Our Outdoors: Today is Tomorrow

By Nick Simonson

Shortly after purchasing my first boat, a used 1986 Grumman Sportsman found on the classified ad page of a regional fishing website that has long since gone under, I added a Humminbird 300 TX fishfinder to the console and snaked the black wire back to the transom of the craft.  With its three-beam transducer, the gray LCD screen was able to show fish to the right, left or directly under the boat as my buddies and I cruised the river and nearby lakes around my hometown.  It was the cat’s meow and at the time made me feel like at least the electronics on the late-80s model were right on the cutting edge as we split the surface of the waters in search of walleyes, smallmouth, white bass and crappies. 


Oh, how far we’ve come.  Today’s sonar units for boats offer side-scanning displays out to 100 feet with renderings of structure and bottom contours so high in definition you can pick out the individual twigs at the end of each branch on a deadfall in 30 feet of water. Not to mention advanced models in the thousands of dollars which can scan around the boat and provide returns which show fish swimming, making the jump from previous sonar’s mere snapshot in time to a real time display which can track lure retrieve, baitfish movement, and the pursuit of the predators around them.  Unlike the flying cars promised by so many sci-fi movies from the same era of my first boat, the predicted technology in fishing has come to be. 


The same is true for hunting, starting with how sportsmen see the world.  The first trail cameras operated with film models, a concept the generation heading into the field now will never know, and likely never has.  With the advent of digital technology and the improvement of the definition captured by the lenses, field cameras have jumped from two, to six to 14 to 20 megapixels in just over a decade, providing pictures so defined you can spot at tick on a deer’s back. Add to that the expanded coverage of cellular towers which dot the landscape, even in some of the most remote locations (another discussion for another day), and it was only a matter of time before wireless transmission of those images directly to a person’s phone was a reality.  Now, a hunter can drop a few hundred dollars and have his or her hunting area covered by a set of cellular trail cameras that send photos of what’s going on in the wild directly to a screen at home. 


So, if today is the tomorrow that was promised to us in the pages of an old Field & Stream magazine, what does the future hold? As interconnected as all things are right now, I imagine a 2041 where the table is set for all anglers and hunters and today’s technology is on every boat or in the palm of every hand and the cutting edge will be based in that increasing interconnectivity of things.  Predictive analysis will likely help suggest fishing spots based on previous years’ success on the water, using weather conditions, water levels and recent environmental trends to identify stored GPS waypoints and provide potential ones on a map as high-probability locations for an upcoming trip based on those factors and more. Sonar will all be real-time, picking up the slightest details of fish in all directions, noting the distance to the biggest bass in the bunch or where the school of walleyes came from and is going.  Text messages will provide real-time data for fishing suggestions mid-float, allowing for adjustment on the fly and better success on an outing.


Trail cameras will not only send the pictures, but also join with online weather and mapping information to help us connect the dots with wind and conditions, suggest tree stands to use, and further define the patterns of the animals we pursue, taking more and more of the guesswork out of what goes on in the field.  Instead of receiving a morning Facebook push notification, hunters will receive one that combines all this information into a hunt plan for the day, with peak times based on previous movements recorded on camera, solunar times, seasonal trends and the upcoming weather forecast.

Sit back and imagine: lures that digitally record speed, disruption and movement at the moment of a strike and automatically drop a waypoint or suggest tuning when they’re off in their wiggle; downrigger balls that emit sound, scent or light patterns that trigger fish into biting; arrow nocks that show up on a digital map from the moment after the shot until the time the deer is tagged.  Put them all together with whatever else you’re dreaming of, and the next tomorrow on the water or in the field seems more and more amazing. Of course, balancing the effectiveness of these improvements against the management of both fish and game will be where the line is drawn between the power of technology and the limits of the resource, but again that’s another debate for another time in the future…of our outdoors.

Featured Photo: Remember when? Even basic sonar has become more advanced, and what was top of the line two or three years ago is now outdated.  Where the future for fishing and hunting technology goes will likely be based on the growing connectivity we’re experiencing as sonar, trail cameras, maps, and even lures, will provide us with real-time information. Simonson Photo.

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