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In the hunting and outdoors world today more and more of us are venturing out farther off the beaten path in search of bigger challenges and hunts of a lifetime. Today, it’s no longer just a hunt–it’s an excursion. There was a time when a couple of Talk-About radios would suffice, but now as hunting has evolved there are more technology options available to hunters to support safety, provide location and stay connected. Hunting in the West has become a more populated activity. It has become more common to have hunting partners sitting on two different ridge tops miles apart. The good news is there are cost effective options to stay in communication and minimize your risk.
Two-way radio communications have not been a widely covered solution in the hunting or outdoors world. There is the Garmin Rhino with the GPS/radio combination, the Motorola Talk-Abouts, and other GMRS frequency options. GMRS frequencies are general UHF frequencies set aside for non-commercial use. The challenge with these is that anyone and everyone can have them limiting privacy, as well as being more susceptible to interference. We are going to focus on commercial-grade radio options that will provide you as the hunter/outdoorsman the proper durability, water resistance, and quality you count on out in the wilderness.
For outdoors purposes there are a few requirements that we recommend from our own personal testing and use in hunting, hiking, fishing, and even rafting. At a minimum, we recommend an IP-57 rating, digital signal capability, and a minimum of a commercial grade model. An IP-57 rating means that the radio, when all of the seals are properly maintained and in place, can roughly sit in a bucket of water (or up to 1m) for 30 minutes and still operate. It also defines the radio as being dust protected, but not entirely prevented.
One example of such a radio is the Motorola CP200D. This model has replaced the old “mainstay” CP200, now offering digital capable models in both UHF and VHF. Another fine example that meets these requirements is the Vertex EVX-531. This is also a digital capable radio in VHF or UHF. The commercial grade or professional grade models of radios will ensure that you get the type of durability that outdoors activities and use will require.
Digital technology in radios? Yes, that’s correct. The main advantage of digital signal over analog is that the precise signal level of the digital signal is not vital. In other words, the digital signal is more immune to the imperfections of electronics, which tend to reduce analog signals. Digital signals are also less impervious to noise. Because information is sent in a byte, as opposed to a data bit (0 or 1) it has a lower value of being affected by all levels of noise. Digital signals also enable transmissions over longer distances, meaning you get more coverage and farther transmission from a digital over an analog model. Current studies show a 20%+ greater transmission distance using digital technology. Digital signals use less bandwidth, meaning you can cram more information into the same space.
Now before we get too far, we want to make sure that you are aware of certain restrictions of using radios when hunting. Some states completely restrict the use of radios for hunting purposes of any kind. Please consult the local Game and Fish offices in the states you are going to be hunting in for their individual rules and regulations. Certain hunting and conservation organizations also restrict the use of radios while hunting in regards to the submittal of a trophy for measurement and award or recognition. Make sure you know the rules and regulations of the organizations you are part of.
So what are the benefits of using two-way radios for hunting and outdoors excursions? Great question, let us answer that in kind. First and foremost is the issue of safety. Whether you are hunting with your kids, with a group of friends, or you’re a guide with clients,
there is not always cellular coverage in the places you venture into. Two-way radios provide a quick easy solution to reach someone in your party easily and effectively. If you are in thick cover with multiple hunting partners, radios can also help you quickly locate someone and know if it is safe to take a shot. Safety should always be our first priority while out hunting. No game is worth someone getting wounded or even worse.
The next benefit is the ability to coordinate and plan while out hunting. Have you ever harvested game and then found yourself in a situation where no one you are with is near you and you can’t reach them on the cell phone or by voice? Not an uncommon predicament. If you’re dealing with an elk down and help is available, it’s certainly more efficient in contacting them on a radio to guide them in to where you are at. How about being 20 miles from the closest paved road, you have a flat tire, and there’s no cell coverage. But, you have a buddy in a vehicle farther up the road from you and he can’t see you. Radios are the primary solution for such a challenge.
Do you ever do any shed hunting? Shed hunting has become much more popular today, and is often an activity in which people are working together in teams to cover more ground. Two-way radios are a perfect solution for coordinating your search patterns and keeping in contact. Coordinating long distance stalks or the retrieval of downed game across a deep canyon can be another positive in using two-way radios. Often times as you close in on your target, the terrain suddenly looks drastically different than from when you first started your stalk. If you have a buddy in a vantage point who can communicate clearly and quietly with you along the way, it can cut a lot of time off closing the gap. For retrieval of game, it can cut time off as well with crossing difficult terrain.How about mountain lion hunting? Have you ever done it? If not, I highly recommend it as it’s as big of a rush in the outdoors as I’ve ever experienced. When hunting for mountain lions having radio communications has always been an advantage and benefit. It is not difficult to find yourself 10 miles away from where you started and separated from members in your group. Coordinating a plan to get back, being able to provide quick support, and having a piece of mind often only comes from two-way radios and not cell phones.
An important fact to remember when considering the use of commercial grade two way radios is that the FCC does require licensing for commercial frequencies. Licensing your frequencies will run you somewhere in the realm of $300 for 1-6 channels that provide you personal frequencies other members of the general public cannot listen on. This is done with the use of DPL or PL codes in the programming of commercial grade radios. This is not a feature you can take advantage of in GRMS frequencies, such as those in the Motorola Talk-Abouts. Remember that the GRMS frequencies are a free public use set of frequencies that anyone can use in UHF. If you value privacy in your communications, commercial or professional grade radios are a superior option.
Now let’s discuss the difference between VHF and UHF frequencies. VHF stands for very high frequency. This signal travels farther and bounces better. This tends to be the better option in flat land or small rolling hills in which distance matters most. UHF stands for ultra-high frequency. UHF will provide you a strong penetrating signal. When hunting in canyons, thick cover, and more extremely varying terrain, then UHF will provide you the superior option. Our own testing and experience has shown that UHF is a better option unless you really have the need to talk at much longer distances like 10 miles. With either set of frequencies, the distance you can achieve in transmission is still determined by a combination of radio frequency interference, terrain, component quality, and objects deflecting the signals.
Beyond two-way radios, there are other options to keep you connected out in the wild. The Globalstar Satellite phone is now more affordable than ever. With the newest and most reliable satellite network, and a variety of plans ranging from pay-as-you-go, to more affordable annual plans today, the Satellite phone has become a lighter, and less expensive solution than it was ten years ago. There are also cellular phone boosters that will help boost the signal of your cell phone. Keep in mind that cell boosters do not create a signal; they merely amplify a signal. If you can get at least one bar in your signal readout, then a cell booster can make the difference in getting an emergency call out. For more information on two-way solutions to keep you connected go to www.outdoor2way.com.
We hope you found this information helpful and informative. Two-way radios have been used in hunting for a long time, but it’s an under-covered topic. The reality is that most of us are able to take advantage of this technology to improve the quality of our hunts, create a safer situation, and have a peace on of mind when hunting with other friends or family. For more information on communication solutions for hunting, please contact Cody Goff at Air Comm at 602-329-1773, or firstname.lastname@example.org or Luke Harrison at 720-413-2945, email@example.com.