New Year’s Resolution: Never Get Lost (Again)

So there I was (yeah, it’s one of those stories). There I was, walking through a field with barely enough … Continued

So there I was (yeah, it’s one of those stories). There I was, walking through a field with barely enough grass cover to hold a sparrow much less a pheasant or even quail or hun. Kona and I had been hunting hard all day; going deep while exploring the south end of some public property.

We went off the beaten path, worked heavy cover adjacent to a creek and finally climbed our way out of the bottoms and to the top of the plateau surrounding the area. That’s when we encountered the sparse grass.

And then I noticed a truck go by on gravel road. “Must be an access road down here,” I thought.

And then I saw some outbuildings throughout the area. “I wonder if those buildings are part of the homestead the state purchased?”

And then I noticed all the cattle looking at us. “Well, I know the state still allows grazing on the property,” I reasoned.

At some point, however, I put 2 and 2 and 2 together and realized that I had walked right off the 13,000-acre property and onto private land. I have no clue at what point this transgression took place. I quickly unloaded my gun and walked to the nearest road and house.

As Kona and I closed the pasture gate, a woman came out of the farm house. She was friendly and tried to explain to me where I was as three small children peered out from behind her. Oh, did I mention she was pregnant. And barefoot. Literally.

Looking at the telephone book map, she pointed out approximately where I was. I figured out roughly the direction I needed to go…which is precisely where I knew the car was parked, I just didn’t know the exact heading to take and what was between Kona and I and our destination. And to be frank, we were both exhausted. I’d later calculate that we were at least 8-10 miles from the car. As the crow flies. And we definitely didn’t hunt in a straight line.

The lady was kind enough to pack the kids up, allow me to put Kona and my shotgun in the back of the Suburban and gave us a ride back to the entrance to the public land. With all the winding, wayward gravel country roads, it was a 25-minute drive. As she pulled away with kids waving out the window, Kona and I started our 1¼-mile walk from the road to the parked car. As we gimped down the cattle-trail road, a storm front began blowing in; high winds, rain and dropping temps. An SUV never looked so good.

To that end, I’ve resolved never to get lost like that again. Or lost at all, if I can help it. Enter the Garmin GPSMap 62stc.

One of the recommendations by Garmin’s Ted Gartner, an avid upland bird hunter and one of the minds behind the canine-GPS-tracking Astro line of collars, the 62stc is has all the tools to keep me from getting turned around.

The rugged, waterprood unit comes preloaded with complete U.S. topo mapping software, 3-axis electronic compass and barometric altimeter and long-lasting rechargeable batteries. With 3½ GB of internal memory and a microSD slot, you can add more detailed topo maps, lake and river charts, as well as BirdEye Satellite imagery and/or free software that allows you to download paper or electronic maps to the device – like public lands maps.

In addition to holding 2,000 waypoints and 200 tracks, the 62stc has a hunt/fish calendar, tide table, sun/moon info and can be used for auto routing and turn-by-turn directions on roads. Perhaps the coolest “extra” function (you know, in addition to those that keep me from getting lost…) is the 5 MP camera that automatically geotags your photos so you can share exact spots with friends or navigate directly back to an area based solely on the image.

It retails for about $600, which seems quite reasonable if you’ve been lost and just want to make it back to your rig. After all, you can’t count on barefoot, pregnant farmwives to save your ass every time.