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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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I bought an Astro and "installed" is on a 1.5 year old Bluetick Coonhound. I don't let her out of the kennel without it. Recently she got wind of a deer and took off. She got 997 yards away before you can say Boo!!! So I took off in hot pursuit and tracked her down with the Astro.

I was skeptical before I bought this contraption but now I wouldn't trade it for anything because you see, I love my Astro..... but I love that Bluetick a helluva lot more.


I purchased an Astro and "installed" it on a 1.5 year old Bluetick Coonhound. I don't let her out of the kennel without it.

Recently she caught wind of a deer and took off. She got 997 yards away quicker that you can say BOO so I took off in hot pursuit using the Astro to track her down.

I was skeptical before I bought this contraption but now I wouldn't trade it for anything because you see, I love my Astro..... but I love that Bluetick a helluva lot more.


When facing such puzzling issues, I wonder: "What would Dad do?" He was in the brokerage business. When computers were introduced into the workplace, he would do his accounting on the computer and then check it on his greenbar paper with a machine calculator and a pencil.

From this, I deduce that Dad would put any gizmo in the truck and forget about it.


Since we are going to more and more pen raised birds at preserves it seems only logical that the next step is to put the GPS on the bird not the dog. Think of it - turn on the unit and walk to the bird, shoot it and walk to the body to pick it up. Do away with dogs, dogfood, dog cages. The time you spent dog training you can now use to focus on your naked canadian calander - looking up next hunting season. Plus, get this kicker, if you miss the bird you will know right where to go to kick it up again.
Yup, by golly, this technology is wonderful.

WA Mtnhunter

I think any spitwad that would steal a man's dog deserves the end of a short rope in a tall tree. There is no price tag on my dogs. My Lab is a bit apprehensive and somewhat aggressive with strangers, so I don't think someone could load him up in a hurry.

If a man needs a GPS to keep his dog then it is fine by me. Using it to actually hunt is not legal in many places and certainly not sporting in my book. Get a Playstation or XBox.


Years ago I was hunting in SD it was getting toward the end of the day. Gray ominous clouds had been moving in all afternoon and the wind was really beginning to blow and I heard Jake's beeper collar signaling a point and I looked at my watch 1/2 hour to end of hunting I started trying to locate the dog in the 4' high grass I kept loosing the sound and then regaining it and couldn't establish a direction because of the noise the wind was making. Finally after 22 minutes I found Jake still on point. The only thing that moved were his eyes and they asked - where were you? I moved to the front flushed and shot a long-tailed, long spur rooster. He gathered up the bird and delivered to hand and we headed for the truck. That night a blizzard moved in and I've often thought what would have happened if I hadn't been able to find the dog. There was over 24" of snow on the ground the next morning and temps. were in the single digits. That convinced me of the importance of a GPS. It stays in my pocket until I need it. I could have lost a dog and if it had gotten to dark I may have been lost as well because by the time we got back to the truck you couldn't see your hand in front of your face.

Sue B

I can see some real benefits in the Garmin Astro. I have two GSPs. I trust that they will stay on point, so if they have a big range, that's great. It's ground that I don't have to cover on foot unless they find a bird. The problem is that when the cover is so thick that I can't see my dogs, then I don't even know they are on point. If my dog is doing his job and has found birds, then I want to make sure that I can hold my end of the bargain and go flush the bird for him and hopefully shoot it. Anyone who has used a beeper collar already knows the drawback there. The Garmin Astro sounds like a good replacement for beeper collars that never really do the job well.

The second benefit I see is that it could be a great training tool. If the Astro says my dog is on point, but then it tells me he moved and then I see birds go up in the area, then I know my dog broke on those birds. This would allow me to quickly apply a correction to the dog with his e-collar. I heard the newer models provide quicker feedback which would be beneficial in these circumstances.

Finally, I love my dogs and I sure have put a lot of money in to them. Some of the country I hunt is big country. There is always a slim chance of your dog getting separated from you. In the mountains where I hunt, there is some terrain that is dangerous. The Astro is peace of mind and a great tool in case the worse situation happened.

I'm all for keeping hunting simple and leaving my computer at home, but with as much time and money that I've already invested in my dogs, I think a Garmin Astro would have its benefits.

Cliff B

Yes it could easily be another intrusion into our sense of true 'woodmanship' but can be a 'dog and time saver'. Years ago hunting bears with hounds we lost a prize 'strike'dog for a day. [She turned up at camp the next day]. This device may have saved alot of time and anxiety.


