Buyer’s Guide to the Best Hunting Gear for Your Furry Best Friend

Brad Fitzpatrick, GetZone.com Contributor

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hunting dogs, dog gear, hunting, dogs

The popularity of hunting with dogs is on the rise, but the partnership between human and canine hunters dates back tens of thousands of years. Today’s popular hunting breeds — labs, German shorthaired pointers, beagles, English setters and a host of others — have been developed over centuries to hone their natural instincts and prey drive. Modern hunting dogs can benefit from the latest in high-tech hunting gear, and having the right equipment will help them succeed in the field. And, perhaps most importantly, it will also keep them safe when you head outdoors.

Here’s a buyer’s guide of some of the best products for your canine hunting companion. These items can’t replace solid training and good genetics, but they will help you make your time in the field more enjoyable.

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SportDOG TEK 2.0 Tracking + E-Collar

Besides their value as family members and loyal hunting companions, highly skilled hunting dogs represent a serious investment of time and money. Each time you release your dog there’s some risk associated —they could become lost, injured, or stolen. For that reason, many hunters now take advantage of satellite GPS technology to keep track of their dog’s movements. SportDOG offers their TEK 2.0 Tracking + E-Collar system that allows you to keep tabs on your dog while simultaneously having the training capabilities of an e-collar built into the system. The new main screen design is simple to understand and operate with controls like “My Dog”, “My Collars”, “Training”, “Tracking”, and “Maps”. There’s even a built-in compass with a tilt feature that keeps you headed in the right direction regardless of orientation. HOPTEK Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum technology offers immunity to signal interference and extends the tracking range of the collars — up to 10 miles.

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Each unit comes with built-in 1:100,00 topo maps with unlimited lifetime map updates and there are 99 levels of continuous, momentary and rising stimulation for training purposes. The TEK2.0 allows you to simultaneously track and train up to 21 dogs, making this system a natural option for hound hunters and professional trainers. You can also receive hands-free voice updates and the unit is Bluetooth compatible. Each collar features DryTek technology that makes it waterproof and submersible to 25 feet. MSRP is $804.95 for a one-dog unit tracking and E-training unit (TEK 2.0 Tracking system without E-collars is $454.95). Additional E-Collars are $304.95 and additional tracking collars are $194.95. www.sportdog.com

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Photo courtesy of SportDOG

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Dokken DeadFowl Trainer

Tom Dokken is one of the most successful hunting dog trainers in the industry, and part of that success comes from using the right equipment. In the case of the DeadFowl Trainer, says Dokken, “Necessity was the mother of invention.” Unlike other training dummies that didn’t properly teach dogs to handle a bird during a retrieve, every aspect of the DeadFowl was built to add authenticity and garner the most from every training exercise. The head has a free-swinging action that is lifelike and disciplines aggressive shaking. The feet, too, are hard, and that prompts the dog to carry the bird properly—holding gently onto the soft body of the dummy as it would a bird in the field. In addition, the various Dokken DeadFowl dummies are life-sized and weighted so they simulate actual retrieves in the field. Each unit is scent-injectable so you can add natural odors and help solidify the dog’s understanding of the task at hand, and each dummy comes with a rope that makes it easy to toss and carry (for humans, who presumably won’t be toting the DeadFowl in their mouths).

There are five categories of DeadFowl dummies available; Small Ducks, Large Ducks, Geese, Upland Birds 1 and Upland Birds 2. Additionally, you can select a dummy that mimics the bird you are training your dogs to hunt, everything from Gambel’s quail and mourning doves to teal, mallards, snow geese and many, many more. There are also DeadFowl dummies that are engineered to be fired from launchers. In addition to the DeadFowl dummies, Dokken also sells scents, wings, and a variety of other accessories for training your hunting dog. MSRPs range from $22.99 to $49.99. www.deadfowltrainer.com

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Photo courtesy of Dokken

Lion Country Supply Leather Feel Collar and Northwoods Bell

For almost 40 years Pennsylvanian John “Buck” Kortiko has been offering hunters a wide range of field-tested hunting dog equipment through Lion Country Supply. Since Kortiko (and his growing base of loyal customers) are hunters first, the equipment at LCS undergoes extensive field training. One of the most in-demand items that Kortiko offers are his Leather Feel Collars, which have the feel of traditional leather hunting collars with, improved longevity. They won’t fade with years of use, are tough enough to withstand years of hard hunting in dense, thorny brush and they won’t become hard or brittle in cold weather. These collars are easy to clean with warm water and they are available in a variety of colors (orange, blue, brown, black, yellow, red, green) in various lengths and widths. There’s also an option for an O-ring design collar that can roll on a dog’s neck if the collar becomes entangled in brush or fence wire.

