Testing a new e-collar–the PE-900 Pro Educator

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The past couple months, I’ve been using a PE-900 Pro Educator training collar manufactured by E-Collar Technologies, Inc. I bought a one-dog collar but the PE-900 can be expanded to three dogs and features seven stimulation modes, including momentary and continuous, seven vibrations and four tones.

The cool thing is that these options can be programmed and combined in almost any configuration and can be customized for each dog. There are many other innovations—some quite complicated such as Level Lock and Boost.

For basic training in a defined area, the PE-900 is the best ecollar I’ve used.

Nice features.
My favorite capability is the patented “Instant” stimulation mode. It lets me use one hand to dial the intensity up and down while training compliance to known commands. The small increments of low-level stimulation help the dog make the right choice without causing the stress of hard corrections. This “Instant” mode can be applied for up to 45 seconds.

Another feature I like is the small size of the receivers. At only 2.4 ounces, they can be used on a very small or young dog.

For Whoa training, the PE-900 is perfect for use on the flank. The small bungee allows for a snug fit without inhibiting movement. (Houston’s Cappuccino, CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014)

For Whoa training, the PE-900 is perfect for use on the flank. The small bungee allows for a snug fit without inhibiting movement. (Houston’s Cappuccino, CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014)

E-Collar Technologies also improved another issue for me. When training compliance to the Whoa command, I use an e-collar on the dog’s flank. The collar must be snug enough to make contact with the skin but not so tight that it restricts movement. The PE-900 has a biothane buckle collar with an elastic bungee incorporated into the strap which allows a good fit with easy expansion and contraction.

The PE-900’s range is only ½ mile and I wonder if that could be further limited in dense woods or hilly terrain. Too, since I haven’t used the collar under actual hunting conditions I can’t vouch for its durability.

E-Collar Technologies is the brainchild of Greg Van Curen, co-founder and former president of Innotek. Another Innotek alum, Kim Westrick, is in charge of sales and customer service.

For more information on the PE-900 and other e-collars made by E-Collar Technologies, visit their website at www.ecollar.com.

New Garmin ecollars offered

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Since Garmin Ltd., purchased Tri-Tronics in 2011, the Tri-Tronics products have been slowly disappearing.

The most recent re-introduction was of the Garmin PRO Series Remote Trainers. Basically, these ecollars are versions of the Tri- Tronics products I’ve been using and recommending for many years. Based on some not-so-good redesigns of previous models, I was concerned that the Pro line would be drastically changed. But the fundamental designs are very close to the originals and several features were improved and added. More good news:  the prices are substantially reduced.

Complete information on the PRO Series as well as other dog tracking and training equipment is available on the Garmin website:  https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/on-the-trail/dog-tracking-training/cOnTheTrail-cDogTrackingTraining-p1.html

Gun Dog Supply reviews the PRO Series on their website: http://gundogsupply.com/review-new-garmin-tri-tronics-pro-550-70-trashbreaker.html

Northwoods Bird Dogs is an authorized reseller of Garmin products and we offer the best prices and free shipping. I can help you decide what gear is best and show you how to use it. Please contact us for more information.

Tracking a grouse dog with bells, beepers and satellites

When I began hunting with grouse dogs in the mid 1970s, the only way to keep track of my dog was by hanging a bell on its collar. I could follow the dog’s movements and actions and, when the dog stopped, so did the bell. But it could be difficult and time consuming to find it on point if the cover was dense (as is most good grouse cover) or my dog was far away (which it was occasionally!).

The next evolution came in the early 1980s when the first electronic beepers were produced. Now I could keep track of my dog while it was hunting and locate it on point. These beepers generally emitted a high-pitched sound in a certain cadence when the dog was moving and another sound and/or cadence when the dog stopped. I couldn’t determine what my dog was doing as well as with a bell but the capability to find it on point was revolutionary.

Since those early beepers, manufacturers have produced numerous units of various sizes, sounds and functions. Beepers have also been combined with ecollars and these units are quite sophisticated. From the ecollar transmitter, the beeper can be turned on and off and the tone or volume can be adjusted.

