onX Hunt in the Uplands With Brandon Moss

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Brandon Moss is one of the most dedicated upland hunters we know. In this piece, he discusses how onX Hunt has helped him plan better hunts and find more birds.

Are you familiar with that American Express tagline—don’t leave home without it? The few things that fit this bill for me are my pocketknife, wallet, phone and onX Hunt. The pocketknife is a habit I picked up from my father, and the other items are matters of pure convenience. With the luxury of a smart phone in my pocket at all times, I can take onX Hunt with me everywhere I go. The Hunt App has become part of my daily life.

Closeup image of a grouse.

If you’re anything like me, and I imagine you are, most of your thoughts revolve around family and hunting. Throughout the day, many of my thoughts are about areas I want to hunt and explore more. Almost reflexively, I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. With a swipe of my index finger and a tap of my thumb, I have a visual of places I can hunt. My thoughts drift to running dogs, hard points and a plan of attack for upcoming hunts.

I’ve found a few features that help me make the most of my onX use and improve the way I hunt upland birds. The main thing I use it for is identifying public land using the color-coded land designations—blue (state land) and yellow (BLM land) have become my new favorite colors. I’ve found ways to access land I had always been told was private. One of my favorite days of upland hunting with my father was made possible by onX Hunt. For years, we believed that a large section of BLM land was landlocked with no possible access. With the App, we identified a smaller landowner adjacent to the BLM land, made a single phone call and gained access. I’ll never forget that day.

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I also think Block Management and Walk-In Areas are often overlooked. Once I enabled the Walk-In Layer, an abundance of accessible land became available. As an example, there is a section of state land within 25 minutes of my house that I have hunted for years. This section is roughly 640 acres—good for a morning or evening hunt, but hardly enough for an entire day. Time after time, I would move birds and watch them sail off into the adjoining private land. After turning on my Block Management Layer, however, I realized that the private land I had avoided for so long was actually enrolled in Montana’s Block Management program. Just like that, my 640 acres became 5,000. Since then, I have harvested sharptail and sage grouse, Hungarian partridge and pheasant in that area.

onX is always coming out with new and creative features for onX Hunt. Last year, I started to fully utilize Waypoints for scouting and hunting. Now, with improved custom icon, color and sharing capabilities, this system is perfect for the type of hunting I enjoy. I know now where I’ve seen birds in the past, and I can easily remember areas I wanted to scout. Just this month, I revisited a Waypoint I saved last year. Turns out this area holds a bunch of birds and is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots.

A hunter wearing gloves holds a grouse.

A few weeks ago, I received a message from a guy asking about sage grouse areas and wanting advice on where to hunt. The message read, “I’ve enjoyed watching all your sage grouse content and reading your pieces for onX and Project Upland. I would love to take my first sage grouse this year. I’ve only spent one day chasing these iconic birds, but I had a difficult time identifying suitable habitat. The sagebrush sea seems endless, and identifying key micro habitats within it is daunting. I have a few onX Hunt Waypoints of spots I was thinking about checking out this year. Would you be interested in reviewing these Waypoints and giving me your two cents on why the spots might hold sage grouse or not?”

Using the Sharing feature, he quickly texted me his Waypoints. I was able to look them over and provide some feedback. A few were places I had actually hunted before—he had chosen well. I haven’t heard back from him at the time of this writing, but I hope he’s able to achieve his goal this year. I want people to experience what I have come to love, and the Sharing feature allows exactly that. He put in the work looking for areas, and I had no problem providing a few tips for him. Sharing made that easy.

onX Hunt is constantly improving, and I can’t wait to see what’s new over the next year. They live by the attitude that even if it works, improve it. Each season, we are given new ways to capitalize on our hunting experience by onX Hunt. I don’t know about you, but my long winters are made much better scouring onX Hunt and planning my next hunting season.

Christian Fichtel

Raised in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, Christian Fichtel now resides in rural Montana. He is a father, writer, hunter, and fly fisherman.