"To me the ultimate in wild turkey autumn hunting, which will provide the individual with more thrills and personal satisfaction, is utilizing the old fashioned dog-blind-calling techniques. It is my conviction that to harvest a wild turkey without calling the birds within shooting range is a complete waste of a resource; and the hunter unknowingly is deprived of one of nature's most exciting experiences! The skillful luring of a magnificent trophy close enough to make the ultimate choice of either pulling the trigger, or granting life to the big bird is, to me, the greatest challenge." C.H. 'Kit' Shaffer
fall hunt will never be as popular as the spring,
because the fall hunt is a lot more work. In the fall,
the turkey is not sitting out there on a limb, telling
the world where he is!"
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Hunting starts at the autumnal Equinox since ancient times. Wildlife fattened up in the Summer are ready for harvest. Fall turkey hunting with dogs began with the founding of Jamestown, VA in 1607.
It's a family tradition passed down for generations (over 400 years).
Hunting turkeys in the Spring is a contemporary invention, from the 1950's (AL), 1962 (VA), to the 1980's (WI).
Archibald Rutledge and Henry Davis "thought it an abomination that people were allowed to shoot gobblers during the spring season and likened it to shooting fish in a barrel. They thought it much more sporting to bust up a group of turkeys in the fall and call them back in and hunt them by stealth than use hen calls during the mating season to bring even wary old birds running foolishly to gun." That's why today we have hunters from 9 to 9 who never hunted turkeys in the fall, because all they've ever known was spring hunting. Join the club.
|Why are there
so few turkey dogs, what is their history, and why
haven't you heard about them before?
Wild turkeys (and turkey hunters) were already scarce in Virginia by the 1620's. The wild turkey population in CT, MA and NY had declined so drastically by the 1630's, that those hunters with the knowledge of turkey dogs began to go underground. They wouldn't reveal they were turkey hunters, much less that they had a turkey hunting dog.
By 1750, the Iroquois, Carolinians, French and Virginians had hunted out the virgin Appalachians as far west as Kentucky, although Daniel Boone and the "long hunters" wrote of abundant game in Kentucky's "reserve" of the Iroquois and the Cherokee into the 1770's.
That's why the tradition of hunting with a turkey dog was little known west of the Appalachians.
By the 1800's, very few hunters knew about turkey dogs, except for those who continued to breed the prized dogs, along with their family members and close friends. Thankfully, someone saved these old lines of special dogs. And the secrets of how to train and hunt them, for the next 400 years. Since the AWTHDA was founded in 2004, hunters and relatives have been sharing stories of these old dogs more and more.
Sculpture by John Quincy Adams Ward, Urbana, OH.
Fall and winter turkey hunting with your dog is an American tradition, and part of our nation's outdoor heritage. Americans have pursued wild turkeys in the fall and winter with their dog since colonial times. It has a much, much longer tradition than the spring turkey hunting that we know today. By 1900 the wild turkey had been nearly exterminated nation-wide. This was due to the pioneers and the market hunters, plus the wide-spread habitat destruction - cutting the forests and clearing the land.
Beginning in the 1950's, our state game departments restored the wild turkey by trapping and transplanting native birds, through the sportsmen-funded Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act also known as Pittman-Robertson. They began a spring 'gobbler only' season, because in the spring it's easier to distinguish the gobblers from the hens, and to prevent shooting the hens they had just transplanted. By 1966, the restoration was declared 'broadly successful'. The Wild Turkey: Its History and Domestication; A.W. Schorger, Univ. of OK Press. By 1967, The Wildlife Society declared it 'spectacularly successful' nationwide. Photo Copyright Jack Paluh
..............................................The wild turkey has since proliferated throughout its original range and beyond. Once again we're able to enjoy the traditional fall and winter hunt with our dog. 'The fat of the wild turkey is spread throughout the flesh of the wild bird and renders it considerably more savory. And the best time to hunt them is in the fall and winter. 'The Wild Turkey: Its History and Domestication; A.W. Schorger
"Every fall you read the same old stories the suburban nimrods write about running toward a flock, trying to scatter them, then calling the young turkeys back. But it is silly, and dangerous, to be out in the woods running with a shotgun in your hands, trying to alarm and break up a group of turkeys." Larry Dablemont 10/1/06
That's where a specially trained dog comes in. There's no more guarantee you'll get a bird. It's just more rewarding, watching your dog work, then trying to call the birds back in, while your dog sits quietly by your side.
"Some hunters, or rather some writers, claim that the only time the wild turkey should be hunted is in the autumn and winter, and not in the spring. I have a different idea all together, and claim that the turkey should not be hunted before November, if then, December being better... I do not believe there is any safer way of bringing a turkey to bag than by the judicious employment of a good turkey dog, and by that I mean a dog trained especially to hunt turkeys." Chas. L. Jordan, quoted in The Wild Turkey and Its Hunting by Edward A. McIlhenny, 1914.
Training and Hunting Turkeys with a Dog, by Jon L. Freis
- Fourth Edition, Revised March 2013.
Includes Training a Turkey Dog by Parker Whedon, secrets of the old days, with contributions from 100's of turkey dog hunters.
Click here to get the book.
"I am intrigued by your book and found it far more than it appears - it reached deep into this hunter's soul." John Plowman
"Very informative, and entertaining too. Great book!" Keith Kharville
"Any hunter wishing to get involved with turkey dogs would do well to read it. I wished I had a reference like that when I first started working with my dogs, I could have avoided many mistakes." Gratten Hepler
"Your publication on training turkey dogs is really good and I would like more for fellow dog lovers." Carson Quarles
"The first paragraph of the book hits the nail on the head. That describes turkey dogs exactly." Ron Meek
"That book was so good I only wish it was another 200 pages long." Earl Sechrist
Become a member and get the book included, only $30.00.
The AWTHDA was founded in 2004 when hunting turkey with your dog was only allowed in 21 out of 43 states with a fall season. Today, in a large part because of our efforts, it's 29 out of 43. The new States since 2004: CT, IA, ME, MT, NH, PA, UT and WI. The 29 States with fall seasons, that allow dogs (2015): CA, CT, CO, HI, IA, ID, KS, KY, MD, ME, MI, MT, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI, WY. The 14 States with fall seasons that don't allow dogs are in the minority and labelled with the OUTLAW BADGE. If you live in one of these, help us correct it: AL, AZ, FL, IL, IN, MA, MN, MO, MS, NM, OK, RI, SD, WA.
The 7 states without a fall season (2015): AK, AR, DE, GA, LA, NC, SC
We're the country's number one supporter of fall turkey hunting, and the leading organization working to allow fall turkey hunting with your dog. If you're a fall turkey dog hunter, JOIN NOW.
|"Thank you for
speaking for all of us who hunt with turkey dogs. Watching the dogs develop into mature hunters
is like watching your children grow up. There's
nothing more gratifying. I spring hunt
because I can, but fall hunting with a dog is my
passion." Edward McDonald
website honors these dedicated hunters loyal companions
and their pursuit of the grandest of all game birds.
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© 2004 - 2019 American Wild Turkey Hunting Dog Association All Rights Reserved. Permission to copy without written authorization is expressly denied. Website address: http://www.turkeydog.org/
This website began May 30, 2004, last revised June 7, 2019.
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