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GPS collars help owners track, find sporting dogs
It can be one of the lowest feelings in bird hunting.
Darkness is falling across a rugged and remote landscape at least five miles from the nearest house and 15 miles from the nearest town. Coyotes are howling in many directions and a beloved bird dog is nowhere to be seen.
Too often such scenarios don’t have a happy ending.
Ted Gartner faced the above with total calm despite the absence of his wide-ranging English pointer, LuLu.
“She’s 175 yards over that hill,” Gartner said as he looked at a palm-size device. “She’s coming in.”
Several moments later, LuLu trotted into sight where Gartner had predicted.
Thanks to technology produced by an American company, hunters needn’t worry about losing their dog while afield.
It’s been about seven years since Garmin International first matched its global positioning system technology with hunting dogs.
GPS units use satellites to mark their positions at all times, and record assorted information. The units on the Garmin dog collars also transmit their location to the hunter’s hand-held display screen.
They’ve become a valued tool that Gartner, Garmin’s communications director and a fanatical upland bird hunter, helped develop and test.
“The main thing is the peace of mind you get with them,” he said. “You know where your dogs are all of the time. You’re not hollering all the time and your dog’s not wearing one of those annoying beepers. You just get to enjoy the hunt and the dog work.”
Under ideal conditions, the collars might register on the hunter’s tracking screen up to five miles away.
The GPS collars provide more than simply a dogs’ direction and distance. The screen unit vibrates and emits a sound when the dog stops — when it’s pointing birds, for example.
Gartner said one function is logging distances and routes traveled. Comparing the distances covered between four- and two-legged hunters is always interesting. After recent quail hunts, Gartner checked the trails of both dogs and himself. True to her breed, LuLu, the English pointer, logged the most distance, covering 7.4 miles in a 75-minute trek. Vegas tallied 5.3 miles while Gartner totaled 2.1 miles on the same hunt.
The units also provide trails so Gartner can later look at the workings of his dogs.
The GPS units also allows him to log important locations as a hunt progresses.
Gartner described it as a “digital diary” of his bird hunts as he records points made, birds flushed and shot at his hunting places. Such information comes in handy when he returns on future hunts.
Some GPS collars come with preprogrammed topographical maps so hunters will more easily know how to get to a distant dog, or the easiest way back to a vehicle.
Such conveniences don’t come cheaply, though. Gartner said the GPS-only Astro normally sells for around $600.
The Alpha, with its correction collar capabilities, retails for about $800.
“That’s a lot,” Gartner admitted, “but I’ve never met anyone who’s desperately looking for a lost dog who wouldn’t gladly pay twice that amount. It’s much more fun to just hunt, and not have to worry about lost dogs.”