by Tallon Martin | October 28, 2020
If you’ve ever been in an old rancher’s truck, I’m sure you looked around the dusty cab at the scattered files lining the dashboard, tractor parts catalogs tucked under the trusty beat-up rifle, wondering to yourself how he keeps up with it all? After spending time in the truck with them, you realize there is a method to their madness, and though their organization skills may be questionable, they are some of the sharpest guys you will ever meet. I envy their ability to remember fine details. I blame my fleeting memory on having the ability to forget it and quickly pull it up in a Google search on my phone. Let’s be honest, there is just no untraining my bad habit this late in life, so if you find yourself memory-challenged like me, here are a few of my favorite land management tools that help me keep things organized.
Farmlogs is one of the most potent land management apps I have found. It is super user-friendly and helps you record an array of land management data and tasks in one area. The mapping feature is super powerful as well. I can go into the software and map specific fields on my ranch. Every time it rains in that field, I get an email the next day telling me the software detected rain in that field and how much it rained in that location. You would think they would grab the closest weather station and send you that data, but we have found it is more site-specific. Several of us at Republic Ranches use the interface for personal and professional use. We all feel like the site-specific rain reading is reasonably accurate. As an absentee landowner, this feature is beneficial to me. It helps me plan before I make the trip to do fieldwork. I can also monitor the success of a food plot, pasture forge growth for livestock, and know when we have had consistent enough rain to burn brush piles. Each field I map, I can see recent rainfall, rain/heat history, soil maps, and make specific notes for that field (i.e., what I planted, the rate at which I seeded, and the amount of fertilizer/herbicides I applied). You can see the more data/notes you put into it, the more trends that will become apparent to you over time.
Seek has to be one of the coolest apps I have learned about recently. I have used several of these apps over the years, all of which had a pretty low success of accurately telling me what a plant was. So far, I have found that this one is pretty accurate, and it is real-time, which is a lot of fun. You point your phone camera at a plant, insect, or animal, and it tells you what it thinks it is. I have been pretty shocked at how fast it figures it out. Seek is a great land/wildlife management tool; it allows you to identify plants you may not know. If it is a common plant in Texas, I can almost assure you there will be an article on the Texas A&M Agrilife site explaining its benefits to your ecosystem or how to manage it if it is an undesired plant. It is also fun for the whole family. My daughter and I were sitting on the ranch house back porch and had a beautiful bright red and black bird land near us. I pulled out my phone and snapped a shot, and immediately it told me it was a vermilion flycatcher. We have never seen one there; it was fun for us to learn together.
If you have looked at any ranch real estate over the past few years, you have probably seen MapRight before. It has taken our industry by storm. We use it for an array of things in our industry. It has made us all a bit of mapping junkies. But I have also found that it has personal applications as well for landowners. You can build your custom maps and apply layers and labels to locations on your ranch. I use it to map out the project on my ranch. I can map out yearly plans for projects I want to accomplish around the ranch. It helps me get a big picture of the tasks I want to complete and inspires me to work on neglected areas. I have a great time sitting down with clients during the buying process to map out ideas on transforming land and adding impactful value over the investment life. I have seen clients transform some pretty raw acreage into beautiful ranches because we could build a visual plan together that helped them picture their desires. If you have no desire to geek out on map building but would like a high-resolution boundary map of your place, shoot me an email. I will not take me much time, I am happy to do that for you.
If you have ever walked into a friend’s ranch house and seen a large ranch map blown up on the wall and found yourself drawn to it, you will like this tool. Hunterra is more of a one time tool but one worth checking out. It is another mapping tool, but the standout feature this platform offers is printing large maps. One of my favorite options is the magnetic map. If you are entertaining a lot and want to assign a guest to specific hunting spots, you can place color-coded magnetic markers on each guest’s designated site. This gives you and guests a clear picture of where everyone is in the field. They also make some pretty cool waterproof maps to keep on hand in the Polaris or hand out to hunters if someone ventures off to track down a downed animal and needs to tell you where they are.
When I was a kid, I remember trail cameras use to look like a large pelican case you strapped to the tree, and then you had to set up an external solar panel to keep the thing from dying. It has been pretty amazing to see the advancements in that arena. The company that has come out of nowhere in the last few years is Spypoint cameras. I love Spypoint for how inexpensive they are, the ease of setup, and their app is pretty good too. There are higher quality, more expensive options out there, but for $100 and a low-cost monthly subscription, it is nice to be able to put a lot of cameras out and not worry about them. I have also been impressed with their battery life and durability. It is enjoyable to get daily pictures downloads to your phone. I can track wildlife movement on specific trails during the rut or monitor vegetation growth on my duck unit during the spring. These cell cameras are also great for ranch security. We have clients that have higher image quality ones at their front gate. They get a notification as soon as someone pulls in, and it immediately gives you a clear picture of the driver, license plate, and make of the vehicle. You can imagine all the endless applications these cameras can be used for.
On top of the ones I mentioned above, We also use various databases and GIS systems to research prospective properties for clients. We do this to make sure we have an accurate picture of the ranch and any unforeseen negatives before making the trip. Before even putting boots on the ground, we can see new/old oil and gas activity on or around the ranch, groundwater availability and strength, and “renewable” energy activity on or around the ranch. We can also review historical aerial data to understand surface water fluctuations during dry years and any historical surface disturbances that may be covered up now. If you have any questions about your “neighborhood” or want to dig deeper into a property that has caught your eye, give me a shout, I can give you a clear picture reasonably quickly. It is incredible to see the creative tech ideas built during my time and imagine where we will be 20 years from now. If you are addicted to other apps/software, we may not know about, shoot me an email. I always enjoy checking out new tech.
Tallon Martin – Broker Associate