Most hunters take advantage of the incredible mapping capabilities of a smartphone while hunting. I’m sure most of you use your phone to mark camp, review satellite imagery, and plan your stalks.
One fantastic feature of OnX Maps that I used extensively on a recent goat hunt is the Slope Angle layer. While you can tell the slope of a hill by how close together the contours on a topographical map are, the Slope Angle layer is far superior. Hit Hunt Map Layers > Land & Access > Slope Angle. There you go, you’ve got slope angles visualized on your screen, from green to blue, showing you how steep the country is.
Why would you want this? There are a few primary reasons why knowing the slope will improve your chances of success:
- Route finding: Sitting at the bottom of a slope, looking up at goats, makes it challenging to know what the best route is. I used the slope angle layer to identify where we could get up. Purple areas were pushing it and are actually climbing rather than hiking. Red was good, but not ideal. We faced a cliff about 300 m wide on our way off the mountain. In the centre, we identified a narrow chute that was less steep via the app (it was not visible from above). We threaded the needle and saved ourselves a lot of hiking around the cliff.
- Safety: There’s nothing worse than working hard to get somewhere, only to find an impassable slope in front of you. If you’re anything like me, you can be tempted to push through difficulties when a wiser soul would turn back. If you can foresee the possibility of getting cliffed out and avoid heading into the trap, you can remove the temptation of pushing beyond the limits of your team.
- Energy management: If you’re fortunate enough to have a very heavy pack, steep uphills will burn a lot of mental and physical energy. I like to assess the slope and decide if a shortcut up a steep slope is worth cutting the distance. Often, a longer route can save energy and time.
- Animal behaviour: If the game you are chasing tends to be in certain terrain types, the slope angle map will allow you to locate plateaus or steep areas that are not cliffs quickly. For example, goats are comfortable on steep slopes but will only be found on cliffs when a predator or hunter pushes them.
The next time you head into the hills, try out this layer, and I am sure you will find yourself planning your travel and stalks with it.