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Skills: There's an App for That

Let your smartphone enhance your next outdoor escapade.

By Jennifer Bristol

Have you ever walked past a beautiful patch of flowers and wished you’d known their names? Maybe you just reeled in a fish and immediately needed to find out the size and bag regulations for that species. Well, there’s an app for that.

As a matter of fact, there’s an app for all kinds of outdoor exploration. It’s easy to get information about our natural world in real time with the power of a personal computer in your pocket — your smartphone.

Planning an outdoor adventure is half the fun. Perhaps you saw a great article in the Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine app and want to plan a trip to visit the park that captured your attention. You can use the Texas State Parks Official Guide app to find campgrounds and cabins. The NOAA Weather Radar app will let you check the weather around the state so you know what to pack or what areas of the state to avoid. Waze, a GPS navigation app, can help you avoid heavy traffic to maximize your outdoor time.

Once it’s finally time to relax at the park, you might be surrounded by an array of unfamiliar plants, birds, animals and stars. There are apps for that, too, of course. Leafsnap allows you to identify plants in the area, Birdsnap is for the birds, CritterTrax helps with recognizing animals, and Sky Guide tells you what constellations, planets and comets might be overhead at a certain location
and time.

Once you have accurately identified a plant, bird or animal, now you can record your findings. Texas Nature Trackers, eBird and iNaturalist are all citizen science apps that allow biologists and other scientists to better understand migration and life patterns of various mammals, birds, reptiles and other critters, using your data.

Hunters interested in harvesting seasonal birds, mammals and fish can check opening dates, bag limits and more with the Outdoor Annual app (Texas hunting and fishing regulations) and then record the harvest with My Texas Hunt Harvest. Find the best fishing spots across the state with the Texas Lakes and Fishes app.

Sometimes we get a little disoriented when walking through the woods. But if you turn on a GPS tracker at the start of your journey, you’ll have a better chance of knowing how to safely get back to your car or tent. Before you set out on a hike or bike ride, plan your adventure by using the AllTrails app to find hiking and biking trails. You can even share your itinerary with other people so they know where you will be and when they can expect you to return.

How best to share the wonders you found and adventures you enjoyed? If you recorded some of your escapades, iMovie is a fun way to create mini-movies to share with friends and family. Instagram and other social media also offer means to share the amazing memories you’ve made.


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