Over the last few years, I’ve really tried to make a conscious effort to focus on one thing to improve on each season. Whether it’s something simple like just being a better archer or being more strategic about my stand and blind placements, I feel like we’re never quite done learning as hunters. And when it comes to hunting big whitetails, one is definitely not done learning every bit of information possible about their target buck. So this year my mission is to make my scouting game more dynamic than ever before.
When it comes down to it, if you want to be successful during deer season, then you need to gather every bit of information that you can get your hands on, whenever possible. Travel patterns, bedding areas, food sources, water holes and scrape lines are just a few on a pretty long list. And though it’s really easy to run a whole bunch of trail cameras and check memory cards from time to time, they just don’t tell the entire story that you need. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a huge proponent of trail cams, especially the new fangled ones that are linked to cell-service, but over time, they’ve pulled me out of the field. And although it is nice to have “eyes” in the field at all times, they don’t replace getting behind an optic to watch in real time. With that said, this season I’m focusing on getting back to the basics and am putting much more time in behind my binoculars.
Here in South Texas, our landscape is quite diverse. From 500 yard wide-open scenderos to dense areas of black brush that might as well be a brick wall, this part of the state isn’t exactly the easiest to cover when scouting. So, wherever you have the slightest bit of elevation or an unobstructed view, pulling out the bino's becomes a must. Though to me, optics are only as good as your ability to spot animals and some might not be as obvious as you’d like them to be.. Branch vs. antler, how many times have you been stuck having an argument with yourself over that scenario before? Yeah, me too. It’s almost like you need a second set of eyes with you to tell you “hey, you missed a buck 450 yards out against that brush line”. And fortunately, that no longer has to be a dream when the team at HuntScan has made it a reality.
At its core, HuntScan is a mobile app, currently available for iOS platforms that turns your cell phone camera into a big game detection device. In simple terms, it’s the sharpest second pair of eyes looking through your optic. Now, when I first came across the app, my thought was that it was probably something that had more of a western big game application. Some place where views are practically endless and land needs to be continuously glassed for grazing game. But this couldn’t be any further from the truth after I gave it a shot here in Texas. This app has aided me in having much more successful scouting trips, that have given me a lot more information than if I were on my own. With the help of an optic adapter like PhoneSkope, I’ve been able to turn my iPhone X and Vortex binoculars into a seriously accurate second set of eyes that picks up everything that I overlook or just plain can’t see. It’s been a whole new experience being able to basically scan an area and pick up animals that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. But let me also acknowledge that it can be used on its own, without the added magnification of an optic, which could be helpful in a pinch.
From a user experience perspective, the HuntScan app is simple to navigate, though there are a few settings that allow the app to be more customized for your specific application. Recently, HuntScan published a short video tutorial that acts as a quick start guide for those new to the platform and it’s really helpful. For me, the main setting that needed to be adjusted was the confidence threshold, which ultimately makes the app more or less sensitive to noise and animal detection. So, depending on where you hunt, the landscape and terrain, this setting helps the app be more successful in its ability to detect animals. Recording video is also an option, which is great for later review back at camp. Best of all, it’s an app and if you’re anything like me, you don’t go anywhere without your phone, so it’s with you when you need it.
After using the app over the course of multiple days on the land where I hunt most, I was able to pick up an elusive bucks particular travel pattern, which ultimately led me to better understand his home terrain, resulting in the shifting of a blind and the added bonus of a daytime field photo. See below.
So, for all of those that don’t have eyes equivalent to the Terminator (myself included), I highly suggest that you take a closer look at the HuntScan app this season. You’ll probably kick yourself when you realize just how much your eyes aren’t seeing.
TOTAL. GAME. CHANGER.