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  • The Bear - Updated
    Posted by Frank Morring, Jr. 9:25 PM on Jan 04, 2012

    You learn something new every day.

    I thought I was pretty well acquainted with all the ways people here on Earth depend on satellites in space, the things we take for granted like weather satellites and live television coverage of events on the other side of the planet.

    Then I went hiking with my wife and dog in the mountains of North Carolina.

    We wanted to check out a deep spot in a beautiful creekbed as a possible swimming hole for next summer. But when we got to the trailhead, we found three pickup trucks and a bunch of hunters in orange hats parked there.

    The truck beds all held empty dog cages, which I took to mean there were hunters down the trail chasing something. Worried about safety because we didn't have any high-visibility clothing, I asked the men what they were hunting.

    "Bear," one replied, with the reticence we've come to expect in the mountains.

    "Will we be all right down there," I asked. "We don't have any orange on us."

    "Should be," the hunter said. "Lemme check."

    Now, once, about 35 years ago, I'd written a newspaper story about a father-son deer hunt along the banks of the Tombigbee River in Alabama, and compared it to William Faulkner's famous short coming-of-age novel "The Bear."

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    On that particular winter day the hunters looked like characters right out of Faulkner, with the men giving their sons lessons about how to hunt safely and well. But the talk around the campfire that night was definitely New South, because one of the guys was a top rocket engineer at NASA, helping develop the space shuttle main engine.

    I've blogged about that before, but even the experience of hearing about test-stand failures while standing next to a boy with blood from his first kill smeared on his face didn't prepare me for what happened next on our North Carolina hike.

    Understand that my interlocutor had a strong resemblance to this bearded bear hunter Winslow Homer painted in 1892, and an accent right out of Deliverance.

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    But he pulled out a gizmo that looked a little like a wireless telephone and switched it on.

    "They're about a half a mile in," he said. "You'll be fine. I'll let them know you're coming."

    "What's that thing," I asked.

    "GPS," he replied, as he radioed his companions in the woods.

    Later we heard the dogs barking up the trail. They were right where the global positioning system receiver said they would be. I'd never heard of that particular GPS app, and I still found it hard to believe that a bunch of country bear hunters were using satellites to keep track of their dogs in the woods.

    Since then I've looked it up on the internet. It turns out that for $500-$600, you can buy a system that does just that. This Garmin Astro 320, for example, lets you track your dogs by name through "heavy cover without making a sound."

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    Well who knew? Certainly not this flatlander.

    I'm not sure what Bill Faulkner would have said if he'd come across a bunch of ole boys tracking dogs through the Mississippi Delta with an Astro 320. I doubt he'd have been at a loss for words.

    Tags: os99, GPS, Faulkner, hunting

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