Like a scientist experimenting with one of his new innovations, Dennis Steinman scanned his wooded backyard with an electronic receiver until the back of the device lit up.
He was searching for his “guinea pig,” his cat that likes to roam the timber behind his rural home. But he wasn’t expecting to find him where he did.
“I didn’t pick up a good signal until I pointed it toward the house,” Steinman said with a hearty laugh. “He was inside the whole time.
“He likes to come out and roam the woods, and this is a way to keep track of him. I put a little transmitter on his collar and I can find him anywhere he wants to go.”
But Steinman didn’t invent his electronic tracking system to keep track of his pet. He came up with the idea to allow hunters to retrieve deer they have shot.
When big whitetails are shot with an arrow, they seldom fall dead in their tracks. They run a ways, then fall over.
For many, that’s when the real hunt begins. Hunters try to follow blood trails until they can locate the deer they have shot. But that can be a frustrating ordeal.
Steinman knows. He remembers the huge buck – a whitetail with a rack that scored 210 1/8 points – that he shot with his bow in 2009. He thought he had struck the deer with a solid shot, but it ran off about 80 yards, then fell over, only to hop to its feet and keep going.
After giving the deer some time to expire, Steinman started his search. He looked for two days, a frustrating ordeal in which he considered giving up hunting.
“I was thinking I would never find him,” said Steinman, 63, who has been bow hunting since the late 1960s. “I just hated that feeling.”
Steinman eventually located the buck and today has its mount hanging on his wall. But that experience proved to be a life-changer for him.
“I thought, ‘There surely has to be a way to track down deer you’ve shot,’” he said.
And he came up with that way. After working in electronics for years, he devised a game-retrieval system that uses high-tech methods to lead hunters to mortally wounded deer.
The Game Vector system relies on a miniature transmitter housed in an aerodynamic module that attaches to the arrow. Upon impact, the transmitter releases from the arrow and sticks in the hide of the deer. The hunter then can use the receiver unit and follow the signal to the deer.
It sounds futuristic, but it works. Steinman and others tinkered with the system for several years until they came with what they deem the right product. The HideRider transmitter weighs only 65 grains, light enough that it doesn’t affect the flight of the arrow at the range most bow hunters take their shots. And the receiver will pick up signals at up to 2 miles away in perfect conditions.
Steinman urges hunters to use good woods sense, waiting for the hit deer to run off, bed down and die of its injuries. That way, they often will not wander more than several hundred yards before they die, he said.
But if they do go farther, Steinman knows his Game Vector will help track them down.
He remembers the first time he tried his device.
“We had tested our Game Vector, shooting at everything from deer hides to roasts,” Steinman said. “We figured we were ready to try it on the real thing.
“I went hunting near Chanute (Kansas) and I shot a buck and the Game Vector brought me right to it.”
Steinman started his company in 2012 and put the first Game Vectors on the market in 2013. He and his business partners have found moderate success. But Steinman is convinced that his device has great potential, especially with the rising popularity of bow hunting.
“It’s mainly getting the word out,” he said. “Some hunters are old school, wanting to track deer the way they’ve always done it.
“But even a lot of those hunters who have tried this system were amazed at how easy it is to use.”
For Steinman, it’s a way to make a challenging sport one step easier. He has been hunting Kansas deer with his bow for 35 years and goes into each season relishing the excitement the hunt will bring.
“When I started off, there weren’t many deer in Kansas and there sure weren’t many bow hunters,” he said. “But look at it now. We have some big deer and a lot of hunters.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the challenge. When you shoot a big buck at 20 yards or less, you’ve done something.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.