Hunting in the great outdoors can be an exhilarating experience. It can change to a stressful and even dangerous situation if the hunter becomes lost. Hunters can become lost for a number of reasons, including following an injured animal into unfamiliar areas, changing weather, and illness or injuries.
Before a hunting trip, people can become familiar with the overall hunting area using the Internet. Google Earth, as an example, gives satellite-based views of virtually anywhere on earth. Before the trip, use an overhead view to become familiar with easily recognized landmarks, local roads and lakes, or areas where people live who can provide assistance.
Global positioning systems (GPS) can be an advantage when hunting in remote areas. Like all electronics, a good battery supply is critical to provide power when needed. Extra batteries, secondary power supplies, and turning off the GPS unit when in familiar areas can extend battery life. GPS units usually include a marker feature that can place saved coordinates at spots chosen by the user. This feature can be used to mark cars parked at the start of the trip, an expected rendezvous point, or local resources such as park ranger or police/fire stations.
A basic magnetic compass can provide general direction guidance. They are less accurate than a GPS signal, and magnetic compass direction can be different from geographic due to magnetic variation, or the difference of the magnetic north pole from geographic north. Even with these differences, having a general idea of travel direction can be useful, particularly if looking for landmarks or roads.
Paper maps can be a good backup for other technologies. Topographic maps, which show the variations or contours in the land, can help identify easier routes for travel or sources of water. Maps are available for most land areas, and can be purchased from government map services.
Regardless of what methods are used, some safety concerns should be addressed. Hunters should always leave a trip plan with a friend or relative, including expected travel areas and dates of the trip. If the hunter does not return, rescue personnel have a better idea of where to search. Aimlessly wandering around remote areas is not recommended. It is generally considered best to stay in one area until rescued. Finding a water supply, establishing a shelter to stay warm and dry, and rationing food supplies should be the priority.
Mobile phones should not be part of a hunter’s rescue plan. In many remote areas there will be no cellular coverage. If a hunter needs communication equipment, they should consider renting a satellite phone that can connect to overhead satellites almost anywhere in the world. Connection rates can be expensive, but if only used for rescue can be money well spent.