hunting dogs, dog gear, hunting, dogs
Photo courtesy of Lion Country Supply

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You can select from ¾” or 1″ widths and personalized brass nameplates are available for less than two dollars. For bird hunters, no Leather Feel Collar would be complete without Kortiko’s Northwoods Bell. Each Northwoods bell is handcrafted in Norway from iron sheets coated with recycled brass gathered from Norwegian military practice fields. These bells have become so popular and common among bird hunters and field trailers that they are now simply referred to in many hunting circles as the “Lion Country Bell.” MSRP for the Leather Feel collar is $7.49 to $8.49 (plus $1.95 for brass nameplates) and MSRP for the Northwoods bell is $19.95. www.lcsupply.com

hunting dogs, dogs, hunting, dog gear
Photo courtesy of Lion Country Supply

Momarsh Invisible Dog Blind

A high-quality dog blind is essential gear for waterfowl hunters, and the MOmarsh Invisilab is one of the most popular models currently available. This durable, easy-to-transport blind has a zipper front (so it can double as a crate, which had convenience and functionality at home and in the field) and weighs just 13 lbs, so it’s light enough to carry from your boat or truck to the duck blind without strain. The exterior is covered in Realtree MAX-5 camo for concealment, and there are plenty of sturdy exterior straps for adding vegetation to take concealment to the next level. The interior is made of durable mesh that provides a slip-free surface as your dog launches itself in the water after a bird, and the mesh design also allows water to drain which keeps your hunting dogs warmer and reduces weight when you’re packing your gear to head home. The MOmarsh Invisilab comes with four sturdy, extendable legs that have cupped feet for maximum grip and security.  You can lower the crate to the ground for field hunting, dove season or training sessions and elevate the blind when hunting in a marsh or slough. The Invisilab measures 34″ long, 23″ wide and 19″ high so it can accommodate even the largest retriever. It’s available through stores like Cabela’s at a cost of $199.99. www.momarsh.com

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Photo courtesy of Momarsh

Cabela’s 5mm Neoprene Flotation Dog Vest with Armor-Flex

There’s a level of inherent risk each time you send your dog out on a retrieve. Rough, cold water can exhaust even the most fit lab, and there’s always the risk your dog will dive into the water and injure itself on an unseen stump or log lying just below the surface. For that reason, most hunters opt to outfit their dog with a protective vest, and Cabela’s 5mm Neoprene Flotation Vest with Armor-Flex is an excellent choice. These vests are available in medium through 3XL (there’s a sizing chart on the Cabela’s website), all of which are constructed of 5mm closed cell supplemental floatation foam to give your dog the extra edge it needs to make long retrieves in tough conditions. In addition, the neoprene construction helps maintain core body temperature on cold days. The chest protector is made from Armor-Flex (the same material used in high-wear areas of waders) and runs from the dog’s neck, chest and belly. The seams are enhanced with extra bartacks for making custom cuts, large Velcro closures are easy-to-use in wet weather and keep the vest in place, and the exterior is covered with Realtree MAX-5 camo for maximum concealment. $39.99. www.cabelas.com

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Photo courtesy of Cabela’s

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D.T. Systems R.A.P.T. 1450

D.T. Systems, based in Dallas, Texas, produces a wide array of top-quality training equipment for serious dog handlers. The company recently expanded their popular R.A.P.T. line of collars with the addition of the 1450 Beeper collar. The beeper can be heard from up to 450 yards away, alerting you to the location of your dog or letting you know that it is on point. Additionally, the R.A.P.T. 1450 allows you to program three separate beeping sequences for different dogs. That way even if you can’t see your hunting dogs, you can quickly determine where each dog is located and whether they are on point. It’s a great feature for training with multiple dogs, but in cornfields, brushy areas or forests — areas where you’ll likely find birds — the audio feature is simple to use and allows you to quickly determine where your dogs are at any moment. There’s also a volume cap to lessen the volume. Pressing the locate button does not cancel out the run-point or point only selections, so there’s no need to keep resetting the controls. A Rapid Access button allows you to use Locate, Nick, Continuous or Vibration Assist settings by simply pressing a button, and the unit has a 1,400-yard range.

Other key features include Maxx Range 360 (which uses a wraparound antennae and FM signal transmission for 360-degree signal reception regardless of terrain), Gentle Touch stimulation with 16 levels of correction, and Vibration Assist for a no-shock stimulus alternative. The RAPT Strap holds the transmitter firmly against to the back of your hand so you are free to use both hands to shoot or maneuver through brush, and the light (4 oz.) receiver box is waterproof. Additionally, the transmitter floats of you are hunting in wet areas. MSRP: $259.99 (additional collars $179.99). www.dtsystems.com

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Photo courtesy of DT Systems

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Ruff Tough Kennels

Doug Sangl is serious about the safety of his hunting dogs. Unable to find a dog kennel that met his high expectations, Doug decided to simply build his own, a custom kennel that was stronger and lighter than anything currently available. As the owner of a plastics manufacturing company, Sangl understood a one-piece kennel would be sturdier than two-piece models and so that’s where he began. What he found was one-piece high-density molded polyethylene kennels were not only substantially stronger than competing two-piece models but that they were also more compact (with identical interior dimensions). In addition to one-piece construction, Doug’s Ruff Tough Kennels are stackable, have inserts for coupling kennels or tying them down, and feature double composite doors. There are sturdy handle attachments that simplify lifting and transporting the kennel and ample ventilation holes. Sangl and his team expose their kennels to intense field testing, dropping them from atop buildings and even shooting them with a shotgun from 15 yards (with no dogs inside during testing, of course) to evaluate just how well these products stand up to the worst abuse. Ruff Tough Kennels offer a high level of security for your dog and the convenience of a lightweight, stackable, easy-to-clean design. MSRPs range from $132.95 to $307.95. www.rufftoughkennels.com

dog gear, dogs, hunting, hunting dogs
Photo courtesy of Rough Tough Kennels

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