Using the Beeper Collar

Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

In previous articles, we covered the three-action introduction to the Tri-Tronics collar, which included the "Whoa" command. We covered stop-to-flush, honoring, preventing creeping, teaching a good hunting pattern, and leaving "off game" and snakes alone. We then covered retrieving skills for the shoot-to-retrieve handler and the "silent recall" for the hunter. In this article we will talk about using a beeper collar.

For years hunters have used bells to keep track of their dogs in the field. Now the modern beeper collar gives you an ideal way to keep you "with" your bird dog while hunting. Regardless of how heavy the cover, you will know where the dog is working, when it has located birds, and whether it remains staunch.

Features of a beeper collar

Tri-Tronics beeper collars contain a motion sensor that tells the difference between a moving dog that is hunting for birds, and a dog that is holding still, on point. A small speaker mounted on the collar beeps every seven seconds until the dog goes on point, then it alerts the handler by beeping once every second. (The collar may also be set not to beep until the dog goes on point.)

The beeper collar may be set to produce a single beep or a double beep signal. This makes it possible to hunt over two dogs that are both wearing beeper collars. Use the single beep to identify the actions of one dog and the double beep to identify the actions of its bracemate.

A beeper collar with the speaker located in the center of the back of the dog's neck produces the loudest sound for the handler, at the same time being quietest for the dog's ears. This "Omni-directional" sound also gives you the best information about the dog's location, no matter what direction it's facing. In comparison, speakers on the side of the dog's neck can deceive the listener as to the dog's range, because the dog's body position will affect the listener's perception. The beep will sound louder when the speaker is facing you and weaker when the dog turns and the speaker faces away from you, making it seem that the dog is farther away than it really is.

Introducing the beeper collar

When starting your dog on a beeper collar, it's best to let the dog get used to the sound before the dog wears the collar. To do this, hang the collar on the dog's kennel fence for a day and leave it beeping.

Then, the first time you use the beeper collar on the dog, wad up a Kleenex and place it in the horn of the speaker to dampen the sound so that the dog can gradually get used to the beep. The next few times out reduce the amount of tissue you put in the horn. If you follow these simple procedures, your dog will readily accept the beeper collar and will ignore it completely.

Tattling on the "secret creeper"

A beeper collar helps you keep your bird dog honest because it allows you to know when the out-of-sight dog is creeping. Once the collar tells you that the dog is on point, it will continue the rapid beep until it detects the dog moving, then it will stop. When you find this happening, you'll know it's time to refresh your dog's memory on remaining staunch.

Which mode to use?

In the point-only mode, the collar does not beep until the dog goes on point. In the range/point mode, the collar beeps slowly while the dog hunts, then rapidly once the dog goes on point.

Some hunters prefer the point-only mode because it maintains the "serenity of the hunt" while allowing them to know immediately when the dog goes on point. Others prefer the range/point mode; so that they know where the dog is as it hunts, and can guide its course or maintain a desired range.

Some grouse hunters find that the range/point mode causes a bird to hold tight. One explanation is that the bird first hears the beep when the dog is far away. Since the dog can cover a lot of ground between beeps, the bird suddenly hears the beep close by. The bird is surprised and feels trapped, so it freezes and holds tight.

What truly causes birds to hold so well in the presence of the beeper we don't know. But one thing is for sure--the quicker you can get to your dog when it goes on point, the more birds you'll have in your bag, and a beeper collar will certainly help you do that, especially in difficult terrain and cover.

First appeared in:
Pointing Dog Journal
, November/December 1994.

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