Then in 2007, another innovation was introduced by Garmin, a leading navigation and communication company. They launched a GPS-enabled dog tracking system called the Astro 220.  I now know exactly my dog’s whereabouts, if it is running or on point and the distance and directions to it.

Tri-Tronics Upland G3 Beeper

Last fall, Tri-Tronics invited me to field test their new Upland G3 Beeper. I used it for several days of late-November grouse hunting, including one day with a fresh, six-inch snowfall.

Overall, and compared to their previous beeper, the Upland G3 is a vast improvement. (See details below.) Like other Tri-Tronics products, it works with most of their existing ecollar systems. I haven’t used the beeper long enough to evaluate its durability and reliability but, if it’s similar to other products from Tri-Tronics, that won’t be a problem. And while I don’t usually use a run-mode beeper, the Upland G3 may change that.


  • powered by a user replaceable CR123A battery.

  • slides onto an existing dog collar.

  • has two point-mode settings, single beep or hawk scream, and four run-mode settings, no beep, 1 beep, 2 beeps or 3 beeps.

  • made in the U.S.A.

Aspects I liked:

  • The biggest improvement is that the beeper, when used with an ecollar, actually stays on the top of the dog’s neck.  

  • The tone of the beeper is soft and pleasant and while the volume isn’t adjustable, it doesn’t need to be. The volume is loud enough to be heard at a distance but not too loud when close. I could hear the beeper plainly when more than 300 yards away and hunting in snow. Too, my feeling is that it must be kinder to the dog’s ears.

  • The beeper is easy to operate and can be turned on and off remotely.

  • The unit is bright orange and is easy to see…especially in dense cover.

  • The remote locate feature is one I particularly like.

  • The five-second interval between beeps on the run mode seems to be about right. I really like the two-beep run mode as it allows me to read the dog’s direction and speed—very important when I can’t see the dog.

Aspects to improve on:

  • Point-mode beep is too frequent at 1 beep/second…and it becomes annoying. I personally don’t like the hawk scream point mode which sounds every five seconds.

  • The delay before entering point mode is too short. Currently, if the dog quickly stops to listen for you, urinate or investigate scent, point mode starts. I don’t know yet what happens if a dog is slowly creeping on game. Point mode tends to get hunters excited and I’d rather hear it only for an actual point.

  • The remote locate is too complicated. To active it, the transmitter dial must be set to “A” and then any button can be pressed. I’d prefer one-button activation. For instance, if I’m locating a dog on point with the locate feature and the dog bumps the bird as I walk up, I have to set quickly the transmitter dial to the level I need before pressing the stimulation button.

New equipment from Ainley

On a recent sunny Saturday, Jerry and I meandered our way south to Dubuque, Iowa. After a stop in southern Minnesota for a filling breakfast of eggs, hash browns and bacon in a busy café, we arrived at our destination, Ainley Kennels & Fabrication, just after noon.

We were very excited to be picking up the second of two new pieces of equipment from Ainley—an eight-dog trailer. Earlier in the season, we took delivery of a three-dog box for the pickup bed.

After many years of “making do” with serviceable but cumbersome and outdated equipment, we decided to upgrade. For more years than we can remember, we mounted an 8-dog topper on the beds of a series of Chevy pickups and lifted countless, sometimes wet and dirty dogs into their boxes. And for five years we’d been using a 1990-model 18-foot stock trailer. It had dualies and was built of steel—which made it extremely sturdy but also heavy to tow.

The upgrades had been in the dreaming and planning phases for many months. Jerry researched many equipment options and we finally decided on a combination of two pieces—a dog box for every day use and a dog trailer for traveling and for when we needed to haul more dogs. The company decision was easy. Ainley builds top-notch, custom equipment and their customer service is outstanding. Jane Ainley runs the shop and along with Chad and the rest of the crew, all are talented and committed and no detail is too small for consideration.  

The dog box and trailer are extremely well-built, heavy-duty all around and with every thought to the comfort and safety of our dogs and of us. We have a water tank, exhaust fans, louvered vents and roomy boxes with plenty of ventilation for the dogs. We have lights inside and outside and watertight storage everywhere—drawers for training and hunting gear, big flat spaces for guns, camp chairs and extra dog food, vertical storage with hooks for jackets and rain gear.

