There was a time in the past when Victorian hound hunters frequently returned home without a hound or two, then followed after work trips to the hunting area until the missing dogs were recovered, a necessary but expensive process but with a bit of luck another hunter would pick up the wandering hound and bring it out.
First we had the radio collars, and then at least had some idea of direction and distance to the hound.
The first leap in to total predictability came with the ASTRO 220, there must be thousands of hounds or gundogs carrying this device every weekend in the Victorian high country.
Jump forward and the latest GARMIN ASTRO 430 has hit the Aussie bush. Apart from the black VHF antenna, screen surrounds and keypad the hand held device is blaze orange in colour obviously for people like me in mind. Supplied with a long range VHF antenna as well as the standard length.
Compatible with the T5 GARMIN Dog Tracking Collar you are able to track up to 20 dogs at a time with a direct line distance of 7km and receiving signals each 2.5 seconds keeps you right up to date with the position and direction of the hunt where you can choose between the dog tracking screen with electronic compass setting and colour coded directional arrows for each dog and the straight line distance from you to the hound or change to the American pre fitted topo map showing each dogs position along with your own.
Battery and communication levels are each monitored by a simple bar graph on the main menu screen which is a lot brighter than the earlier models making it easier to read, setting up each mode is simple as is retrieving information during the hunt.
The GARMIN ASTRO 430 is also able to communicate wirelessly with the Garmin FENIX 3 watch and GARMIN DriveTrack 70 LMT navigation device. With the ASTRO snugly secure in your pocket or daypack as you push through the bush a glance at your watch will give you all the information you need as you close in on the hounds. When driving it is a lot easier to watch the 7inch screen on your dashboard than drive with the ASTRO in one hand.
On a recent hunt with Veteran hound man Don Rhodes I was impressed after a long day's hunting when at 10pm on a Saturday evening given that there was no way we could reach the hounds that night that he simply adjusted the collar signal times across to Rescue Mode where in effect it slowed the heartbeat of the signal preserving the battery life of the collar until we were able to walk in and recover the hounds the following morning.
"Isn't this great!" he said "Your 70, I'm 65, we are still doing it, the difference being that we will hit the swags tonight knowing where the hounds are."
Given ideal conditions we have found that the 7km range can some times be extended. The GARMIN ASTRO 430, if ever there was a device that would allow us to enable hound hunting for deer control within the National Parks of America, this is surely it.
No matter that you may have only one gun dog or twenty hounds the GARMIN ASTRO 430 and T5 Tracking Collars are well worth the money, any of those hound men from the 1960's can attest to that, the savings in diesel fuel on hopeful recovery trips will easily pay for them and more importantly is the peace of mind knowing your dogs are safe and secure.