I’ll often capture B-roll cutaways of things like glassing in the distance, ranging the animal, or getting your shot in focus.  You can also use this approach for pre or post-hunt items like setting up decoys, climbing your stand, walking up to your arrow or animal,  or drawing your bow.  The possibilities really are only limited by your imagination.

Aside from the harvest footage, the most exciting footage for most is seeing the reaction of the hunter.  Typically, the last thing on my mind after a shot is turning my main camera back towards myself.  However, unless you have a dedicated camera pointed at you (insert pic) then you’ll miss the footage that is going to draw people to keep watching.

Keep in mind that all of the shots mentioned in this article can be captured multiple ways.  Use motion (slider or pan), rack focus, shoot wide angle, shoot tight, etc. to add cinematic elements to the shots.  Be creative!

Lastly, do yourself a favor and video an interview post-hunt (the more angles the better).  More on that coming up in Part 9…

SELFILMED 101 Series:

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2018 Indiana Youth – First Time Turkey Hunter

There are daddy’s girls, and then there is my Morgan. Mo, as I affectionately refer to her, is a daddy’s girl to her core. Not everyone in her life is as thrilled about this fact as I am, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. However, there are times it is hard to tell the difference between what she likes because she likes it and what she likes because I like it. So, going into the 2018 Turkey Season, there was a small part of me that feared her desire to hunt was just part of the “going along with daddy” act. However, in the weeks leading up to the 2018 Indiana youth turkey opener, she showed more than enough enthusiasm for me to suspect her excitement was all of her own accord. Regardless, she wanted to give it a try, and I was more than happy to make that happen.

We started our preparations by getting her comfortable shooting a cross-bow. She wanted to take on archery tackle right off the bat, which I admired, but she wasn’t quite ready for that challenge. Instead, we found a happy compromise and got her set up with my dad’s old Stryker Katana. She took to it quickly, and in no time, she was shooting lights out. Next, it was time to start discussing shot placement. I used my wife’s Cricut Explore Air 2 to cut out a decal of the Stryker’s scope reticle and put it on a clear piece of plastic. This setup allowed me to give her real-time feedback as she “aimed” at turkey photos that we had downloaded online in hopes to put a clean and ethical kill shot on it. I was quite impressed with how quickly she caught on, and I had all the confidence in the world she was ready to take her practice in to the field. Fast forward a few weeks, and opening day of the 2018 Indiana Youth Turkey Season was upon us!

Our hunt started out as usual, an early morning with a lot of griping and complaining about how tired we were. Neither Morgan or I are much of morning people, though the allure of strutting toms did negate some of our fatigue. We got ready as quick as possible, and after my Dad wished us good luck, we made our way out to the blind. What was so special to me about this hunt was not that Morgan was excited to shoot a turkey, it was how excited she was to participate with all the preparation. I could tell that she really wanted to understand what we were doing and why we were doing it. She helped me set out the DSD spread. She helped me set up the camera gear. She even wanted to be prepared and know what to do in the event the turkeys gobbled too much?!? The latter, I simply explained, would never be a problem! In reply, she showed a toothy grin and shrugged her shoulders as if to say my answer was good enough.

Once we got settled, the waiting game began. Like most mornings at my dad’s farm, the birds were pretty quiet. They don’t gobble much on the roost for one reason or another, so we did not let that get us discouraged. However, the slow activity of the morning did remind Morgan how sleepy she was. I told her it was time I teach her my super-secret turkey killing tactic. We pulled our chairs close together, and we got huddled up under a blanket in an effort to fend off the early morning chill. Morgan dozed off, but it wasn’t long before a single gobble ended the silence. Morgan looked up at me with wide eyes! We did a quick in-blind shuffle to make sure we were ready to go in case this bird materialized, and then I let out a few soft yelps. I explained to Morgan that a quick reply would be indicative of a tom looking for love. Sure enough, I had barely let out the last note from my diaphragm call when two gobbles came back in quick succession. I turned to Morgan and told her to get ready. The smile she produced was all I could have hoped for. I did my best to start coaching her through the encounter I envisioned, but it became quickly apparent she was calmer than I was. So instead, I just offered her a few quick words of encouragement and turned my gaze to the field before us.