Many thanks to Jane, Chad and the entire crew. We are delighted with our new equipment.

Smartwool socks

A fundamental part of comfortable footwear is socks. I have tried many brands over the years and I can personally vouch for socks made by Smartwool.

The Smartwool Company, based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, takes the design, comfort and performance of socks seriously. My style is their Hunting Socks (mid-calf height with light cushion) made with 68% merino wool which doesn’t have any of the scratchiness normally associated with wool. This fabric wicks moisture and has “an uncanny, inherent ability to control odor.” Plus, my socks are extremely comfortable with plenty of cushion and specially sewn elasticity at the stress points.

I’m pretty tough on my clothes but Smartwool socks last very well. I wear these socks all day, everyday, all year long (even during the summer) and I usually go through about 12 pairs a year. The socks are expensive but I’ve found several online sources that sell “seconds” or “slightly blemished” socks at substantial savings. Google Smartwool Socks and you’ll find these retailers.

One last thing about the Smartwool Company? Their business philosophy focuses on sustainability and “doing the right thing” in both business and life. I like those values.

Observations on using a Garmin Astro 220

I bought a Garmin Astro 220 dog tracking unit in June and have been experimenting with different features and putting it through its paces. Using this unit in different dog training and hunting situations has given me some interesting and useful insight.


The Garmin Astro 220 is a high-sensitivity, GPS-enabled dog tracking system for hunters and sportsmen. This unique system pinpoints dog location—especially valuable when the dog can’t be seen or heard. The unit records the distance the dog has traveled and average speed.  It is also a full-function GPS that can be used to navigate, mark vehicle location and record miles traveled by the hunter and total time out.

Flushes per hour or flushes per mile

grouse hunters account for bird contacts in flushes per hour. I tried
something different. Using the Trip Computer feature of the Astro, I
tracked the number of miles I traveled, counted grouse flushes and then
computed grouse flushes per mile.

Another take on this
calculation is using the miles the dog has traveled compared to grouse
flushes. Is the dog that finds the most birds in the least miles
traveled the better bird dog? Certainly, it is more efficient!


dogs’ average speeds in various terrains was enlightening. The first
thing to understand, though, is that the dog’s average speed is
calculated by dividing the miles traveled by the total elapsed time
without regard to time the dog is stopped on point.  

the course of a one-hour workout in fairly open, brushy terrain, my
dogs galloped 12 – 15 mph. Amazingly, my pace was 3 – 3.5 mph so the
dogs covered 4 – 5 times as much ground. In the woods, both speeds, as
expected, were slower. When I walked about 2 miles an hour, the dogs
galloped 5.5 to 7.5 mph. Also, my dogs were on point more often in the
woods, so the average speed was probably one or two mph faster than the
Astro calculated.

Putting those speeds in perspective, my dogs trot at about 8 – 9 mph when I condition them from a four-wheeler.

Fast or quick?

a day of guiding grouse hunts, I usually take three dogs and hunt each
separately for about two hours. Several times last fall, I started with
Shaq, a 54-pound setter that moves smoothly and easily through the
woods. Shaq is a medium-to-wide ranging dog and at times was 200 yards
away.  His moving average was about 7 mph.

Often, Maggie
followed Shaq. Maggie is a 40-pound, hard driving pointer female that
rarely ranged farther than 100 yards but continually crossed the path
in front. Many hunters commented on how “fast” Maggie was compared to
Shaq. The Astro told me that Maggie was moving at only about 6 mph so
she perhaps was “quicker” but not faster.

For more information on the Astro, you can visit their website at www8.garmin.com/astro/

E-Collars for sale!

Through special agreements, Northwoods Bird Dogs is now selling the complete lines of Tri-Tronics and Dogtra e-collars.  This includes beeper collars, bark collars, bird launchers and accessories.
Jerry has spent hundreds of hours in the field with both brands and has gained invaluable experience using them on dogs in every imaginable training situation.  Let him help you determine which e-collar best meets your needs.  Plus when your e-collar arrives Jerry will show you how to use it properly. 

For an additional fee Jerry will meet with you for a one-on-one lesson in the field with your dog. 

Please contact us for all your e-collar needs.  We’ll meet the best price you can find.

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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