Cyber tracking: Social network for hunters tracks weather, deer

Here is a great article written about Big Game Logic for a May article in In Business Wisconsin.  You can find the article in it's entirety at www.IBWisconsin.com.  "In Business Wisconsin or IBWisconsin.com is a product of In Business magazine, which is the premier business-to-business publication in the Greater Madison region, celebrating more than 35 years of editorial excellence."

Cyber tracking: Social network for hunters tracks weather, deer

Jeff Schmitz from Big Game LogicWoe to the big buck. There’s a new game in town. Well, a website targeting big game, actually, and if it doesn’t give hunters even more of an advantage in Wisconsin’s fifth season – deer hunting – it will at least make them more engaged and determined.

Jeff Schmitz, from Hartland, Wis., and his brother Aaron of Janesville have developed biggamelogic.com, a social network for hunters that helps manage deer movement but also takes siting and tracking to a new level.

Jeff Schmitz, a manufacturing manager for Rockwell Automation, said the idea came to them several years ago. The brothers own hunting land in central Wisconsin, and their annual trek to the woods usually involved a dozen hunters and the set-up of seven to 10 trail cameras to whet their appetites. Catching that photo of an unsuspecting buck in its natural habitat “felt like Christmas,” Jeff Schmitz reported, but the cameras, and emailing each other’s photos among the group, “got to be a pain.”

There had to be a better way.

About three years ago, they created a private website, just for their hunting party, suitable for posting photos, sending messages, and scheduling events. “Why wouldn’t anyone want this?” Jeff began to wonder, soon after.

Biggamelogic.com launched last September as a hunting website targeting avid outdoorsmen and women. Its goal is to create an online hunting community, but the beauty, Schmitz says, lies in the ability of users to create their own deer camps that can be shared privately among their own hunting party members or opened to the entire hunting universe.

“A hunt doesn’t have to stop once you’re out of the woods,” Schmitz said. “You can take it home, chat with friends, or post pictures from the hunt.” Users can track, observe, and use weather data to help plan their hunt. They can also look for different weather conditions or key indicators, post photos to the site’s online trophy room, or participate in a forum. “The map will display using heat-map technology,” he added, “so you can predict where your next hunt will be.”

Similar websites exist, Schmitz admits, “but we tie everything together, so we appeal to the hardcore, techie kind of hunter.” And while GPS technology has taken over the industry like – loathe the thought – wildfire, Schmitz insists biggamelogic.com “won’t shoot the deer for you. You still have to get out in the woods.”

The brothers funded the idea themselves before finding investor and friend Dan Overland, who believes it has legs. “There’s nothing like it at all,” Overland said. “I think it’s a winner.” So much so, that he’s invested a significant sum in the effort, and hopes to break even within the next 12 months. “I’ve had a few other entrepreneurial efforts that haven’t been as successful. I feel much more confident here.”

The Schmitz brothers hope to generate revenue for the site through advertising. They also are on the verge of adding an app that will enhance the site and allow users to take the website into the woods with them. Users will be charged for the app, but not the general website. They’ve hired a PR company, and Foremost Media in Janesville created the website.

Every night, Schmitz spends a couple of hours posting to the site and developing new ideas. He also emails smaller companies, hoping to trade for space on the site. “There are lots of small companies out there with new gadgets that are looking to get their names out. We’re just helping each other out.”

Also benefitting is a small group of Marquette University students who call themselves Suburban Standout Outdoors. They contacted Schmitz about the site and now write blogs, add content, and upload video of their own hunts to the site.

“We may not get rich,” Schmitz said, “but if our office ends up being the outdoors, I’m a happy man.”

Overland acknowledges that selling the business in the future is an option, but says any discussion of an exit strategy is premature. In the near term, he wants to see where the investment goes. “If it can support a habit and passion like hunting and fishing, it would be worth hanging on to,” he said. “But for now, I’d like to enjoy the fruits of the effort.”

Biggamelogic.com is a site specific to the white-tailed deer, but might expand into other big-game species as well. Since launching last September, the website has attracted 500 members, mostly through Facebook, Twitter, and word of mouth, and Schmitz hopes to increase that number to between 5,000 and 10,000 by the end of the next hunting season.

Overland, the money guy, bristles at that figure.

“Are you kidding me? There are almost 700,000 hunting licenses sold in Wisconsin each year. One state! This is really a national and even international idea. It could be used anywhere people hunt. The market is millions of people, not hundreds of thousands.”

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