Technology in the outdoors
By Luke Clayton
Jul 13, 2014
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As many of you that read this column each week know, I host a weekly hunting and fishing outdoor show that airs on several stations and networks, I also write features for several outdoor publications. As much as I hate to admit it, I have become extremely dependent upon my computer as a tool for making all this happen. I well remember a quarter century ago writing my first pieces of outdoor journalism on a tablet with a lead pencil. I’d pencil the column then hammer out the finished product on a typewriter. There was obviously no spell check on the old machine which I’m positive caused my editors much extra work. But they, and I, persevered and things finally got better when we all graduated to state of the art computers.

As recent as six years ago, I drove 100 miles each week to a little radio studio to record my show. Dan Foster who had a long and illustrious career in radio and who was once Bill Mack’s news man, was my mentor and the one that flipped the switches and made the show happen. All I had to do was talk. My part was easy, I knew about hunting and fishing and doing the shows became second nature to me.  The only down side to this gig was the long drive through Dallas traffic getting to the studio!   

And then, I learned about such things as recording programs for my computer, FTP sites and fast internet. Now I never have to leave my desk to record the shows. Bill Dance, Larry Weishuhn and all the guests that join me each week are no farther away than my telephone and their voices are digitally recorded via my trusty computer. When you hear us on the radio, through what to me still seems black magic, we sound just like we are right there in the room with you, talking about recent outdoor outings or new products in the outdoors.
Over the weekend, what the gurus refer to as the ‘motherboard’ of my computer crashed. Thanks to some very expert and prompt work by my computer technician, I am back to work on my upgraded computer with thoughts tumbling around in my mind that prompted this week's column.

At my stage of life, I like to think that the word ‘stress’ is no longer in my vocabulary but when one has famous guys like Dance and Weishuhn waiting to record and editors ‘chompin at the bit’ for this week’s column, I must admit that I was beginning to feel just a bit of pressure!  This brief but intense period of computer itis caused me to pause and ponder upon just how dependent most of us have become on modern day technology, even in the tools we use when pursuing out outdoor sports. 

I recently did an article on night hunting for wild hogs, highlighting a piece of equipment called the Nite Site. The Nite Site consists of a little ‘computer’ type screen that mounts on top of one’s rifle scope. Another device is fitted over the eye piece of the scope and the image on the screen is exactly what one sees when looking through the scope. Aiming is accomplished by placing the image of the crosshairs (shown on the screen on TOP of the scope) on the target. I recently killed a crop-invading wild hog on a dark, moonless night using the awesome technology of the Nite Site.

Today’s technology carries over to the outdoors. Here Mark Balette (left) uses a Nite Site mounted on his rifle to shoot a hog in near pitch darkness. Randy Douglas watches the action using his Nite Site Spotter. photo by Luke Clayton

Little lights that fit inside the nock on my arrows light up like mini sky rockets when fired from my compound bow. I’ve found these ‘lighted nocks’ to be extremely useful in tracking game shot during the last few minutes of legal shooting light. The technology used to manufacture these little lights was unheard of just a couple of decades ago.

Technology in the outdoors in not limited to hunting products. For the past few years, I’ve used a very powerful little electric boat engine known as a Torqeedo.  The electric engine easily powers small boats for miles with one charge of the state of the art battery. I’ve been reading about a new boat engine that is powered by bottled propane. One of the one pound propane canisters is screwed into a fitting on the motor and the need for mixing oil and gas becomes a thing of the past!

Ken Blackstock, who owns Plano Golf Carts in Plano, Texas uses a special controller and electric motor to power his rugged off road electric vehicles. The advanced electrical/gearing system actually causes the vehicle to come to a stop on steep downward slopes when one’s foot is removed from the accelerator. These units have proved their merit for me on our high country Colorado elk and bear hunts. I used to have to ‘ride’ the brakes when coming down the slopes, often with an electric buggy loaded with hunters. Now, I simply remove my foot from the petal and the buggy instantly begins to slow and then, stop. Here technology is not only very handy but also has the potential to save one’s life, especially when negotiating the steep mountain roads after one of those sudden and violent mountain thunderstorms.

And how about GPS? I spent the majority of my outdoor life depending upon a compass and dead reckoning. Today, one of many inexpensive hand held GPS units will plot one’s exact position anywhere on the globe. With mapping software installed, they will plot every feature of the land and even give a 3D view.

I’ve had old timers joke that today’s sonar makes catching fish almost child’s play and I must admit that side imaging sonar coupled with onboard GPS does make finding fish attracting structures and fish much easier that back in the day of the old flasher units and before when a rope with a piece of lead tied on the end served as a depth indicator.  Finding fish in one thing, catching them is an entirely different proposition. Good fishermen that learn to use this modern side imaging sonar definitely have the odds stacked in their favor!

Well, I’ve better wrap up this week column that was spawned by my computer malfunction. Gotta go check the Bill Dance Fishing app on my smart phone before heading out to catch a mess of catfish!

Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton at Email Luke via the web site with fishing and hunting news from your area.