If you like dogs and turkey hunting, you’ll love turkey dogging. The turkey dogging tradition can be traced back to the seventeenth century, but few hunters, even experienced fall turkey hunters, know about the technique. Read on to learn more about this exciting and rewarding tactic for hunting fall birds.
How It Works
Turkeys are hunted in the spring and the fall. Spring seasons limit hunters to shooting bearded birds (males,) while most fall seasons permit the taking of any turkey, hens included.
The classic technique for fall hunting involves finding a flock of turkeys, scattering them in as many directions as possible, and calling them back in as they attempt to regroup. This is where the dogs come in.
Turkey dogs fitted with GPS collars roam the woods anywhere from 100 to 500 yards from the hunter. When the dogs encounter turkey scent they follow it to the flock.
With their superior quickness and speed, dogs are better suited to break up a flock of turkeys than hunters. A well trained turkey dog will send the birds in all directions, setting the stage for the hunter to do his job — calling the turkeys back.
Once the dog has broken the flock, he is placed in a camouflage bag or hidden under camouflage netting. Some turkey doggers go as far as building a small blind from nearby branches to conceal the dog. Training is key for this part of the hunt because the dog needs to remain motionless while turkeys approach to avoid being spotted.
Turkey Dog Breeds
Turkey dogs come in all shapes and sizes. English setters and pointers, brittany, springer, and boykin spaniels, labrador retrievers, and various hound breeds can all be used to hunt turkeys.
Don’t let breed stereotypes stop you. If your dog has the nose and desire to flush flocks and basic obedience skills, it can become a decent turkey dog.
Dogs are also bred specifically for turkey hunting. John and J.T. Byrne of Virginia have developed a line of dogs by crossing pointers, setters, and plot hounds. Their line of Byrne Appalachian turkey dogs are proven flock flushers.
Training Your Turkey Dog
Turkey dog training should start with basic obedience commands like sit, stay, come, and whoa. Once your dog comes reliably when called, start introducing him to turkeys.
Dogs should be introduced to a dog box early so they will “kennel up” readily when it is time to go to a hunting location. They should also be introduced to a bag or blind so they are ready when it comes time to hunt.
Like any hunting dog, the more time and training you invest in your turkey dog the better they will become.
Check local game regulations before taking your dog to the turkey woods. Turkey dogging is legal in 28 states.
Try to find a local turkey dogger or book an outfitted hunt before committing to buying a turkey dog.
Watching a fall flock of 15-40 birds take flight in every direction is sure to get any experienced fall turkey hunter’s heart pumping and the vocal recall that follows will have dedicated spring hunters switching seasons. Find a turkey dog to hunt with this season and see what you have been missing.