GPS to find the dog if you lose track of him sounds like a good idea in it's self but trying to tell you if he's sitting or pointing or whatever is overkill. And I don't see how it can be reliable as to what he's doing anyway.
Would also be a good way to find out where your friend who won't tell you where he hunts actually goes! Slip the thing in the back of his truck!


Finding a lost fog - very cool

Helping you get the bird - extremely uncool


i guess i would not buy one, mostly due to the cost. i could buy at least 2 dogs and train them for less that this toy. my dogs dont have to have a peice of paper, so i dont pay hundreds of dollars for them. while it would be nice just for retrieving the dog, i am not much on "vidio technology". i would like to have a gps, for storing hunting spots, and finding my way out if i got lost. but for me, these toys have a limited appeal. being 50+ probably does not help companies like garmin much. my kids might be a different story. but unless the cost comes down considerably, i will not be buying one of these!


One of the smartest statements ever made in the movies was by Burt Reynolds in SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. He said "How smart you are depends on which part of the country you are in at the time."
So it goes in hunting. What works out West, won't work in the South and vice versa. Does anyone hunt ducks in standing flooded timber out west....just curious.


I think this is a little much. Why not put the darn thing on your captive bred birds, then you won't need the dogs!!!!!They are using them on wolves and bears, why not collar every living wild animal, then you can use your gizmos to track them, shoot them from 3000yrds, then the government can regester and tax your kill(auto-deducting it from your bank account)in real time!

Sue B,

You said it well. There are no mountains in Kansas but we do have plenty of high cover that a dog can disappear in, go on point and you can't locate the dog.


What happened to bells on their collars and a whistle?
Technology is only as good as the idiot using it.

rocky Mtn Hunter

Tommy Nash: I thught that gissmo was called a Wife?????at least with the electronic things, they do have a on off switch. Who-ever invented them (wives) needs to be shot.


del said
"It is amazing the number of hunters that are quik to criticize another fellows hunting methods."

There is nothing wrong with drawing lines.
If you want to defend something thats fine - make a case.
Even just state your ambivalence thats alright.
But you have no business telling me that everything done in the name of hunting is cool and I should accept it.

Jim in Mo

Phillip, dartwick;
Nobody's putting down traditional hunting methods (no collars), nor have criticized others that I see on this blog, but many guys have lost their dog and grieve over it, myself included. I felt like I lost a family member, which I did. Whats wrong with other points of view and how to solve it?

Jeremy Jones

I have not used GPS collars on my beagles. I use radio collars. The receiver stays in the truck though. They come in handy if you have a young hound get confused and start chasing the long legged rabbits(deer). Beagles that have chased deer in the past are like alcoholics. In my opinion they are never cured completely. The radio collars make it a lot easier to locate the trash chasing hound before it gets run over, shot, stolen, or attacked by coyotes. I don't see anything wrong with someone using new technology to help find a major investment, both in money and very expensive time, and correct the problem.


to all traditionist:
I say again if its your thing to go without technogadgets- kudos to you and you fieldcraft. Some of us who have disire to be in the field but less time to do so and can afford it will use technology to our advantage where it is legal to do so. If you have a finely trained dog that minds well, that's great, your good. sometimes depending on where you are hunting, tracking devices would be handy. I've seen dogs chase a deer until they can't go no more. Does that make him a good dog or you a good trainer, maybe not, but you got to try em out somewhere and somehow. I would want my pet back regardless. You know that a dog is man's friend. one way to prove that is....lock your wife and your dog in the car trunk for an hour and see which one is glad to see you when you let them out.

Clay Cooper

Bourjaily, does the K-9 G.P.S. come in kid sizes to?


I hope folks won't use these toys as a substitiute for dog training. Money spent on gadgets often doesn't give you great returns. I understand why a houndsman may use these sorts of devices, any other use is a little tougher for me to justify.


To you so called "traditionalist". Do you all use handmade bows and arrows? I doubt it. Technology introduced compound bows, guns, crossbows, etc. I'm sure you appreciate those advances. Using technology to keep up with a prized dog is no different. It doesn't make one less of a hunter to care for his dog. Occasionally, even the best of dogs get confused and lost. Using technology to help find them only makes sense. It doesn't help much with bagging your game. So lighten up. If you don't want to use it, don't. The problem with the world is if "you" don't approve of "it" it's wrong. I personally won't be caring what you think. I'll be hunting my way.

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