10 Insider Tips for Western Hunting Using onX

As we head into another busy hunting season, we’ve rounded up our top 10 ways we here at onX use the Hunt App for our own Western hunts. From the best Layers to turn on, to adding and sharing Map Markups, here’s how to streamline both your e-scouting and your time in the field this year.

Turn on These Five Layers

When you first download the Hunt App, several map Layers are turned on by default to help get you started. These auto-on Layers include some of our most popular Layers: Public / Private Lands, Game Management Units, roads, trails, and more, but there are many more layers you can use to customize your map. All the Layers we’re about to talk about (and many more) can be found in the ‘Map Layers’ folder of your App. 

These are the top five Layers that onX Hunt users love that aren’t switched “on” by default. Do some exploring and turn them on to level up your hunts this season.

Possible Access

For years, onX’s in-house GIS (geographic information system) technicians have studied large privately owned lands across the country that occasionally grant public recreational access. From private timberland to non-governmental and nonprofit lands, the team has compiled information to create the only database containing over 40 million acres of possible access. While we’ve taken the work out of locating these opportunities on the map, you still need to verify permission, rules, and permits needed with each landowner before using the properties. Find this Layer under your ‘State’ then ‘My Layers’ folder.  Identified properties will have a green pattern with lines or dots.

Private Lands Hunting Programs

This Layer shows properties where state wildlife agencies have partnered with private landowners to open up recreational access to hunters. This land goes by many names across the country—Block Management in Montana, Walk-in Access in Colorado, or Cooperative Wildlife Management Units in Utah. These properties provide a stellar opportunity to expand the areas you can hunt and offer a wide range of species available from elk to sharptail grouse. Find this layer under your ‘State’ then ‘My Layers’ folder. Participating properties will have a black outline with a grid of red dots when they are open for hunting, while closed areas are still shown on the map for pre-season scouting but are highlighted in red to show they are not open yet.

Roadless Areas

The nationwide Roadless Areas Layer is a heat map that gives an overall view of how close a particular hunting area is to a road. Areas shaded the darkest are closest to roads, while the brightly illuminated areas are the furthest removed. Countless studies and surveys conducted by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other organizations about how roads impact the behavior of elk have all reached the same conclusion—elk thrive in open timber furthest from roads. During the general rifle season, use this Layer to find remote areas for bull elk to travel, heal, and rest after the rigors of the rut—these are called sanctuary areas.  Find this Layer under your ‘Hunt’ then ‘My Layers’ folder.   

Historic and Active Wildfires

The chaos and damage of wildfires may make a forest look like a moonscape, but with that devastation also comes opportunity for great hunting. The young generation of plants growing in burned areas provides high quality food sources and attracts big game animals like deer and elk. The Historic Wildfire Layer helps you target old burns with a color-coded map illustrating the extent of the burn, name, year, and acreage. The Active Wildfire Layer is updated daily to identify recent or actively burning fires, and is a very important layer to track during the summer and archery seasons to see how your hunt might be affected. A recent fire does not mean a spot should be passed over; if you see new growth, resident elk will begin using it that very year. Find these Layers under your ‘Hunt’ then ‘My Layers’ folder.

Trail Mileage and Slope

onX is known for the massive volume of trails that help make the Hunt App so useful, but our Trail Mileage and Trail Slope Layers will also help you plan and prepare for your next hunt. Use the Trail Mileage Layer to plan your day hunts and backpacking trips by knowing exactly how many miles are left to your destination or the next trail junction. Simply look for the red and white numbers on the trails to see the mileage. The Trail Slope Layer is another user favorite, as it allows you to see the gradient or steepness for the trail you’re going to hike. A green-yellow-red gradient is used to show the steepness along the trail: green sections will be relatively flat while the red sections will be the steepest section. Find these Layers under your ‘Trails & Rec Layer’ folder.  

