GPS units assist hunter, ranch management
“Each photo taken with the 550T is automatically geotagged with the location of where it was taken, allowing you to navigate back to that site,” says GPS Magazine of the Garmin Oregon 550T.
What the magazine doesn’t say is that it also allows landowners to exactly pinpoint and record hunters’ locations – whether they be on public lands or restricted deeded acres. It also helps landowners ensure their projects – such as fencing or water developments – are placed in the right locations.
The Garmin Oregon 550T GPS device features a 3.2-megapixel camera with the ability to imprint the date, time, latitude and longitude of the photo’s subject.
“I took the GPS out with me to hunt prairie dogs, and took a photo of a new solar well and tank to try it out,” says Everet Bainter of Casper, who owns the Oregon 550T model. “When I go to look at the photos, it can show a layer that clearly says the well is on BLM land, and the next button shows the date, time, latitude and longitude where I took the picture.”
Of using the device to combat trespassing, Bainter says, “You go to court with that, and I think you’ve probably got them.”
Bainter adds the camera’s quality is adequate. “I think you could see a license tag, and certainly the vehicle and the people,” he says.
Natrona county rancher Doug Cooper says he uses his GPS when discussing property boundaries with hunters, as well as for his own personal information. His model displays a map onscreen, including land ownership.
“Ranches like ours, and like most in central Wyoming, have a mixture of state, federal and private land, each with different rules,” says Cooper. “Sometimes the rules are little things. For example, if we want to change a road or fix it, on federal land we can’t touch it, while on state land we can do up to $2,000 in improvements.”
He says the new generation GPS he has this year does make managing hunters much easier. “Before, I’d have to take the GPS out and plot onto a map where I was. With this one, I can just look at it and know where I am. I can avoid having the discussions about whether or not the hunters are in the right place – it’s easy to hold it up and show them.”
Cooper says he and his family have used GPS for some time, but with older models he used to have acetate overlay on a BLM map, from which he could count the latitude and longitude. “You could do it, but it took more time,” he notes.
“I was quite pleased with how easy it is,” says Cooper of his new model. “The chip you buy along with it is easy to install – it’s like putting a memory stick in your camera – and immediately it comes up and works.”
He also adds that the maps supplied with the chip have problems endemic to all maps. “Somehow, we have a road that forks in a Y on our place, and both forks have the same name. We also found that someone named a road that runs through two private ranches and is an entirely private road, and now people think it’s a public road because it has a name,” he says.
However, he says in day-to-day management, the GPS is easy to carry and use. “If we’re looking at changing a fence, it’s easy to look at it and see that we can go down a certain ridge, because it’s all on deeded land,” he explains. “We can also use it to find where we’d want to drill a water well.”
In the past, the ranch has relied on old surveys. “We’ve got a township with no corners, and supposedly there are buffalo skulls marking the section corners, but I’ve never seen any buffalo skulls out here. We’re in a tough situation, where we almost drilled a water well on federal land. We thought we knew where we were, and turned out not to be.”
Cooper says there are many applications. “We can’t legally spray weeds on federal lands, so it gives us a handy way of knowing what we can and can’t do. Even feeding livestock – technically we can’t feed hay on federal land in the winter. Using the GPS is a good way to avoid those kinds of problems.”
Of its accuracy, Cooper says, “You can’t use it to be too precise. I wouldn’t think it’s accurate less than 50 or 60 feet. There’s a little wiggle room, but I’ve compared it to locations where I know the corners are, and it’s pretty close. It’s an acceptable accuracy.”
Of the sportsmen who use the units to navigate the country, Cooper says some of those he’s talked to have been confused as to their location and its correlation to the map, which is color-coded for federal, state and private land, but they weren’t causing any trouble. “The GPS can shut down all arguments, and it’s a win for both sides,” he notes.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.