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Technology Tells Us How Far We Really Walk On a Hunt

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February 14, 2012

Technology Tells Us How Far We Really Walk On a Hunt

By Chad Love

I had an hour or two to kill this past Friday, so I decided that a short afternoon quail hunt at a spot just a few minutes from my house would fill those hours quite nicely. I loaded up my little setter, Jenny, and we were hoofing it through the sagebrush within 20 minutes of pulling out of the garage. 
 

A little while—one small covey of birds and no shots—later, we found ourselves back at the hunting wagon, Rocinante, sucking wind and water. I was, anyway. Jenny was remarkably energetic for having endured such a death march. I figured Jenny had run flat out for approximately 34 miles, and that I had walked at least 20 miles following her. I was also sure that Jenny had, on that wide-open prairie, opened her range up to that of an all-age horseback trial dog. Why, she wasn't even a dog on some casts, but a small, flowing white dot on the far horizon.
 

And then I looked at the data. Delusion, meet reality. As you can see from the photograph, Jenny ran a total of 7.7 miles, at a relatively steady and sedate average speed of 6.27 mph. Even on her longest cast, she was never more than a couple hundred yards away. (Disregard that 9.8 miles distance measurement. That's the distance from my house, where the pic was taken, to where I turned off Jenny's collar at the hunting spot.) And just how far did Iron Man here walk? Probably less than half of that distance, and certainly under four miles.
 

Which brings up an interesting question: How much ground do think you and your dog cover versus how much ground you and your dog actually cover? We used to roll our eyes and take such claims on faith and a grain of salt, sometimes a shaker full of it, if we were the recipients of such a tale. And if we were to tell such a tale, well, you callin' me a liar?

But technology, that great and impartial slayer of sacred bromides, is now allowing us to know, precisely, just how badly we tend to estimate both distance and effort. GPS tracking collars like the Garmin Astro and the SportDOG TEK series are opening up a whole new treasure trove of data for gundog owners. They're really not just for tracking your dog's whereabouts—you can gauge your dog's (and your) performance characteristics and hunt details (marking coveys, points, etc.).

When viewed in that vein, GPS tracking collars might start making more sense for those of us who previously thought they were only for big-running pointing dogs and houndsmen.
 
But back to my original question: Do you think you tend to over or underestimate how far and how quickly you and your dog cover ground? I put the question to Ted Gartner, director of corporate communications for Garmin International, and an avid bird hunter. 
 

"Absolutely," he replied. "Prior to the introduction of the Astro, I think guys had a tendency to overestimate their dog's range, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. I was as guilty as anyone in thinking my dogs ran dozens of miles for every mile I walked, but typically it's anywhere from 2.5 miles to four miles for every mile you walk. A lot of it depends on the breed, terrain, and individual dog. It was also interesting to see that when I was slowed down by challenging cover, my dogs typically slowed down with me, so the ratios more or less stayed the same."
 

Gartner says many trainers, hunters and field trialers use Astros to track a dog's progress over a given season, using it as a "digital diary" to compare workouts and bird finds from day to day or dog to dog. "GPS has really opened some applications for dogs that we've never even imagined," he says.
 

So given all the varied ways you can use it, do you see yourself eventually incorporating GPS technology into your hunting in the future, even if you're not a pointing dog or hound guy? Or do you want to remain pure and unfettered by the yoke of technology?

Comments (6)

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from doghunter29 wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

on recent hunts ive only walked at most 2 miles other hunts ive gone as much as 4-5 that is rabbit hunting not bird though oh well

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from Jacob Svetz wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

I have a place like this near my house. You can walk all day and only cover a few miles. Technologly ceritanly limits bragging rights though.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

I have used my GPS hunting in the bush for moose. I keep it in the rig (until it was stolen last fall) and usually forget I have it when bird hunting. Should take it with me. I would never invest in one for my dog. Sorry, I just can't see the utility in that. By the way, I keep it in the rig in case I come on a serious vehicle accident. I can phone in the coordinates so helicopter will know exactly where to go immediately.

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from Moose1980 wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

I never walk as far as I think. When deer hunting in Maine, trudging up and down ridges, you think you've covered 10 miles. Then you look at a map and realize you could have hit the cabian with a rock the whole time! :) I think generally, when we are in the woods, in tune with whats going on, our perception slows down. We are more aware of the world around us and become so immersed a slow couple hour walk makes it seem like you covered tons of ground. Basically, our senses take in so much more information than normal, the experience itself becomes large and so we think we must have covered lots of ground

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from scratchgolf72 wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

when my dog was younger, and in her prime, i would hunt pheasant with her from 8-3....we rarely stopped, not because i didnt enjoy the occasional break, but she just refused to stop hunting. i imagine in those days she covered quite a few miles. now that shes up there in dog years, she only has about 3-4 hours of juice in her, she covers a lot less ground now.

on a side note though, the amount of birds i shoot hasnt fluctuated. her knowledge, for the time being, is taking over for loss of physical ability.

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from RES1956 wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

I think these days I would prefer not to know how few miles I covered, because I know that there is NO WAY that I should feel like this after covering just 3-4 miles. I think that I will just continue to tell myself and others that I musta walked 20 miles today,,,

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from Jacob Svetz wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

I have a place like this near my house. You can walk all day and only cover a few miles. Technologly ceritanly limits bragging rights though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from doghunter29 wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

on recent hunts ive only walked at most 2 miles other hunts ive gone as much as 4-5 that is rabbit hunting not bird though oh well

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

I have used my GPS hunting in the bush for moose. I keep it in the rig (until it was stolen last fall) and usually forget I have it when bird hunting. Should take it with me. I would never invest in one for my dog. Sorry, I just can't see the utility in that. By the way, I keep it in the rig in case I come on a serious vehicle accident. I can phone in the coordinates so helicopter will know exactly where to go immediately.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Moose1980 wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

I never walk as far as I think. When deer hunting in Maine, trudging up and down ridges, you think you've covered 10 miles. Then you look at a map and realize you could have hit the cabian with a rock the whole time! :) I think generally, when we are in the woods, in tune with whats going on, our perception slows down. We are more aware of the world around us and become so immersed a slow couple hour walk makes it seem like you covered tons of ground. Basically, our senses take in so much more information than normal, the experience itself becomes large and so we think we must have covered lots of ground

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from scratchgolf72 wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

when my dog was younger, and in her prime, i would hunt pheasant with her from 8-3....we rarely stopped, not because i didnt enjoy the occasional break, but she just refused to stop hunting. i imagine in those days she covered quite a few miles. now that shes up there in dog years, she only has about 3-4 hours of juice in her, she covers a lot less ground now.

on a side note though, the amount of birds i shoot hasnt fluctuated. her knowledge, for the time being, is taking over for loss of physical ability.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

I think these days I would prefer not to know how few miles I covered, because I know that there is NO WAY that I should feel like this after covering just 3-4 miles. I think that I will just continue to tell myself and others that I musta walked 20 miles today,,,

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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