How to Use a Compass?

When you carry a decent compass, and know how to use it, there is no reason to get lost.

Invariably, campsites are located on trail, tote road, stream, lake, telephone wire etc. We ‘re going to say your camp is on a good sized stream or well-defined road that runs north and south. You cross the stream or path and search for several hours to the South. Everything you need to do is drive West, if you want to go to camp. Hold the compass so that the needle arrow points to “N” and then pick and go to some object in the right west direction. Continue to repeat this and you’re sure to hit your road but it might be a mile or more below or above your house. You ‘re out of the woods anyway and if you’ve been over the road a couple of times you’ll soon see landmarks telling you which way to go.

Lakes, old railways, power lines, etc., everytime operate in some direction and when you start, you must be sure of that direction and always be sure of which side you are hunting on.

I normally get someone in the party to help make a rough sketch of the area before setting out and always take it with me. This sort of rough map is a great help in finding the very shortest way to camp.

Sometimes you’ll feel confident your compass is incorrect. Carrying two compasses is the best way to overcome the feeling. Place them eight to ten feet apart and away from your weapons or other metal while testing one compass against another. Another reason to carry two compasses is because one could get broken. In fact, it was known that compasses were getting out of order. If the compass needle swings several times back and forth and eventually settles on two or three measures in the same direction, it is O.K.

< How to Use GPS >

The Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver is the modern tool for navigating the outdoors. A handheld GPS will guide you to your destination as well as provide your exact position on Earth, give you information to keep you on track and tell you how far you need to go. It lays electronic breadcrumbs called “waypoints” so that you can retrace your course, even on the kind of random side trip that could cause a lesser-equipped hunter to lose his path.

At first, only the military used GPS, but now, for about the cost of a riflescope or decent tent, standard mapping tools can be had. Technology will, of course, continue to improve at a rapid clip, and both features and prices will surely change.

The technology is not difficult to master although it is advanced. The GPS looks for satellite signals to the horizon. When the GPS detects at least two signals, it sets the current latitude and longitude, and shows your position on the screen on a digital map.

Today’s systems are so strong that there is no longer any need to stand in a clearing to get a signal; a clear view of the sky is enough. Remember to stop and lock in a signal before going into the trees, to get the best results. If you’re wearing a backpack, fasten the GPS to your shoulder strap so it’s pointing to the sky. If you carry the unit in your hand, avoid swinging your arms because the recipient may be confused by the motion.

You may be tempted to throw away your paper map and compass, if you own a GPS. Don’t cede to the lure. Can batteries fail. Heavy tree cover and steep, narrow valleys may interfere with signals from satellites. And if you drop your GPS in a sea, it may altogether stop working. The best piece of equipment you’ll get into the woods is between your legs.

No piece of technology replaces traditional navigational skills with working knowledge.