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December 17, 2008

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Bourjaily: K-9 G.P.S.

I first saw the Garmin Astro in action last week. A friend and I were hunting pheasants in some long grass when Scott’s dog went on point. Even when he’s locked up tight, Gunner’s tail wags, and I could see it vibrating in the weeds about 30 yards away. “Scott, your dog’s on point,” I said. Scott pulled a gizmo from his pocket, studied it, and said, “No, he’s sitting.”

“I can see him pointing.

“No, it says he’s sitting 32 yards to the southeast.”

A hen flushed out from under Gunner’s nose, ending the argument.

What Scott was looking at was the receiver from his Astro, a GPS unit made by Garmin that goes on a dog’s collar. It tells you how far away the dog is, and in which direction. Little dog icons on the screen tell you what he’s doing: sitting, pointing, running, or treeing.  The Astro helps hunters locate dogs on point in thick brush, and, more important, it can help find lost dogs. Having once lost a dog in heavy grouse cover and worried all night and finally found him the next day, I can totally see the appeal of the Astro. I’m sure Sam was never far away, and with an Astro I could have tracked him down in a few minutes. On the other, any technology with the potential to turn hunting into a hand-held video game seems, at best, questionable. The answer is probably to keep the thing in your pocket until you absolutely need it, but that’s easier said than done. I am conflicted, and therefore in need of your opinions. Click here to see the Astro for yourself.

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Comments

TommyNash

I hate these types of things. I like to get out in the woods or a field to get away from the grips of technology. In the pocket in case of emergency, maybe like a phone, I guess would be okay. At some point you'll never have to leave the couch and a gadget will live your life for you.

jersey pig

i kind of agree with the above statement about technological encrouchment. however, having some experience with the time and effort into training a good birddog there is no way in hell i would chance losing one. so if i was going to hunt him in thick cover over wide area i would love one of these gadgets.

Jeff4066

Okay... but what's the range on this?

If I go on a hunting expedition like my last one, I'll turn it on and throw it on the car seat.

"No, fool, the car is THAT way!"

Phillip

Doesn't make a lot of sense to me for a bird dog. If your dog ranges so far away that you need a GPS to find it, you have bigger problems than a video game fixation.

I could see it on chase animals. Most of the hound hunts I've been on turn into an actual hunt for the hounds after a few hours. Gadgets for this already exist, although in some states like CA, GPS units are illegal (radio telemetry is OK, though... go figure).

There's a great unit out from a German company now that transmits the GPS coordinates straight to your cell phone, by the way.

I don't see it as an encroachment on the hunt at all. Just another tool which, like any tool, can be misused.

John

Ok, I work in the field of computers and technology and I go hunting to get away from computers and technology.

ChuckT

A friend temporarily lost his Shorthair in a cornfield in South Dakota in October. It picked up a pheasants' scent and was gone into the abyss of corn for over an hour. There was so much corn (it was too wet to cut) that I didn't think his dog would ever come back. His dog is going to be a good one, but it was young and inexperienced. I think the GPS would be perfect for this situation, but I agree with TommyNash: Just in case of emergency.

Scrap5000

In case of emergency it would be a God Send. I read of one hunter whose dog had been stolen, and he tracked it down to the car on the highway that was driving with it in the back!

Jeff Green

I really like the concept, I hope it works as good as they say. My entire day job revolves around computers and other electronic technology also but, if it will make my live better I’m all for it.
What really grips me is people that don’t know jack about dogs making comments about them. It doesn’t take long at all for a good hunting dog to get out of range. Hunting heavy cover or on a 300 yard track for a crippled bird, it happens.
As soon as I can get the cash I will have one. In the mean time all comments from people that have actually used them are very welcome.

Mike

I like them ... but, apparently, the feature that says whether the dog is sitting or pointing is a bit much. Had to laugh ... or was that a smirk? Perhaps it was a smirky laugh.

Next, to train the dog to use it to find it's owner. Let's see ... watch the location of the dog on the GPS then send a signal to come. From there, a short beep to bear right. A long beep to bear left. Could be a bit confusing when he gets to a ravine he can't cross ... that is, on a unit without the built in topo map and optional satellite view. Ahh, technology ... to make life easier and add to our girth.

Steve C

A GPS on a dog. And just when I think the sport of hunting can't sink any further.

OrangeNeckInNY

Yeah, would work better as a part of your car/truck/atv. Sort of like your own personal Lo-Jack system.

Dr. Ralph

Just more crap to complicate my already semi-tolerable relationship with high tech devices that are swarming us like a rabid hive of killer bees... my dad and I lost our beloved English Springer Spaniel on a quail hunt more than fifty miles away. She was home in a week, a bit on the thin side but no worse for the wear and tear.

Overpriced, unreliable electronic gizmo's that I have absolutely no need for. No GPS, no trail cams, no cell phones in the woods, no rangefinders. They are destroying what hunting used to be all about. Woodsman ship earned the hard way by spending years in the wilderness with nothing but a knife, gun, and compass and becoming one with nature. Listening to the sounds of nature and finding the sign of your prey and knowing where you are without any high dollar high tech crap that is useless and makes you a victim the moment the batteries fail or you fall in a creek and they short out.

Dr. Ralph

Just more crap to complicate my already semi-tolerable relationship with high tech devices that are swarming us like a rabid hive of killer bees... my dad and I lost our beloved English Springer Spaniel on a quail hunt more than fifty miles away. She was home in a week, a bit on the thin side but no worse for the wear and tear.

