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Spreadsheets For Benchmark Hunting

Black Dog Trackers
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Here is a system I tried the last couple times I went benchmark hunting. I liked using it a lot - it kept me organized during the hunt. Afterwards when I did my logging, it helped even more since logging can be somewhat of a pain - wrestling with the data entry programs while paging through the datasheets a hundred times.


Only the last 2 sections is what I'm really talking about, but I put in the other stuff to make this more complete.


Pick a location to hunt benchmarks.


Get NGS data


Go to the NGS Datasheet Page and select Radial Search. Enter the coordinates of your choice and select a radius in miles. Click on Submit, then Re-Sort-By PID, Select All, and Get Datasheets. Save the datasheets as a .txt file like hunt1.txt.


Print out all the datasheets (or put the hunt1.txt file into your portable computer).


Print map(s) of your hunting area


Use Ron Parker's BMGPX that you can get here on hunt1.txt to convert it to a .gpx file. Open the .gpx file with EASYGPS that you can get from the Geocaching site here. Delete the 2 waypoints (at the top and bottom of the file) that aren't PIDs, and then re-save the file.


Open the .gpx file with the USAPhotoMaps program that you can download here. Select your map-type (topo, probably) and scale and position and print out your hunting map.


Make the hunting spreadsheet


Start the NGS program DSWIN which you can get here. In DSWIN, select the datasheets file you just made. (Yes, DSWIN will work on an NGS datasheets .txt file as well as an NGS .DAT file.) In DSWIN click on File, Save As, enter a filename, click SAVE, select DSSELECT, and click on the following fields: PID, DESIGNATION, POS_SRC, LAST_REC_COND, LAST_REC_AGENCY, LAST_REC_DATE, STATE, COUNTY, USGS_QUAD. In DSWIN's Output Box, select "Include Header" and "Single Line Only". Under that box, select the vertical-bar (or TAB if you prefer) for all 3 delimeters. Click OK.


Open the file made by DSWIN in a spreadsheet program and select the delimiter you told DSWIN to use (vertical-bar or TAB). Save this spreadsheet with a name of your choice (like hunt1.xls).


Open the same spreasheet and save it with another name (like hunt1a.xls). In this version, delete the fields STATE, COUNTY, and maybe USGS_QUAD and add new field headers to the right of the fields from DSWIN: Seq., Report, WPT, Direction, Comments. Make the comments field 2 or 3 times as wide as the word Comments. Print this spreadsheet with minimum left and right margins and use landscape mode and make it fit on one page-width. Staple this spreadsheet as a cover sheet over your hunting maps and your NGS datasheets and you're ready to go benchmark hunting.


As you hunt benchmarks, enter the sequence number for each PID in the Seq. field so that it will be easy to search through your pictures in the proper order as you begin to log on the websites. In the Report field, put Found, NotFound, etc. In the WPT field, put the number of the waypoint you make with your GPS for each SCALED mark (the POS_SRC field will tell you which ones to do). In the Direction field, put the compass direction you faced while taking your distance picture. In the comments field, put your comments. For comments that don't fit in the comments field, write them on your printed copy of the NGS datasheet.


After the hunt


Bring up your hunt1.xls file and save it as hunt1b.xls this time. This time delete all columns except PID, DESIGNATION, STATE, COUNTY, add the new fieldnames as before: Seq., Report, WPT, Direction, Comments. Type in what you wrote in those columns while you did your hunting (that should only take a minute or two). Then add new columns: C-Pic, I-PIc, D-PIC. If you found reference marks and/or azimuth marks, make new rows for them! Re-save and print out this spreadsheet so it fits on 1 piece of paper in landscape mode. Start your photo program so you see the pictures you took. In the 3 new columns write on the spreasheet the picture number in the appropriate column - C-PIC for the closeup, I-PIC, for the eye-level picture, and D-PIC for the distance picture. I usually add a -a to the names of the D-PICs to indicate to myself to photo-edit those pictures that need arrows added.


You should now have just 1 sheet of paper, organized with most of the information you need to do your logging. Any complicated to-reach changes will be written on your NGS datasheets, but most of the stuff will be ready on this one page. For the scaled marks' waypoints, get them from your GPS (in NAD-83 and DDD MMM SS.S mode), but at least you have all the waypoint numbers ready in the spreadsheet.

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Hmm, if I had a laptop or something to take along with me this might save time/paper, but I go the paper route.


The majority of the benchmarks in NM in the NGS database line roads. I use the NGS Map searching function to show which line I want to work on the names of the marks. I then print the Datasheets double sided, and print the overall NGS map that shows the stations best. I take notes on the Datasheets as I'm working through the stations, and mark how many photos for each station. I pre-staple the stations in packets of 10 in the order I'm going to hit them and keep the packets in the order I processed the stations.


When I'm done, I enter the founds/not founds/destroyeds in an Excel spreadsheet, and update my all-county spreadsheet. I process the photos (although I wish I could remember the drop and drag, or autosize, trick someone mentioned one time), labelling them QQ1234mark, QQ1234site, QQ1234site2, and then log the Geocaching and the NGS sites.

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That's pretty slick. I take a laptop with me and tie in my gps with USAPhotomaps to have real time location on the quad I'm working on. Rather than print the spreadsheet I just leave it on the laptop and alt-tab switch to it when I am ready to hunt. I like your method for when I'm not packing the laptop though. I wonder if there is a way to get that spreadsheet onto a pda?



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Play around with the GPS Menu. USPM can use the Garmin protocol so it's just a matter of picking the COM Port, in my case (I have a Legend) One of the other options in USPM is to display your gps tracks, which can be saved as a file. I've not tried that yet so I can't say how that works exactly.


So when I start out I open USPM and then open the gpx file with all the marks / caches I am hunting. They are displayed onscreen along with my gps location. Cool stuff :D

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