I've said it before and I'll say it again, The Garmin Astro will revolutionize bird hunting. I used it every day for two weeks in Montana and in Wisconsin this month. In Montana, I primarily needed it to keep up with my hard running Brit when he crested the coulees and was out of sight for a few minutes- just to ease my mind. Once, he did that and I crested the coulee myself and found him gone. I pulled the Astro out and saw he was 180 yds away and on point! After selecting "Dog" and checking the direction, I walked over and found him locked up on Sage Grouse (they taste great when cooked by someone who knows what they are doing, by the way). Could I have done that without the Garmin- yes. Did it make my hunting experience more enjoyable- yes! That's the key- it makes the hunting experience much more enjoyable.
In Wisconsin, easing down a trail with a new pup, I listened to his beeper getting farther and farther away- probably he flushed a bird and chased it. Instead of laying on the whistle, or tapping him with the Tritronics, I pulled up the Astro and watched him get out 400 yds and run in circles for a bit. Then I hit the whistle and watched as he turned and headed back to me. I didn't have to keep blasting- just a toot when I saw that he was stopped (on point) and listening. When he got to 50 yards, I laid off it entirely and let him run around a little and get scared. After a bit, I gave him a tweet and we had a little "Homecoming". That little bit of training in the thick Grouse woods was invaluable- he constantly checked for me after that and made my Grouse hunting much more pleasurable.
That's only 2 examples of how the Astro worked into my hunting. I never had a dog fall off the radar screen, so I really don't know the max range in heavy cover. I do know that 500 yds is a long ways in those woods, and I was tracking a dog that far for a while. Can you hunt without it- sure can. Will I hunt without it- not unless I absolutely have to! However, it is no substitute for a training a dog properly- no doubt about that- and I hope guys don't start using it as a crutch for proper training.
I think we've only scratched the surface on how to use this thing. It seems to be as tough as it needs to be, too. I had no trouble at all. I did put it on the charge every night, though.
Hey, Tritronics, are you listening? Can we get a collar that integrates it all? Hey, we put a man on the moon using slide rules. Now, we have micro-miniturization and batteries that are incredible. Can't we get one collar that does it all? Heck, my dog carries almost $1000 worth of bling around his neck as it is. I'd be willing to pay for a combination collar........