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Turkey Dogs: An Unfair Advantage?

Are_turkey_dogs_hickoff_photo Using turkey dogs in states where it’s legal offers plenty. Mostly it allows you to find and flush autumn flocks more effectively. But then you have another challenge: How do you hide that canine hunting partner in the blind so that you can call scattered turkeys back? Training at an early age helps. Still, that dog—eager to get close to those turkeys again—might have a hard time staying still; a necessity.

In truth, dogs are like hunters. Some are good, and some are a work-in-progress. The ability to use turkey dogs effectively is usually done best by a serious fall turkey hunter. Work on the latter aspect first. If I could count how many turkey flocks my dogs have busted, which I couldn’t, then compared it to the birds in those groups I’ve tagged, you’d ask me why I don’t hunt deer more enthusiastically than autumn gobblers and hens. Again, having a canine along for companionship, and then seeing that dog find and flush turkeys, is my first measure of success. Period. Yes, sealing the deal, calling and killing a legal fall bird is what it’s all about. But it’s not everything, and it’s not always easy. Dogs are as fair as any other tool we use. Any thoughts, Strut Zoners?—Steve Hickoff

Comments

Dirty

Just found out you can use a turkey dog here in AR during the youth spring turkey opener.

Steve Hickoff

Hey Dirty,

Seriously? I hadn't heard about that change. Interesting.

That's definitely an odd twist to the typical fall tradition of using dogs to find and flush flocks. Will have to check out that ruling . . .

Thanks,
Steve Hickoff

Steve Hickoff

Dirty, and everyone else,

According to the American Wild Turkey Dog Association (click on the link: http://trkyhntr.home.att.net/legislation.html), Arkansas doesn't permit the use of dogs during turkey hunts.

I couldn't find anything on the Arkansas website either . . .

Do you know something we don't at SZ? Pulling my leg? "Youth spring opener" makes me a little wary on re-reading you note!

Thanks buddy,
Steve

Steve Hickoff

Try this link for the American Wild Turkey Dog Association. It'll direct you guys to the previous website address:

http://www.turkeydog.org/

Thanks,
Steve

Dirty

Sorry Steve, I read it wrong, it's kinda tricky. On page 26 of the Arkansas hunting guide book 08-09 it states, " During the spring youth turkey hunt, the use of dog's to chase wildlife is prohibited from 60 minutes before sunrise until 60 minutes after sunset." Wonder why it say's that???

Dirty

Steve Hickoff

No problem Dirty.

Man that is one STRANGE regulation . . .

Thanks!

Steve


Joe

Steve,

I have never hunted turkeys with a dog in the fall. On the other hand, I have killed rabbits with and without dogs. Both seem fair and no one thinks anything more about it. My fall turkey hunting are in states that don't allow dogs. It is what I know and I have adapted to hunting for them with out dogs. My season in MO starts tomorrow though I won't get out until this weekend. My shotgun season here in Il starts the last weekend of Oct. Good luck and safe hunting to all the fall turkey hunters.

Steve Hickoff

I'm with you Joe.

Though I call New England home base now, I first hunted rabbits with my dad's beagles in Pennsylvania starting at age 12, and loved every minute of it. My brothers & I brush busted plenty too on foot. Super memories. Miss it.

I've been wild turkey dogging since the early '90s: first with Pete Clare and his Byrne dogs down at Turkey Trot Acres (the breed is out of John & J.T. Byrne's line in Lowry, VA), then with my own English setters in New York, Vermont, and more recently in NH and Maine where the approach is now legal in fall.

Good luck with your fall turkey hunting, and keep us posted here at the Strut Zone.

Steve Hickoff

Levi

I realize there are some bred turkey dogs, but could just about any bird dog be trained for turkey hunting? My dog once flushed three gobblers that I probably would have walked right past they were so well hidden, she chased the first one off then out came the other two and she chased them off until they all flew away, this was probably February, no season open, we were just out for a walk. In Missouri of course I can't use a dog for hunting, but she loves to chase birds.

Steve Hickoff

Hi Levi,

Absolutely. If a dog has the desire to find and flush turkey flocks, you've got yourself a candidate.

John and J.T. Byrne's turkey dogs are of a pointer/setter/Plott hound line developed by them historically in Lowry, Virginia to find and flush flocks. Both men are serious fall turkey hunters.

There are other lines less famous in the Virginia/West Virginia region. My English setters are out of traditional New England bird dog lines, and I've used them in states where legal to find and flush flocks. All have different hunting styles as well I might add.

As breeds go, Boykin spaniels, Labrador retrievers, pointers, setters, and even beagles have been used by other fall turkey hunters in my experience to find and flush turkeys. Mixed breeds too.

Again, to me the key is to be a serious fall turkey hunter, then to apply your understanding of the tradition to using a bird(y) dog where legal.

Steve Hickoff


Steve Hickoff

Btw, that's one of Pete Clare's Byrne dogs (and one of my 870 pumps) in the photo with this SZ post.

I snapped the image on a visit to Turkey Trot Acres while set up with the dog after breaking a flock of turkeys.

One quality that John & J.T.'s line of turkey dogs possesses is barking on the flush, which affords the ability to locate the break site. This is particularly useful in the big woods where you may not see the dog as it works ahead.

