Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Cell phone with Wisconsin Natural Resources Parks App © Screen images by ParksByNature Network, LLC

© Screen images by ParksByNature Network, LLC

October 2014

Connecting with outdoor enthusiasts

DNR's mobile apps make it easier to find places to have fun.

Dana Kampa

The Department of Natural Resources launched the free Pocket Ranger® Fish and Wildlife Guide app last year for the deer season opener as part of continuing efforts to engage with users, and has been improving on it ever since.

"The Wisconsin Pocket Ranger connects old traditions with new technology," explains DNR web manager, Chris Welch.

The guide makes it easier for outdoor enthusiasts to connect with each other and for the department to deliver information to increase outdoor safety. The app is part of a nationwide network of state Pocket Ranger applications, which the department created in partnership with the Wisconsin Interactive Network and ParksByNature Network.

The app features include GPS mapping to find places to hunt and fish, a safety communications tool, fish and game species identification, severe weather alerts and more. The "Nearest Me" feature helps explorers find places including state wildlife management areas, shooting ranges, state forests, fisheries management areas and boat landings. The advanced GPS mapping features allow users to save maps for later when they might not have an internet connection.

"A couple of our customers are in more rural areas where they may not have a data connection," Welch says. "The app can record their tracks and times so they can relocate their favorite fishing spots when they do get a better connection."

The GPS mapping also helps users connect with friends and family by allowing them to track one another on hunting or hiking trips with a unique set of PINs. Give your friends your PIN and they will be able to see your location on the app map for 24 hours when the app is open.

Looking for something beyond hunting and fishing£ The app features "GeoChallenges," which are "fun, eco–conscious ways to explore and learn about parks, historic areas and wildlife viewing trails," according to the app.

The "Fish and Wildlife Guide" works with the free Pocket Ranger Trophy Case app, a social component that allows users to post and view hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and scenic pictures, and connect with other social media outlets such as Facebook.

"Trophy Case" uses a color–coded system to rank users based on points earned by posting, commenting on other photos and awarding trophies to other posts.

"It's really geared toward the outdoor enthusiast, to join the community of anglers and hunters, share photos of their harvest and become part of that outdoor network," Welch says.

The app showcases a wildlife viewing guide to help identify birds, dragonflies, frogs, lizards, mammals, mussels, salamanders, snakes and turtles.

The app also includes outdoor reports, weekly DNR news and information about different seasons such as hunting hours and registration.

The app incorporates elements of the Sunrise–Sunset app released two years ago by DNR law enforcement, which helps hunters find legal hunting times and regulations every day.

State parks, trails and forests app

Wisconsin also has a new app available for state parks, forests and trails — the free Pocket Ranger® Wisconsin State Parks and Forests app available for iPhone and Android users. The app features photo galleries and park description pages and has an "Explore" feature that optimizes search capabilities by location, activities, category and park, trail or forest name.

The app includes descriptions of each park, forest and trail, along with what amenities it offers, and maps and directions. The app includes an advanced GPS mapping feature that will locate the closest state properties and allows users to take GPS tours, record trail distances and time elapsed, and mark photo waypoints.

There is a real–time calendar of events that allows users to search by property, date and type of event.

The app includes a social networking and photo/video sharing feature and a "Friend Finder" that allows companions to keep track of each other when on a trail or at a park or forest.

The app also links to the DNR website and features a built–in compass, weather alerts and a potentially life–saving emergency alert feature.

To download these free apps, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "mobile apps."

Dana Kampa interns with DNR's Office of Communications and attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison.