Hunting with English setters, English Pointers and Brittany spaniels provides me with a lot of variety in my bird hunting. I want my dogs to cover lots and lots of ground, so I really let them stretch the horizon. While some of them work more closely than others, I’m confident that all of them hunt much farther out than the average bird hunter is used to. Depending on several factors, I may hunt three or four dogs at a time, or maybe even five if I’m hunting with a partner or guiding with client who also has a dog. Sometimes we’re hunting specifically for pheasants, sharptails or Huns, and other times we’re going after a mixed bag. But one thing that is consistent is that I’m always hunting in the big, wide open spaces of the Western states.
My home and training facility, Hideaway Kennels, are located in Calhan, Colorado. From there, I can travel north and west to get into good bird populations for personal hunting as well as guiding. As fun and exciting as this is, it also presents challenges. It isn’t hard to literally lose a dog in the rolling terrain of the prairie. In the past, if I lost sight of a dog, it often meant a lot of lost hunting time trying to locate him or her. Now, having used the TEK 2.0 product from SportDOG Brand® for a couple of seasons, I’m hunting much more efficiently.
Think of the TEK 2.0 as a security blanket that tells you where your dogs are, instantly, at any given time during a hunt. As good as some beeper collars may be, that’s an advantage they can’t even being to match. I had an incident early last fall while grouse hunting near Lewistown, Montana, that’s a great example. One of my pointers had traveled over a ridgetop and out of sight. It’s not unusual to occasionally lose contact with a dog, but when I got to the ridgetop I couldn’t locate him; he had seemingly vanished. I could have headed out across the open, hoping to see him locked up, or I could have traveled down a steep bank toward the river bottom.
Years ago, you may as well have flipped a coin and hoped for the best. This time I simply pulled out my TEK 2.0 Handheld and scanned the map, which showed my dog was clear down in the river bottom and farther away than I ever would have guessed. What was scary was that the river ran right along a road, and had I not gotten there when I did, my dog might have ended up in great danger.
There is a temptation, I think, for a hunter to get frustrated and give his dog an e-collar correction when that dog gets out of sight. That’s not something you want to do, because your dog might be hunting hard and doing everything right. It might even be on point, and that’s certainly not the time when you should be hitting the transmitter button. On that day near Lewistown, my dog was running hard and looking for birds, just the way I trained him. Circumstances and terrain simply put us out of touch for a few minutes. It happens; it’s certainly not something a dog should be punished for.
The mapping feature not only shows you where you are, but you can use it to study the area you’re about to hunt so you can figure out how to travel it most efficiently. It’s really nice to not have to carry a separate GPS unit when I’m exploring a new hunting area. Now, with the same handheld that helps you keep tabs on your dogs, you can put together a hunting strategy before you ever leave your vehicle.
The TEK 2.0 handheld is much more than just a way to figure out the location of your dog. It’s a full-featured GPS that rivals the technology found in a laptop computer. Its capabilities are seemingly endless.
In my next article, I’ll tell you how I use some of those features, and which ones work particularly well out West.