A few moments later, I let out another series of soft yelps, and a thunderous gobble came in reply, no more than 80 yards away. He was close! 30 seconds later, I saw him slipping through the timber about to enter the field. “There he is”, I told her, pointing to the bird about 60 yards away. But, at her Angle, she couldn’t quite see him. I sat patiently, waiting for him to start moving forward, suddenly Morgan exclaimed, “I see him!” For a moment, I was surprised, the bird had not moved since I first saw him, but then I saw it…another tom in full strut approaching just to his right. I gave her a nudge, “There’s two of them Morgan!” If she wasn’t excited before, she was excited then.

Both birds entered the field about 10 yards apart from one another. I told Morgan to get her cross-bow ready as it became very evident by their posture these birds were coming to the decoy spread. As they made their way towards us, the second bird began strutting. I could not have asked for a better encounter on Morgan’s first hunt. My heart started racing, again, I started running through all of the preparation we had done. I had her ready for this, I knew she could do it. I gently patted her back, “stay calm, you got this!” I wasn’t sure if I was telling her or myself, but either way, she listened. I instructed her to go ahead and look through her scope and find the birds. She said she could not see the toms, but she could see the “fake turkey”. That was great, I told her to keep her scope on the DSD Jake, I knew that any second, the birds were going to pop into her view. “OH MY GOSH DAD, I…GOT…THEM!” I took my eye off the camera for a minute and asked if she could see the bird on the right, as soon as she said yes, I clicked off the safety on her cross-bow. I could tell by the way she was acting, she was ready to go. She was calm, and composed. I was a little shocked, but also relieved! I looked back at my camera LCD to make sure I had both toms in view. “Ok babe, aim just under his red waddles and shoot him when you are ready”. By now, both birds were standing so close to each other they were touching. Morgan quietly asked me if the safety was off. Good girl, I thought to myself, she knew exactly what she was doing! “Yes,” I replied, “whenever you are ready.” I stared for what seemed like an eternity at that tom on the right through my LCD when all of a sudden, her bolt slammed home just below the waddles. He collapsed backward and the second bird jumped on him immediately.

“I killed a turkey!” Morgan’s voice was half yell have squeak! I was beside myself with excitement! I didn’t know if I should shout, or cry, or hug her! I settled on the latter, and the celebration began. In all my years hunting, I have never been so nervous, or so happy with the outcome of a hunt. We had worked so diligently at preparing her for this opportunity, and all the hard work had just paid off. We sat in the blind for several minutes, as the second tom showed no sign of wanting to leave. He strutted around, gobbling and drumming endlessly. It just added to the experience and put an exclamation point on an already awesome hunt. We let him do his thing for a few minutes, but we couldn’t wait any longer. I texted my dad and told him to head our way. And as soon as we heard the side by side approaching out location, we bailed out of the blind and walked over to meet dad and have a look at Morgan’s first tom. Judging by the spurs, he was only 2 years old, but WOW what a beard. I have killed a lot of turkeys since I started my hunting career, but only 2 of them have had beards as long, but not a single one has been so thick. Morgan took little time to ramp up her bragging game. But at 11 ½ inches, and thick enough to serve as a Wooster paint brush, her turkey’s beard was certainly brag worthy.

There is a lot of turkey hunting left to be done this spring, but I can tell you with a certainty, if I don’t see another tom all spring, my season will be the best I’ve ever had. There is nothing that can top the joy of sharing a first hunt with a child. Now, I can’t wait for Morgan’s little brothers to be ready for their first.

Morgan’s Gear:



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Sitka Gear – Apex Launch

This past January, we, and a lot of other people, were all buzzing about the new Apex Series by Sitka Gear. The Apex Series is the newest addition to Sitka’s Big Game lineup, featuring Optifade Subalpine camo. While sure to be a hit for early season big game hunters, the Apex Series will also be a goto for many turkey hunters throughout the Midwest and East Coast as well. Since the initial word got out, a lot of people have been asking when Sitka would begin sales. Well, the Apex Series is officially ready to launch starting today, April 23.

If you missed our ATA Show coverage for the Sitka Gear Apex Series, be sure to read it here. But more importantly, don’t miss your chance to get your hands on this awesome gear. Head over to sitkagear.com and order yours today!

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