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The next time you’re e-scouting or planning a hunt, be sure to use these five Layers along with exploring all of the other map Layers in our extensive collection. Additional favorites include the RMEF Access Layer, Motor Vehicle Roads and Trails, Timber Cuts, Precipitation Radar, and more.

Tap the Map to Explore these Five Things

Once you’ve explored Layers, it’s time to delve into other features and tools in onX Hunt. Did you know you can obtain more valuable data about a particular location simply by tapping anywhere on the map in the onX Hunt App? Turn on all applicable Layers and simply tap the map to bring up detailed information on the location. The top five things you can explore by tapping on the map are:

Ownership Overview

By having the Private and Government Lands Layer turned on under ‘Map Layers,’ you’ll be able to see on the map if what you are looking at is private or public land, explore private landowner names, and visualize types of public land. However, if you want to learn even more about a particular location, tapping on it will allow you to see the owner name or public land type, in addition to the size (acreage) of the parcel you tapped. Additionally, if it’s private land, this is where you’ll find the owner’s tax address. You can use this information to have a better understanding of the location, as well as obtaining permission to hunt. 

Hunt Unit Info

With the Hunting Districts Layer activated, you’ll see green unit boundaries and unit numbers on your map. Tap within one of these units to show more details including the unit number, all harvest data available for that particular unit, and—if you have cell service—links to species data and specific regulations for that unit. NOTE: In states that vary units by species, you can select the species you want to see units for by going to your states layers and selecting ‘Layer Settings’ in the ‘Hunt Units’ Layer. This information will provide you with a more in-depth understanding of and regulations for a specific unit.

Weather

Tapping on the map will allow you to see a detailed weather overview from the weather station closest to where you tapped. You’ll see the current temperature and weather conditions as well as wind speed and direction, precipitation, sunrise and sunset times, moon phase, and barometer readings. It displays both hourly and extended weekly forecasts for the area, crucial information for both real-time and planning purposes. Use the temperature forecasts to prepare for how to dress and what to bring, the sunrise and set times to determine when you need to set your alarm and legal shooting times, and the moon phase and barometer readings to predict animal movement. 

Active Layer Details

The Hunt App is loaded with data that can be turned on or off by having specific Layers active. Take some time to explore the many useful layers under the ‘State,’ ‘Hunt,’ and ‘Trails & Rec’ sections. By turning these (often underutilized) Layers on, you’ll be able to both see data displayed on the map and have access to more in-depth information when you tap on a location. One example of this is that by turning the Historic Wildfire Layer on under the ‘Hunt’ Layers and then tapping on a fire location, you can see additional information on that particular fire such as the fire name, acreage burnt, and start date. 

Adding and Sharing Markups

A shortcut for adding a Waypoint and photo for a particular location can also be found by tapping on the map. You can tap a spot on the map, learn more about that location, then select the ‘Add Photo’ or ‘Add Waypoint’ button on the bottom of the screen. Quickly mark a Waypoint for that location, then customize it by naming it, selecting a color, choosing from more than 80 different Waypoint icons, and adding notes. That way you can save and come back to that location in the future. You can also select ‘Share’ to share that particular location to a hunting buddy or loved one with a few simple taps.

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Don’t miss out on the extensive amount of data the Hunt App has to offer. It’s worth taking the time to explore Layers you may have missed, and learning how to utilize every aspect of the Hunt App before hunting season is here. (E-scouting is the perfect time to refresh your knowledge of the App—scout out your hunting unit, and share information with your hunting buddies before heading into the field.) By simply tapping on the map, you can become a more informed hunter both during the planning process and in the field. Knowledge and a little homework could make the difference between a long walk in the woods and a filled freezer heading into winter. 

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Jess McGlothlin

Before taking the role of onX Communications Writer, Jess McGlothlin worked as a freelance photographer and writer in the outdoor and fly-fishing industries. While on assignment in the past few years she’s learned how to throw spears at coconuts in French Polynesia, dodge saltwater crocodiles in Cuba, stand-up paddleboard down Peruvian Amazon tributaries and eat all manner of unidentifiable food.