Interference

Dad taught me to get your work done before you play and Saturday that meant mowing the lawn and filling a gopher hole in the ditch. After that, it was afternoon training with Doc and Mia. However it was one of those training sessions that kinda left me wondering what we accomplished.

Elvis, Doc, Mia and Sophie enjoy the flooded pasture, 4-24-15.

Elvis, Doc, Mia and Sophie enjoy the flooded pasture, 4-24-15.

Thanks to a full stream of water for the past couple of weeks, our pasture has become somewhat of a temporary marshland attracting ducks. When several dropped in this afternoon, I sent Doc and Mia out after them. Mia established point about 150 feet from the ducks before Doc caught their scent and went on point. He must have had retrieving on his mind because when one of the ducks flew to the other end of the pasture and landed, Doc broke and went after it.

Dakota races through the water, 4-25-15.

Dakota races through the water, 4-25-15.

After letting everyone run in the pasture for a bit, I planted a couple of carded pigeons and put two more in my bag to test Doc and Mia’s steadiness. With Mia on point and Doc honoring, I moved a ways behind Mia and then threw a pigeon past her. The bird buzzed her and she took a couple of steps to chase before stopping and returning on point. I did the same with Doc and remained on a rock solid honor, even though the bird flew about 20 feet landing between him and Mia.

Mia on point with Doc honoring, 4-25-15.

Mia on point with Doc honoring, 4-25-15.

Doc honors Mia with a pigeon between them.

Doc honors Mia with a pigeon between them.

I looked for and couldn’t find the carded bird that Mia was point so I gave the “track” command. It turns out that both carded birds had moved and were about 150 feet upwind. After tracking, both Doc and Mia went on point, but were pointing different birds.

Doc and Mia point two different pigeons while training, 4-25-15.

Doc and Mia point two different pigeons while training, 4-25-15.

Doc and Mia point different birds while training, 4-25-15.

Doc and Mia point different birds while training, 4-25-15.

I flushed Doc’s bird and sent him to retrieve. While Doc and Mia do well honoring bumper retrieves, they are, shall we say, less than honorable when it comes to honoring live birds retrieves. In any case, Doc made a nice retrieve.

Doc on point while training, 4-25-15.

Doc on point while training, 4-25-15.

I then flushed Mia’s bird which flew through the fence and halfway across the neighbor’s alfalfa field. I sent her on a long retrieve but the pigeon flushed before she reached it and the neighbor’s Malamute got it. Doc and Mia converged on the Malamute with bird, who dropped it on his owner’s command, and Mia retrieved it, but it was a confusing and not a clean retrieve.

Doc retrieves a pigeon while training, 4-25-15.

Doc retrieves a pigeon while training, 4-25-15.

After visiting with the neighbor and letting the dogs do some running and socializing, I planted the dead bird and sent Mia who made a nice retrieve.

Mia retrieves a pigeon while training, 4-25-15.

Mia retrieves a pigeon while training, 4-25-15.

Water retrieves

Doc and Mia wait to be sent out for a bumper.

Doc and Mia wait to be sent out for a bumper.

With my little pond now full of water, it was a good opportunity to take the guys out for a little refresher training on water retrieves. Both the dogs and I were a little rusty on the obedience part of it, but it’s still early and there’s a whole summer ahead of us.

Mia returns with a bumper.

Mia returns with a bumper.

I took them out two at a time: Doc and Mia, Sophie and Elvis, and finally Dakota by herself. Since the Labs no longer hunt, for them it was just retrieving for fun with no training involved.

 

Doc returns with a bumper.

Doc returns with a bumper.

Mia takes the easy way out as she and Doc retrieve.

Mia takes the easy way out as she and Doc retrieve.

Retrieving is not everything as Mia and Doc go on point with my pigeons.

Retrieving is not everything as Mia and Doc go on point with my pigeons.

Sophie retrieves a bumper.

Sophie retrieves a bumper.

Elvis swims out for a bumper.

Elvis swims out for a bumper.

Elvis crawls up the bank with a bumper. Other than the pond's inlet and outlet, I left the banks of the pond vertical.

Elvis crawls up the bank with a bumper. Other than the pond’s inlet and outlet, I left the banks of the pond vertical.

At the ate of 10, Dakota can still catch serious air.

At the ate of 10, Dakota can still catch serious air.

As usual, Dakota enters the water headfirst.

As usual, Dakota enters the water headfirst.

Morning swim

We got our first water last week which meant water in the pond and the guys returning from the pasture wet and muddy. Unfortunately for our senior Labs, even a 5-minute swim in the pond is enough to aggravate their arthritis to the point that they need a Rimadyl afterwards.

Sophie takes a leisure swim

Sophie takes a leisure swim

Doc watches Dakota retrieve a stick

Doc watches Dakota retrieve a stick

Doc swims around looking for something to retrieve

Doc swims around looking for something to retrieve

Dakota launches herself to retrieve a stick

Dakota launches herself to retrieve a stick

And beats Doc to the stick

And beats Doc to the stick

The new Garmin® Astro 320 GPS – a Multimedia Review

Electronics are increasingly becoming a part of hunting, but how do you tell the tools from the toys?

