Keep your hunting dogs safe with tracking collars

Eric Stout prepares tracking collars for the hunt.

Do your hunting dogs a favor; use tracking collar

While rabbit hunting last year Erik Stout realized one of his best beagles was not running with the pack. His GPS tracking monitor showed the dog was more than 300 yards from the pack – and not moving.

“I knew something was wrong,” Stout said. 

He followed the GPS signal and as he got close to where it showed his beagle was located, he could hear sounds of distress.

“She sounded like she was choking. When I got to her I could see she had got her collar tangled in some vines. And as she struggled to get free the vines were choking her so bad her eyes were almost bugging out.”

Stout rushed in and freed the beagle from the vines and soon she was back in the pack, giving chase to a rabbit.

“If I had not had that GPS collar on her and been able to get to her in time, I don’t know how bad that might have turned out,” he said.

After years of hunting deer and turkey about 15 or 16 years ago Stout returned to the sport he had enjoyed as a youngster from the time he was 8-years-old until his teen years — rabbit hunting. He began meticulously building his beagle pack.

Tracking collars save the day

The beagle breed shares one standout characteristic. Used primarily for hunting rabbits, they will give chase to any animal with a strong scent. Some will run after deer, others after foxes. They will even trail a flock of turkeys or a covey of quail. And sometimes they can’t find their way back to their pack once the thrill of that chase has waned.

“I had an older female that hunted out from the pack and got lost,” Stout said. “ And I spent four days straight hollering and calling her. I left my hunting shirt and even put a dog house there,” he said, noting that a dog sometimes will return to the last place it had been before going astray and will stay with the clothing holding the hunter’s familiar scent.

“On the seventh day a fellow called me and said ‘I have your dog. I got your phone number off the collar.’”

If he’d had a tracking collar on that dog he likely would have found her the same day she strayed from the pack. Determined to avoid losing any of his dogs, Stout first tried a couple of shock collars, using them to break dogs from chasing off on other game and teaching them to come to a tone emitted through the collar. He soon moved up to the Garmin Alpha Tracking System collars which have a shocking system and a tracking system all in one collar.

Tracking collars are now part of the regular equipment for many rabbit hunters, coon hunters and even bird hunters and waterfowl hunters, depending on the game and the terrain being hunted.

The tracking collar antenna is obvious as Erik Stout encourages one of his beagles. (Photo by Pat Robertson)

Keep track, keep safe

Not only can he keep up with his pack when they are in full chase, Stout said, the collars provide an extra level of safety for the dogs.

“Population is increasing and there are more roads and more traffic close to places we have to hunt. If the dogs get close to a road, I can see exactly where they are and run out and get them away from the road.”

Other dangers are inherent in hunting and the collars have helped save his and other hunters’ dogs, he said.

“A friend was hunting when the signal from one of his hounds disappeared. A question mark on the monitor showed the spot where the signal was lost,” Stout said.

“He went to that spot and found his dog had fallen into an abandoned well. Without that GPS collar there would have been no way for him to have ever found his dog.”

Stout recalled another hunt where one of his older dogs suddenly left the pack and took off.

“I had just seen some coyotes when I noticed my dog had dropped out of the pack and was moving in the opposite direction. I think he saw those coyotes and got spooked,” Stout said. “Using the GPS, I found him hiding under a creek bank more than half a mile from where we had been hunting. If not for the GPS I would never have found him.”

Stout has been using the tracking collars for about eight hunting seasons. His beagles don’t leave the truck without wearing them.

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