Pitt-Bradford students use class knowledge to bag big buck

Colton Gotshall, a Pitt-Bradford student who harvested this nice buck in the Eldred area on the last day of archery season by using skills he learned in his Geographic Information Systems course.BRADFORD, Pa. — Every rifle deer hunting season Colton Gotshall’s grandfather flies from Tampa, Fla., back to Eldred, Pa., where he taught his son and grandson to hunt.

For these visits, the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford junior’s No. 1 goal is for his grandfather to shoot a deer. This year, thanks to Geographic Information Systems classes Gotshall took alongside his best friend, Jordan Dugan, he can almost guarantee his grandpa a beautiful buck.

Gotshall and Dugan are both pursing double majors in petroleum technology and environmental studies at Pitt-Bradford. As a requirement for both majors, they took their first GIS class together last spring semester, during the icy months of January to April.

Right away they saw the potential of GIS in improving the way they fish and hunt. The roommates had met at the end of their freshman year and discovered a mutual love of all things outdoors, including ice fishing and deer hunting, which Dugan grew up pursuing in Galeton, Pa.

GIS attaches information to a specific location in a way that can be used to build complex interdisciplinary maps to illustrate data and reveal patterns.
With a little bit of training on a powerful software system, they headed to Marilla Reservoir with ice fishing equipment, paper and pencil. “We wanted to do something not just for the class, but something we could use,” Dugan said.
The two fished several different holes throughout the winter, recording the temperature of air and water, weather conditions, water depth, whether the bottom was silty or rocky (determined by how the weighted line felt when it hit the bottom) and, of course, the types and sizes of fish caught in each hole.
They put their information in an Excel spreadsheet, then used a sophisticated GIS software called ArcMap to create a layered map of the reservoir showing each set of data they took or overlapping them as desired.

“It made a difference,” Dugan said. The two agreed that the meticulous noting, data entry and mapping showed them patterns that they would not have seen otherwise.

When they took a different version of the class this fall, their first idea was to use the same technique on an area near Eldred where Gotshall’s family lives and hunts.

The pair used three trail cameras and five tree stands near a clear-cut area. Gotshall would hunt the area during archery season and note scrapes, rubs, and places where deer traveled or bedded down, along with the weather conditions and date and time that he saw them. He would note the coordinates using the free Trimble Outdoors mobile application.

To that information, the students added information gathered by the trail cameras, which could capture when certain deer visited certain sites regularly. They studied the patterns that emerged.

By the last day of archery season, Gotshall knew exactly where one of his big buck would visit at what time of day. He was in his tree stand and ready by 6 a.m. – long before sunrise. It was barely daylight when the big buck came into view, about 45 yards away.

He waited to see if the buck would turn, planning to call him if he did. But the buck turned toward Gotshall and headed toward the tree, just as his regular pattern suggested he would. It was an easy shot.

Gotshall hopes he’s got at least one more buck tracked that closely for his grandpa, who will be visiting for Thanksgiving and rifle season.
“I know a specific deer, and I know where he is every second of every day,” he said, thanks to his applied technology.

Dugan would like to do some similar work back home in Galeton. Both plan to continue adding information to their map for another season at Marilla Reservoir, giving them plenty of practice for the workforce, where GIS skills are in high demand.

Both hope that their skills will keep them in the outdoors they love.

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