Scott Rall: A digital plat book was my idea

Scott Rall
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Back in about 1984 the most recognizable die-hard angler in southwest Minnesota was Bob Henderson. He owned the Long Branch Saloon at that time, and I remember seeing that he had six Zebco 202 rod and reel setups.

I could hardly afford one rod and reel back in those days. He was the fishing man. He still fishes a lot today.

I had my own sense of having made it into the pheasant hunting world when I had 12 different plat books. A plat book was a treasure trove publication that listed all of the property owners in a county, and it even had some of their phone numbers.

I was hunting in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota at that time. I had a list of more than 60 landowners with whom I had permission to hunt on their property. We would race from spot to spot hunting roosters when there was, for all practical purposes, none to be found.

If you could see two roosters in a day, even if you did not get a shot at them, that was considered a very good day afield.


Fast forward to 2005-2006 and we had a heyday of pheasant hunting in our area. There was lots of birds and I had a lot of spots to hunt them on.

As I got older and as Nobles County and Rock County Pheasants Forever started adding more and more public (citizen-owned) lands, I had to rely less and less on private land spots to chase roosters.

Private lands are still the honey holes of pheasant hunting, but they are getting harder and harder to get permission on. The number one reason that I run into this is that the grandkids are now getting old enough to hunt and they save their personal property hunting opportunities for them. Sure, makes sense to me.

A good old plat book is still a good way of finding out who owns what and how to make contact with those property owners. I was introduced to a new method of ownership researching with a phone app called OnX.

I had this same great idea many years ago. It was to come up with a digital plat book that could be downloaded on my phone so as I was driving around, if I found a good spot I could ask permission right then. OnX took that about 100 steps further, and in addition to land owner names and contact information, they also included things like all the public lands in the United States and a complete overlay of the trails for off roading.

I use the app now when traveling in the Black Hills, the Sandhills of Nebraska and just about anywhere else I might travel.

A friend showed me how to use the map layers to see topography, terrain and, of course, all the creeks and streams that are present.

When hunting public lands in any state, you can zoom in the parcel and see if it has a food plot. When hunting in unfamiliar territory, some of these spots are 200-600 acres in size. You can see where the food plots are and skip those sites that don’t have one.


One year in South Dakota we would only find roosters in the public lands that had a food plot, and all the birds were right in those areas. It has become an indispensable tool for the serious hunter. All of the property boundaries are marked and it shows your location with a blue dot, so you can make sure you are never in the wrong spot.

The Pheasants Forever video crew and I shot a short video last fall that is now airing on the National Pheasants Forever website about the Minnesota Walk in Access Program.

It’s titled “Five States, Five Programs, One Mission, Minnesota Episode 1.” Check out the video and then check out the OnX map app for your phone. The cost is $39 per year for an individual state or $99 per year for the whole United States. It’s a lot better than a pile of plat books under the seat of the truck and is constantly being updated.

I feel it is the best phone mapping app in its space. I will never be without it.

It will make you a more efficient hunter, and with only a limited number of days in the field each year you need to make every outing count.

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