December 17, 2008
Bourjaily: K-9 G.P.S.
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
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.