This post is provided by Chris Hull of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department.
By way of an introduction, or maybe for many of you, a re-introduction, I worked for SD Tourism for 10 years. I had a ton of fun sharing our state’s beauty, resources and friendly faces to journalists, media members and movie scouts. The folks involved with tourism in this state are easily the most passionate and creative people out there.
Five years ago, GFP head honcho, John Cooper asked me to come over and help spread the word about the good things GFP folks were doing out on the landscape. It was a perfect fit for me. I grew up hunting, fishing, boating and exploring every corner of our state.
As a good example of what GFP has to overcome as far as information dissemination, when I told my dad I was going to work for GFP, he said, “You’re going to be a game warden?” Even my dad didn’t know the workings of our fish, habitat and game biologists and crews.
GFP is always looking for better, more effective ways to get information into the hands and pockets of South Dakota’s sportsmen and women. Getting the rules, maps, information, etc. out to folks seems like a pretty simple process, but the status quo was becoming less and less effective every year.
I don’t know if any of you know our GFP Secretary, Jeff Vonk, but among other things he’s VERY tall and fairly imposing. Four years ago, he came into my cube while I was sitting down. He threw our SD Public Hunting Atlas down on my desk (Our Public Hunting Atlas shows all lands available for public hunting and fishing access, and is in many ways, the sportsman’s “must have” book to have in your hunting vehicle.). He looked down at me (I could swear there were clouds between his head and mine.) and pointed at the Atlas. He had a GPS unit in his other hand and said, “I want that (the Atlas) in THIS (the GPS.)”!
“Ummm OK! Sure! No problem, boss!” (What would YOU say to a guy that tall, who happens to be your boss?) Not having a clue on how that was going to work, I went to resident GFP map guru (not his official title by the way), and tech wizard Chris Marsh.
“It will take some work, but we can get it to work,” Chris said. He then talked a whole lot of tech stuff that was WAAAAYYYY over my head.
We worked closely with the Garmin Company and after 6 months, we had a viable public map that was able to be downloaded on many Garmin, Lowrance and Magellan GPS units. That program has been downloaded to nearly 10,000 GPS units.
The next logical step was to make sure users of smart phones could access maps, our website, buy a license and have our hunting and fishing handbooks on their devices. There are a million different ways to go about this process. Just ask any tech programmers….but GFPs Chris Marsh took the bull by the horn and basically programmed and designed an app for Android users. The free Android app can be found at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gfptab&feature=search_result
GFP just released our Apple iPhone App this week, and it can be found at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sdgfp-outdoors/id501439458?ls=1&mt=8
Both of these apps provide a one stop shop for anything you need in the field, waterfowl migration maps, license purchasing capabilities, and our public land maps are the most popular features, but we have big plans for educational materials, games and any other ideas, you the public can dream up.
Between the Android and Apple apps, we have nearly 10,000 users in a few months. We have over 3,000 Apple users just this week! Take a peek and let us know what you think. SD GFP is leading the way in the world of state wildlife agencies in this technology. It is amazing what a very tall boss and a great idea can do!!!