Introduction
Every year I lose Mia, my little huntress, for a few minutes and although I always find her, there’s  that moment of panic. But every year I hear about other hunters who lose their dogs and are not so lucky in getting them back. Products such as the new Garmin® Astro 320 could prevent many of the dogs from being lost each year and has features that go well beyond just tracking your dogs.

This jungle of willows is full of Pheasants but even when your dog is wearing a hunting vest, it’s easy to lose sight of them.

This jungle of willows is full of Pheasants but even when your dog is wearing a hunting vest, it’s easy to lose sight of them.

Due to the large number of features offered by the Garmin® Astro 320, this review is limited basic setup and those features that I personally find most useful. Actual field testing was conducted while hunting.

 

The Garmin® Astro 320 GPS

The Garmin® Astro 320 GPS

 

The Garmin® Astro 320 comes complete with the handheld device, GPS collar, antennas, adapters, and user manuals. Adapters include USB, AC plugin, and car adapter; the USB adapter can be used to charge the collar as well as download updates.

Garmin® Astro 320 adapters

Garmin® Astro 320 adapters

The following features are illustrated through a series of video links. Granted, they’re just crude cell phone recordings, but they illustrate the Astro 320 in actual hunting situations.

Navigation
Even the best product isn’t much good if it’s difficult to use and understand. As a software developer, much of my review focused on user-friendliness; I found navigating the menus to be intuitive and consistent throughout.

Add a dog
Dogs can be added either manually, or wirelessly by holding the handheld device next to the collar. Dogs can easily be managed by the handheld device and there are a variety of options for managing and gathering statistics on individual dogs.

Marking and Waypoints
There’s no video on marking and setting waypoints, since these features are illustrated in other videos such as marking the truck’s location. I did find this function to be very useful particularly for marking covey locations, landmarks, and obtaining distances. A few years ago I became lost for several hours when low rainclouds lifted and revealed landmarks that I couldn’t see when I set out; other hunters found me 5 miles from my truck and drove me back, but something like this Garmin® would have prevented me from becoming lost in the first place.

Trip Computer/ Odometer
The trip computer or odometer, as with marking and setting waypoints, is a nice feature with safety applications. You can also better manage your hunts by knowing times and distances.

Waterproof test
A hunting device that isn’t waterproof is useless to me, so the Garmin® Astro 320 went on all my duck hunts. I found it to be waterproof under normal hunting situations and have confidence that it’s likely to be waterproof under abnormal situations as well.

Field test
There are some very good hunting locations that I’ve avoided for fear of losing my dogs, but with this particular GPS, I’m not afraid to hunt these areas. One benefit of the GPS is allowing my dogs to hunt more freely, since I can keep track of them remotely rather than by sight.

What Results Can You Expect?
The focus of my review was on user-friendliness in regards to setup, configuration and calibration, and ease of use while hunting; another primary consideration was usefulness. I relied heavily on the reputation of Garmin® to provide a quality product but didn’t let them off the hook when it came to accuracy and functionality – I still expected the device to live up to their reputation.

I configured the unit to extend battery life, such as setting the frequency that it pings the collar, reducing the backlight, power-off, and disabling features that I don’t use. As a result, I could run it for a good 8-9 hours before receiving a low battery warning.

The Garmin® Astro 320 is a rugged device that thankfully has a very solid clip. Although I lost the handheld’s antenna in heavy brush, it has been able to stand up to everything I’ve thrown at it.

What to Watch Out For
After testing the Garmin® Astro 320 for several months under various conditions, there are a couple of considerations.

Charging the Garmin® Astro 320 GPS collar can take up to 5 hours depending on how low the battery is, so a little pre-planning may be in order. The Astro 320 comes with several adapters including one for vehicles, enabling it to charge while driving. The quality of batteries for the handheld device play a major role, and rechargeable Lithium or NiMH batteries are recommended. Having gone through a pair of regular batteries with each hunt, I soon purchased a charger and set of rechargeable AA batteries.

There have been issues with Lithium batteries catching fire or exploding if they become too hot or if they have been overcharged. Some lower quality batteries seem to have a higher rate of this occurring.

Calibrating the compass consists of rotating the handheld device vertically, horizontally, and in a circle; for some people this could be a little awkward. Considering the performance of the GPS once the compass is calibrated, in my opinion, is well worth the gyrations of calibrating it.

I found that the dog map is not accurate if you are moving, although the distance from your dog is accurate. Case in point: Mia and I became separated while Pheasant hunting and I found that if I was walking, the arrow on the dog map pointed in various directions, as though it could not get a lock on her. The distance seemed to be accurate, but the arrow would point in different directions. When I stopped walking, the handheld was able to lock on her direction, therefore I had to stop each time I checked in on her.

Buying Advice

HuntinDawg.com provided a Garmin® Astro 320 and one collar at a reduced price for my review, and without question I will be purchasing a second collar since I prefer running my dogs in braces. After extensive testing, I highly recommend the Garmin® Astro 320 which can be purchased at HuntinDawg.com. A good GPS collar is pricy, but with me it comes down to priorities and safety is the top priority for both me and my dogs; I’m not into toys or gimmicks and view the Astro 320 as a safety device first and foremost. As for priorities, I don’t spend much money on hunting clothes, decoys, or even my shotguns and they all serve me well. However I will put good money into safety, and haven’t met a hunter yet who has lost a dog and not regretted doing more to ensure its safety.