Overpriced, unreliable electronic gizmo's that I have absolutely no need for. No GPS, no trail cams, no cell phones in the woods, no rangefinders. They are destroying what hunting used to be all about. Woodsman ship earned the hard way by spending years in the wilderness with nothing but a knife, gun, and compass and becoming one with nature. Listening to the sounds of nature and finding the sign of your prey and knowing where you are without any high dollar high tech crap that is useless and makes you a victim the moment the batteries fail or you fall in a creek and they short out.

buckstopper

I see it mainly as a time saver. Like or not technology is here to stay. With the cost and time put into rearing and training a dog it seem wise to protect your investment. If you are retired and/or not into gadgets, thats fine, you should enjoy your time in the field. To those of us who still have to earn a living, time is the most precious thing. Any gadget that would save half a day hunting birds or finding your dog or makes the difference between a sucessful hunt or chasing a wounded animal is ok in my book. BTW I always keep a good old-fashioned compass as a back up to my GPS.

Brian T

Good. Fine. Technology is here to stay (away from) on a hunt. If I had a GPS, it would be a backup to my Brunton Eclipse compass. Plus, GPS doesn't work worth a darn in steep-sided mountain valleys.

Jim in Mo

It's one thing to disregard technology for yourself, just so you can have peace in the woods, but admit it you'd do anything for your dog and to get him/her back.

Del in KS

This is a very good idea. You only have to lose one $2500 dog to see the value in it. Also when ol' Buck goes on point he may be in weeds that are higher than my head. Can't see him and he won't leave the bird. My friend Billy had a fine young German Shorthaired Pointer stolen 3 yr ago. The battery in his training collar had died and he ran to some other hunters accross the field when they fired shots. They loaded him up and left. There was no way we could chase the bastards. Truck was half mile away.

Carney

I don't hunt with dogs but have a little experience with GPS -- all negative. Initially I was excited about a new compass kind of device but the early models really didn't like trees. The guy I was with spent most of the scouting trip trying to get the thing to work. The next generations were supposed to take advantage of more satellites and thus be more dependable but subsequent excursions into the woods were just as frustrating. I finally decided to forget the whole thing when a friend proudly displayed the GPS on his new boat. It had all of the maps downloaded, etc., etc. When we went out on the water it showed us plowing along a half mile outside of the river on dry land. Probably a simple adjustement but if he couldn't figure it out and get it set up right, what makes a fellow so certain that it could be done better and be more dependable?

Turkey Hunter

I use it turkey hunting with two wide rangeing dogs. Works great in keeping up with 2 at one time. They range out to 1/4 mi plus. They check back, but at least I know the direction they are in. Lost a friends dog earlier this year. He had one of my collars. We watched him for over a mile on the GPS, saw where he was going and intercepted him (he was chasing a deer). Turkey dogs are very much in demand in our area (Va) and a good one is hard to come by. Will go to a lot of expense (and technology to keep one).

Phillip

What gripes me is people who don't know jack about other commenters making comments about them.

I'll say it again. If you can't keep track of your bird dog without the aid of Global Positioning Systems, then you have a problem technology won't solve.

brian

I personally cant stand the ATV, GPS, fat guy hunting the food plot scene,, throw that stuff away and learn to hunt

Kevin

I use my GPS to find my stand it the dark. That's it. The rest of the hunting is blued steel only.

Del in KS

As stated the dog collar sounds good to me. That said I have never used or owned a GPS and I live within 3 miles of Garmin's HQ no less. Learned to read a map and use a compass in the Army. Also did a stint on the Ft. Benning Orienteering team years ago. Most of the time I use sun, shadows, wind direction and terrain features to find my way. You really only need a compass in flat terrain where you can't see far on cloudy days. Think swamp or boreal forest. You can sure get lost in AK or Canada tho I never did. When I was in AK a WWII airplane crash site was found on Kodiak. Long lost bodies ID'd and jewelry recovered after 40-50 yr. Once heard there's still over 100 missing aircraft in AK. But I digress. Point is if you need it and it isn't illegal go for it. The thing might save your or someone else's life.
It is amazing the number of hunters that are quik to criticize another fellows hunting methods. Nobody is forcing their way on you. I do use and like rangefinders. They help folks make accurate shots that reduce wounded animals. Try being a little more tolerant of other hunters. They make better friends than the PETA crowd.

Being a traditionalist, I hate the idea of a GPS attached to my dog - and esp the feature that tells you he's sitting, pointing, scratching his ass - or whatever. I am 73 and have had bird dogs all my life and hunted them all with a loud brass bell. Virtually every one went deaf in his old age. I have often wondered if those clanging bells had something to do with that - along with a lot of loud shotgun reports from the shooting, obviously. I now use an e-collar with a locate caller on it and it works wonderfully. I have taped-off the electrodes and hunt my Brit silent on grouse, hitting the locate button every so often to keep track of him. Like most good dogs, he ranges according to the plentitude of the birds so when they are scarce and he's out a ways, I'll turn the call feature on - on a low setting - and it works great. Some folks may miss the sound of the tinkling bell in the uplands but I am one old traditionalist who would cast a vote for technology. My Brit is more than just a valuable bird dog - he's my friend and constant companion and losing him, as I did a few seasons back - for 24 hours - would be a heartbreak beyond words.

sarg

Reminds me of the time, while bird hunting in some kind of swamp in Wis., my friend Randy and some otheres decideed to go back to the truck. Randy told them the truck was one way but they wanted to go another. They didn't know Randy had his GPS so he told them to go anyway they wanted to but he was going in a certain direction. Gripping, they followed him right to truck.. I would have liked to have one of the gizmos when I was bird hunting, but a good bird dog should stay pretty close, not like dogs used to hunt cats or hogs, but thats another post. Merry Christmas to all..




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