with Horse and Hound

New Age Hunting Journal

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Throughout the history of foxhunting, many Masters, huntsmen, and even field members have kept hunting journals. These accounts generally include the date, meeting place, names of hunting staff, weather and scenting conditions, and other factual details. Then, depending on the writer’s bent and talent, there may be textual descriptions of runs, actions of specific hounds, and even artistic renditions of special moments. Such journals have provided us with valuable historic information as well as stirring tales of the great hunts of yesteryear.

It came home to me only recently that most of us today carry in our pocket a resource that revolutionizes the traditional hunting journal: the smart phone.

After a good day’s hunting, a friend e-mailed this graphic to me that showed a bold, squiggly, blue track of our perambulations over the country, super-imposed upon a Google Earth map. I could see our track through the woods, fields, and streams we had crossed and the roads that provided the boundaries to our activities. Factual details such as elapsed time, distance traveled, average speed, and maximum speed were also tabulated.

While GPS satellite positioning may not be new or astounding to most of us, what is relatively new and astounding to me is the fact that this incredibly informative and graphic feature no longer requires a separate and dedicated GPS gadget. It’s freely available to anyone with a smart phone and can enhance the traditional hunting journal by a quantum leap in the amount and clarity of information imparted.

The illustration shows the track of the field on Opening Meet at the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA) recorded by Matthew Klein on his iPhone. MotionX GPS is the name of the application (app) that Matthew had downloaded to provide this data. The yellow directional arrows  and the red lines indicating coops were added by Matthew in PhotoShop on a screen capture of the Google Earth image. MotionX isn’t a free app, but at $2.99 it’s pretty darn close! It is exclusively designed and optimized for the iPhone.

Endomondo is a free app that works with both iPhone and Android and provides similar data and graphics. It automatically inserts numbered mile-markers on the track. Truly, the most difficult part of the entire procedure in producing these maps is to remember to hit the Start button on your phone at the beginning of the hunt!

Even if one is not disposed to journal-keeping, GPS tracking could be of value. I have to believe that this device in a huntsman’s or whipper-in’s pocket could be of great interest to him or her after the meet. Visualizing where he was in relation to the pack as they hunted—especially when hounds were out of sight—could tell him more about how foxes run through the country. If he is new to the country, a review would give him an accurate perspective of where he has been in relation to all the landmarks and ground cues and could serve as a learning aid. There are probably many more advantages to be gained that haven’t even occurred to me. Perhaps reader contributions in the Comments field below will add to the discussion.

Posted November 12, 2012

With thanks to Matthew Klein who provided the graphics and to Steven Price, a member of FHL‘s Panel of Experts, who suggested this article.