Rob Phillips: Technology helps hunters keep tabs on their faithful companions | outdoors and recreation

Aside from the fact that safety conscience always comes first, there are other concerns that hunters bring to the fields every fall.

All hunters, but especially big game hunters, need to know where they are as they trudge through the woods. Not only is there a concern about not stepping on private land, but it’s also essential when it comes time to get back to the truck.

Fortunately, today there are tools that can literally be lifesavers when it comes to not getting lost. Owning and using a GPS device or one of the new mobile phone map apps, if used properly, will tell you exactly where you are and where to go to get home safely.

Mountain bird hunters have other concerns, and if you’re like me, they mostly revolve around the whereabouts and safety of our four-legged partners.

Here, too, modern technology helps to keep an eye on our hunting dogs. GPS tracking collars are now available so hunters know exactly where their puppies are at all times. Large running dogs can disappear behind the nearest horizon or into tight cover, and by observing a handheld controller, a hunter can figure out where the dog is and where it’s going.

My black labrador Bailey and I are not that demanding. Most of the time Bailey hunts within gunshot, but if she sometimes catches the hot scent of a running rooster pheasant, she can be a hundred yards away in seconds. If she’s in thick or high cover, I might have no idea where she went.

Enter the Dogtra electric collar. Before we head off to the field, Bailey happily tucks her head into the bright orange collar.

The collar has an electric shock component, but luckily I never have to use it. If Bailey gets too far out, all I have to do is give the collar a little beep with the handheld controller and she turns around.

If I’ve lost her in close cover, which is pretty common, I can press the locate button and I’ll know exactly where she is. As she has had problems collapsing due to hypoglycemia in the past, it is important for me to know where she is at all times.

There are other concerns for hunters with dogs. In our area, there is a chance your pup could be bitten by a rattlesnake.

Chukar hunters working the region’s sagebrush slopes, particularly early in the season, will occasionally encounter a rattlesnake. The experts say dogs are 20 times more likely to be bitten by a rattlesnake and 25 times more likely to die from a snakebite.

It helps teach a dog to avoid snakes, but it’s not foolproof. Vaccinating your dog with a canine rattlesnake vaccine could save your dog’s life.

Other, less deadly critters live where we hunt with our dogs. Porcupines can cause very painful problems for dogs that get too close to them.

Carrying a multi-tool with pliers can be invaluable if your pup accidentally gets tangled with a pork. Most of the time, the porcupine quills can be pulled in the field and the hunt can continue.

If the dog is really struck, it’s best to get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Porcupine quills, if not properly removed, can cause long-term problems.

Then there’s always the possibility of getting skunked, and I’m not talking about going home empty-handed.

I’ve hunted with dogs for almost six decades and luckily I’ve never had a dog get into a porcupine or skunk. That is, until I got Bailey.

The porcupine record still stands, but in the past six years, Bailey has been sprayed by skunks three times.

She is not an aggressive dog. When she sees a bull snake in our orchard, Bailey comes and hides behind my leg.

And she’s a pretty smart dog, so you’d think she’d learn, but for some reason, skunks have to smell so ferociously that she wants to check them out.

The last skunk encounter was a few weeks ago. Luckily both the skunk and the dog were in a deep ditch full of tall grass which I believe dissipated a direct hit from the stinking spray.

The first two times Bailey was sprayed, I did the whole bath with the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap routine. It worked to a degree to reduce the stink, but whenever Bailey got wet, the skunk aroma magically appeared.

This time I just let her run in the wet grass and brush for a few days and since she wasn’t too fragrant to begin with, the stench wasn’t bad at all. Also when she gets wet it does get a bit more potent but even with the double baths the last two times she was skunked the only real cure seems to be time.

Every time hunters enter the field, there is a chance that trouble will arise. It’s certainly not inevitable, but it’s best to be prepared if and when something does happen.

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