The Hunt for Great Maps
My Topo, A Trimble Company
My Topo, A Trimble Company
MyTopo has been creating maps for Huntin' Fool members for years. They are always coming up with great new mapping solutions for hunters and outdoorsmen. I have asked them to give us an overview of their company and provide us with a glimpse into the future with details about their new SD Cards with topo+private land maps for smartphones.
A mapping company based in Montana is inevitably going to serve hunters. As soon as MyTopo hung out its GIS shingle more than a decade ago, hunters started wandering in and the phone started ringing with map questions.
“I am a hunter, and I’ll be heading into the Beartooth Mountains this weekend. The area I’m hunting is on the border of four USGS quad maps. Can you put the area on one map?” “We said, 'Sure, and we can print it on waterproof and tear-resistant paper too',” recalls Kevin Toohill, MyTopo founder. The company quickly realized there were bound to be many more hunters wanting to carry one map instead of four, so the map work began. MyTopo digitally stitched together all 56,000 USGS quads and built a web interface to allow anyone with Internet access to custom-center and scale a topographic map any place in the U.S. or Canada.
No longer constrained by the USGS quad system or the hope that a local sporting goods store had quad maps in stock, MyTopo, a print-on-demand service for topographic maps, was born. MyTopo made ordering maps one of the easiest first steps to preparing for a backcountry hunt. Any hunter, from any computer in the world, could now simply go online and order a map, customized to their specific needs. MyTopo prints and ships the map within 24 hours.
MyTopo quickly learned a good hunter’s appetite for maps is not easily satisfied. Google Maps sparked a greater interest in aerial and satellite imagery, so hunters called MyTopo again with questions like, “Hey, I see an aerial view of the area I’m hunting on the Internet. Can you make me an aerial map? It’ll help me see where the forest fire was and whether any logging has taken place that may impact the way game travels through the area."
MyTopo cartographers got to work and quickly added aerial and satellite imagery to its database. To this day, the company works hard to provide the most up-to-date imagery as it becomes available from government and private sector sources. Customers can zoom in to get aerial maps centered on as small as 60 acres or zoom out to cover an entire mountain range or up to 2 million acres. Today, MyTopo allows its customers to order true-to-scale, navigation-ready maps using the same high quality satellite imagery seen on popular sites like Bing, Google, and Zillow.
But still, the more MyTopo did for hunters, the more they wanted. “I see you have aerial and topo maps. They are both helpful to me, but I only want to carry one map. Can you combine the two maps onto one map?” That question led to the creation of TopoPhoto maps. The TopoPhoto overlays topographic contours onto aerial photo base maps. These hybrid maps help hunters identify recent changes in the landscape while also allowing them to study the contours of the landscape. Hunters can see where there is forest versus open fields and identify potential new water sources, and some are savvy enough to identify nut and fruit bearing trees that may serve as food sources for game. With the contour data overlaid on the aerial, the sophisticated map reader can tell how the game will follow the ground contour to most efficiently and discreetly travel from bedding areas to food and water sources.
The innovations didn’t stop there. MyTopo continued to respond to its growing hunting customer base. Big game hunters from all over the country (and sometimes the world) began asking if they could get a map of an entire game management unit (GMU) based on the tag they had drawn.
MyTopo now produces 1:100,000 scale GMU maps that outline the entire hunt unit on one map sheet. MyTopo updates the maps annually, and as each state releases its permit draws, MyTopo’s phones and website get inundated.
“I drew a tag for elk hunting in Colorado GMU 301, can you make a map for me?” Here’s what MyTopo recommends: first, order the GMU map, study the entire unit, talk to biologists, and talk to others who have hunted the area. (This is where your Huntin’ Fool membership is so valuable!) If time allows, visit the area to do on-the-ground scouting. Decide where within the unit you are going to focus your efforts, and then, secondly, come back to MyTopo to get a more-detailed 1:24,000 scale topographic map and/or an aerial map of the area with the GMU boundary, US Forest Service roads, and public and private land ownership data overlaid on the map. The 1:24,000 scale topos cover approximately 8 miles by 11 miles and are the preferred option for field navigation.
For East Coast hunters, MyTopo offers pre-centered maps of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), state game lands, and public parks that allow hunting.
In 2014, MyTopo is taking mapping to a new level by adding the ability to overlay private land ownership data and parcel boundaries to printed maps. Whether it’s to get permission to retrieve an injured animal or to seek permission to hunt new land, it’s helpful to know ownership and boundary information.
In 2011, MyTopo was acquired by Trimble Navigation and now works closely with Trimble Outdoors, a division focused on creating outdoor navigation products for smartphones and tablets. MyTopo’s maps are now built into a full suite of products that allow hunters to use their smartphones and tablets for navigation in the field, even out of cell range.
In 2012, Trimble launched Trimble GPS Hunt, a mobile app specially designed for hunters, and a new website called GPSHuntFish.com, an online site to scout hunting lands on digital MyTopo maps and to access map editing tools. Now, even out of cell range, a hunter’s iPhone or Android phone will work as a reliable GPS device, allowing them to plot points, mark tracks and waypoints, and view their current location. The field-collected data can be synced and privately saved on the GPSHuntFish.comK website.
In addition, Trimble and MyTopo launched the first statewide SD Card-based Topo Maps for smartphones. Hunters can buy an entire state of topo maps on an SD Card and drop those digital MyTopo map files into their iPhone or Android device. The stored, or cached, maps can be viewed in the Trimble GPS Hunt app without data and/or cell signals. The Topo Map series also offers private land ownership details for more than 167.2 million private land plots in 39 states, the most comprehensive topo map and private land ownership coverage available for hunters on smartphones. Hunters can see the exact private land boundaries, address, assessor’s parcel number, and, where available, the landowner’s name.
The topo maps are sold on SD memory cards and are an ideal solution for off-the-grid mapping on Android-based phones. For iPhones, customers can download the mapping data from the SD card into iTunes and then onto their iPhones.
But, like clockwork, map-hungry hunters continue to call. Now that the issue of accessing maps out of cell range has been addressed, hunters want to know how to keep their phone's battery charged. This month, MyTopo and Trimble will launch the TopoCharger, the first iPhone battery case with built-in topo maps. The iPhone case doubles the battery life of the iPhone, and it has the topo and private land maps built right into the case, so none of the iPhone’s internal memory is eaten up with gigabytes of maps.
Most of us already carry our phones everywhere we go, so it’s not a stretch to carry it into the backcountry. That’s only the beginning, too. With these latest technologies and more to come, there is simply no reason not to use your smartphone as your GPS. But, of course, when using an electronic device for field navigation, always carry a waterproof MyTopo printed map too.
MyTopo has teamed up with Huntin’ Fool to bring you a full suite of print and digital navigation products. Visit the map center on the Huntin’ Fool website, www.huntinfool.com/maps, or mytopo.com/huntinfool to order your navigation products for 2014 hunts. MyTopo’s customer service team is ready to help provide you with any mapping advice or answer any mapping-related questions. You can call MyTopo toll-free at 877-587-9004.
With all of the advancements in mapping technology in the past decade, there is no excuse for getting lost or missing out on the best hunting spots.