Ben Harshyne and his wife Kate Harshyne took a risk this year when Ben left his job as a contractor where he made maps for the National Counterterrorism Center and chose to work full time on a company he started called HUNTERRA Mapping.
HUNTERRA creates maps by blending high-resolution aerial photography with a 3D-like terrain model. The company can create waterproof, tear resistant field maps, poster maps and custom-sized mega maps.
Harshyne got the idea for the company after he made a hunting map for his father for Father’s Day four years ago. He didn’t want to create a map with only an aerial photo because it only showed tree cover, and terrain was important to understand the best places to deer hunt. Harshyne upgraded it by blending in terrain by simulating shadows created from the sun. He also digitized the trails, and highlighted the family’s different tree stands.
His father was impressed by the product and the map proved useful in the following hunting season.
On a hunting trip to Illinois, Harshyne and his father showed the map to the owner of an outfitting company. He was similarly impressed since he typically printed his maps off on Google. The outfitter, Aaron Milliken, went on to work for a real estate company called Whitetail Properties that sells hunting properties.
Harshyne first thought he had an opportunity to build the business that became HUNTERRA once Whitetail Properties asked him to build maps to show off the property listings. Harshyne stood up HUNTERRA in 2011, but he was still working on the maps part time while he maintained his full time post at NCTC.
The company continued to grow as Harshyne designed a website where hunters could visit and order maps specific to their upcoming hunts. The work load grew and eventually Kate Harshyne quit her job in the culinary industry to work on HUNTERRA full time.
The Harshynes went all in this summer when Ben quit his job and the couple sold their northern Virginia home to move to the Midwest and be closer to the hunting grounds that they most often map. In fact, the couple refurbished a 1979 Airstream Excella trailer and is driving across the U.S. to promote HUNTERRA.
The company currently offers three types of maps: the field map, the poster map and the mega map. The field map is a tear resistant, waterproof map that hunters or hikers can fold up and store in their pocket. The map is 10 x 15 inches and is meant to accompany you in the field, and can be marked up with dry erase Crayons or permanent Sharpies.
The poster map comes in three sizes -- 20 x 30 inches, 30 x 45 inches and 40 x 60 inches. A light adhesive on the back makes it easy to hang on the wall or stick to a table.
The mega map allows hunters and bikers to pick any size. Harshyne said he uses a mosaic of multiple sheets to build huge displays for large properties and ranches without losing the detail that his customers require.
HUNTERRA has already received national exposure through its work with Whitetail Properties. The company has a hunting show on the Sportsman Channel in which some of HUNTERRA’s maps have been featured. Harshyne said he worked for nearly an entire winter on the first maps Whitetail asked him to produce as graphics on the show.
HUNTERRA has also been featured at national conventions such as the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention and the Quality Deer Management Associations’s National Convention. Harshyne said the company received a boost at one of the shows when Major League Bowhunter set up their booth next to HUNTERRA, and soon after established a partnership.
The company has seen a significant increase in orders over the past year, Harshyne said. In fact, the company has continued to produce maps even as they drive cross country. The Airstream was designed as a mobile office, and is appropriately titled The Mobile Map Cave.
Harshyne said he is excited to see where the company can grow now that he and his wife can focus on it full time, and relocating to the middle of their main client market.
“The business is going to be as strong as we can make it,” Ben said. “We want to continue to interact with each one of our clients and continue to be a very personal company. That way we can ensure the quality that our customers have come to expect.”