My setters, particularly my Midge, have demonstrated this quality as well on hunts over the years. The agitated "putting" made by turkeys as they run and fly off also helps you mark the X spot . . .

You can then set up there (concealing yourself and the dog) in an attempt to call scattered turkeys back to your position.

Gerry, any thoughts? (My longtime bud Bethge owns a Byrne dog named Jake . . .)

Steve Hickoff


Gerry Bethge

Hey Guys....So here we are on Opening Day of New York State's fall turkey season and I'm working---sigh. It's okay, though, Saturday will be here before we know it and we'll be after them.

In terms of turkey dogs, even Mr. Byrne would be quick to tell you that a turkey dog is really just a bird dog that's got things bass ackwards. In truth, I've been around quite a few pointers, setters and flushers which had a nose for turkeys. If they hang relatively close to you when hunting, you could use them successfully for turkeys. The wild hair in this equation is that turkey dogs are at their most useful because they cover ground and range far. And that's where the bark-on-the-flush comes in. On those real quiet days in the woods, alarm putts and beating wings travel well and finding the break site (which is absolutely critical) is easy. On windy days, it can sometimes be difficult to hear even a barking dog if he's way out there.

Good luck this fall, Strut Zoners---full hunting report as things progress this weekend--stay tuned. From what I've seen here in the Northeast, though, we've had a good hatch and a spotty mast crop--both good things for fall turkey hunters. An abundance of mast spreads birds out too much. We can work with spotty acorns.

L. Case

Hey Steve and Gerry

This sounds really interesting, I have always wanted to try this turkey dog thing, maybe you guys could take me sometime.

Larry

Steve Hickoff

You rascal . . .

I'd like to introduce all of you Strut Zoners to our good buddy Larry Case of West Virginia, one of the most passionate turkey doggers in America . . .

Mr. Case, anything to add to the discussion? How many dogs are you running these days? How are flocks looking down your way?

Thanks,
Steve Hickoff

L. Case

Hey Steve, Passionate? I don't know about that...anyway since Patch got too old I don't have anything that I would really call a TURKEY dog, but I have 4 or 5 prospects, we shall see, My buddy (you know who that is), has at least two that will do everything but drive the truck, well, one of them does drive, he just doesn't have any license.

We had reports of a big hatch here early, but truthfully, we are not seeing it, we have turkeys, in some areas many, but I don't think we had the super hatch we have seen in other years, like my bud says, we are going to be out there huntin' anyway, what difference does it make!!

All the best
Larry

Steve Hickoff

Hey Larry,

Nice to hear from you buddy! Having 4 or 5 prospects of ANYTHING is a pretty good deal I guess. Keep us posted on how you and The Judge do this season and we'll do the same.

Steve

Dirty

Buddy of mine killed ahella of a tom this morning, 10 3/4 beard & 1 1/4 spurs this morning, lucky sucker.............
Dirty

Steve Hickoff

Hey Dirty!

Got any more hunt details? Arkansas bow kill, right? Treestand or on the ground? That's one nice gobbler.

Steve

Dirty

In a ground blind, in AR, bowkill.
This fella killed his first two ever this last spring, now he goes and does this. He's tagged out on bird's now. He said the deer wont come near the blind. This morning a gobler and two jake's came by the blind, he had to pass........
Dirty

Steve Hickoff

Wow. Guess your buddy has the knack, eh. Thanks!

Anyone else into the early-season fall turkeys? Been out in NH myself with a bow.

How are you doin' down there in New York Gerry?

Spent the weekend scouting a flock of hens and old jakes and was able to take a hen just before quitting time Sunday evening. No beard or spurs but plenty of good meat.

Steve Hickoff

Congratulations!

I'm with ya there, "Posted by" . . . turkey hunting is turkey hunting, no matter whether it's a spring gobbler, or a legal fall bird of either sex.

And you can't beat the meals that follow.

Sounds like you got into some super jakes too?

Thanks,
Steve


Justin

Whoops, forgot to sign my name. Yeah, the flock I was after definitely had some super jakes. The bird I got had a crop and gizzard full of insects, which I thought was interesting since my last two fall birds had been eating plant material. It was a good year for bugs here in MO and I guess the turkeys are still chowing down on the protein.

Steve Hickoff

Hey Justin,

Thanks for checkin' in, and congratulations again.

Yeah, that's part of the fun, seeing what they've been eating.

One time Gerry, Ray Eye, & I were fall turkey hunting Mr. Bethge's NY club pretty hard, and coming up empty.

I dropped Ray off at the airport so he could fly back to Missouri, and motored back to New England where I make my home base. Bethge killed a turkey after we left, and located the mystery of the food source in its crop:

SALAMANDERS.

These birds never cease to amaze me.

Steve

Jon Freis

Dirty etal,
Regarding Arkansas, we've been corresponding with agfc.state.ar.us recently about fall turkey hunting with dogs. One of their comments was "...using dogs to hunt wild turkeys is one of those issues I very rarely hear from the public -- I can only recall 2 or 3 comments about it over the past 15 years or so." So, I responded and copied all members from AR and surrounding states. I will be glad to send you the complete correspondence if you send an email to me at turkeydog.org
From our experience, what it takes is interested hunters telling their game commission what they want to see happen, and then they can get to work on it. Not using a dog to prevent loss cripples is downright irreponsible. Jon
Ps: thanks for all the good tips Steve and everyone else!