Smart phone apps for outdoorsmen

Three years ago I didn’t own a smart phone, I barely knew the meaning of “app,” and I judged anyone waiting in line to buy an smart phone a pathetic mope with too much free time.

Well, after upgrading to the iPhone 4S in late February after clinging to an iPhone 3 since May 2009, I now have 86 apps installed. (Blush.) And I know how most of them work; at least enough to impress preschoolers.

Worse, when calling my daughter Elle to verify she was waiting for me at the Verizon store to upgrade our phones and service plan, I asked, “How long’s the line?”

Yes, I’ve become an iPhone geek. It’s the best thing since super-lines, climbing tree stands and compound bows. I even know how to create clusters of related apps to save space on the three-plus screens now crammed with icons for those 86 apps.

Not only that, but I can rap out text-messages with my thumbs when holding the iPhone horizontally. You won’t catch me pecking with one index finger with my iPhone held vertically. What do I look like? An old bald guy or something?

The fact is, the iPhone is so versatile for hunting, fishing, camping and jogging that I’ve pretty much consigned my hand-held GPS unit to my daypack’s nether regions, for emergency-use only. The iPhone is my do-everything tool for monitoring weather, viewing aerial photos, studying topo maps, practicing game calls, navigating waters and forests, illuminating dark tents, or teaching myself how to tie cool fishing knots.

Occasionally, I even talk on it.

In fact (deep blush), just to be sure my iPhone’s battery doesn’t die when most needed, I keep a handy little Brunton “Restore” solar-powered recharger in my daypack, next to my forsaken GPS unit.

But portable power is another story. What follows are a few of the cool apps I use regularly when outdoors. Some are free, and the most expensive are $10.

* All titles and icons link to iPhone/iPad versions of the apps. Android links, when available, are listed at the end of the descriptions. 

NOAA Buoys Stations and Ships (Flytomap)

For up-to-the-minute reports on winds, temperatures and wave heights on the Great Lakes, you can’t get better info for salmon and walleye fishing.

Muskie Weight Calculator (hempCode)

Yep. No lie. If you catch a muskie and plug its vital measurements into this app, it quickly estimates the fish’s weight.

Flashlight (John Haney Software)

If I can’t find something in a dark tent or cabin, or I need a reliable light to guide my way to the outhouse, this handy app brightens my world. Android app available here.

Fishing Knots (Fission Media Group Inc.)

When more than the common fisherman’s knot and blood knot are required I’m no longer lost. This app walks me through many knots that are easy to tie. Android app availabe here.

ProBoards (ProBoards Inc.)

For fishing reports and tips from fellow Great Lakes anglers, check out these online forums from the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council. Android app available here.

Google Earth

This is a must-have. Although not as powerful as Google Earth on a laptop or desktop computer, it’s a good field alternative. With help from the phone’s onboard GPS, this app pinpoints where you’re standing on an aerial photograph, or lets you scout areas next door or 2,000 miles away. Android app availabe here.

ViewRanger Outdoors GPS (Augmentra)

I’m starting to learn the power of ViewRanger. Its clear aerial photos are so current I’ve found piers on remote lakes I helped build two years ago. I’ve also used its functions to plot and save my routes on aerial photos without draining my battery. Android app availabe here.

ScoutLook (North American Media Group)

The aerial photos on this app are also up to date. One function I like studying is ScoutLook’s “ScentCone” tool, which shows my many tree-stand sites on aerial photos, and the areas where current winds would blow my scent. Android app availabe here.

Primos Wind (DataRiver LLC)

This easy-to-use app pinpoints your location on an aerial photo, and animates current wind flows across the landscape.

NOAA Weather Radio (Christopher Coudriet)

You need cellular service for up-to-the-minute weather reports, but that usually isn’t a problem these days, especially if you seek higher ground to catch weak signals. I don’t know why, but I like NOAA’s visual and verbal information. That computerized voice just sounds so official as it updates regional weather while you cook, eat and plan.

If you like to consult more than one source to reach consensus on forecasts, you’ll also want apps for The Weather Channel (for Android app, click here), AccuWeather (for Android app, click here) and WeatherBug Elite (for Android app, click here) (Earth Networks Inc.).


Topos2Go (Cynic Software)

This was one of the first GPS-enabled apps I ever bought, for a whopping $4. Once it’s installed, you can unload unlimited numbers of U.S. Geological Survey quadrangle maps of the areas you hunt, fish or scout. When afield, it pinpoints your location on the topo even if you’re beyond range of cellular service.

Cabela's Recon Hunt (Trimble Navigation Ltd.)

I’ve built up a sizable cache of aerial photos of places I hunt “off the grid” in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. When I’m up there, I can pinpoint my location easily whether viewing its aerial photos or topo maps. Android app available here.

Chirp! Bird Songs USA (iSpiny)

Learn the identity of unseen birds you hear calling. The latest update, 2.0.9, which was issued in early April, offers new graphics and 16 new bird sounds, including the American woodcock, green heron, Cape May warbler and red-winged blackbird. The sounds can be sorted by bird group. Reviewers say they have used the app to call birds to their location.

Audubon Trees: A Field Guide to North American Trees (Green Mountain Digital)

Now you can identify 716 North American trees with thousands of color photos, range maps, and in-depth information. Features highlight species distribution and include descriptions of every species, appearance, habitat, and much more. The app has a “journal” feature to track and annotate personal sightings. Android app available here.

Primos Hunting Calls – Speak the Language (DataRiver LLC)

If you want to hear what your calls should sound like when practicing for elk, deer, turkeys, predators, waterfowl, crows, hogs or squirrels, this app provides many samples to mimic. Android app available here.

Wind-Chill (Verosocial Studio)

Let’s say you’re outdoors on a cold, cloudy day, and you want to know the exact wind chill.  This ap won’t keep you warm but may explain why you want to head back to deer camp .

MoonPhase (RomanDuck Software)

When is the next full moon, harvest moon, or new moon? Enter a date to find out what the moon phase will be for that day. The app includes moon rise and moon set times. Android app available here

All in One GPS map navigation & track Marine Lake Travel Park maps (Flytomap)

This package delivers lake charts and hydrographic maps to your iPhone. It’s more expensive than most apps ($9.99) but once it’s installed you can download all the lake maps you want free. If you do all your fishing on Lake Winnebago in east-central Wisconsin or Lake Mille Lacs in Minnesota, Flytomap also has apps devoted to fishing these two big lakes.

Outdoor News

Get More for the Outdoors, Available soon – a mobile version of our web site. It will have news, fishing reports, calendar items and Cuffs and Collars. A must-have app for any sportsman. 


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