|We're always scratching for a few kernels of wisdom. Send in your ponderings, opinions or predictions.|
a boy growing up, I enjoyed hunting pheasants and rabbits with my
father and dogs that he or his friends owned. There were very few
turkeys around in those days, mostly in the mountains of Pennsylvania
where we would hunt deer.|
I never gave a whole lot of thought to turkey hunting until I bought some land in western NY to use for deer hunting. I often spied turkeys in the woods or fields or bumped them out of their trees, and decided I wanted to learn how to hunt these fascinating birds.
Most of what I learned at first about turkey hunting was from books or magazines. I did manage to meet up with a couple good mentors along the way who showed me the ropes of spring turkey hunting. My first turkey that I killed was in New York state in the fall, I doubled up on two jakes that practically flew down into my lap early one chilly morning. I also met a call-maker at an outdoor show who had a Springer Spaniel that he trained to hunt fall turkeys, he took me along a few times, and I really loved the whole experience of walking the hills in early October, watching the dogs bust a flock of birds, and the success (and sometimes disappointment) of trying to call birds back in after a flush. I also met up with a great guide in New York state, Kevin Evans from Turkey Ridge Raquette, who had turkey dogs.
Last year, I finally decided to take the plunge on my own, and try to train a turkey dog. I knew this was not going to be easy, because there are not a lot of huntable birds in the corner of Pennsylvania where I live. My first pup Mia was a rescue dog, I was told the dog was some sort of spaniel mixed with Golden Retriever, but after she grew a little, it became obvious I was duped, she’s probably a Jack Russell Terrier mixed with some larger dog. Since she seemed to have a good nose and interest in birds, I spent a lot of times with her in the woods and training, but she never really had the drive that you need in a hunting dog, so she’s been retired and spends her days as a lap dog and burglar/mailman alarm. Here is a picture of Mia with a fall bird that I shot last year.
This year, after a little coaxing from a friend, I decided to go back to the drawing board and start over again. This time I got a bonafide turkey dog, a pointer/setter mix that I got from Mr. Randy Carter in Virginia. We called her Maizy, she comes from a long line of successful turkey dogs. She has boundless energy, which is great in the woods, but not so great in the house, where we keep her. The first 6 months that we had her I took her out for numerous long walks in the woods, trained her in the yard with turkey wings and dead chukars, and took her a number of times to a pheasant farm to give her exposure to flushing live birds. At 8 months, I sent her to Kevin Evans to work with his dogs, and he was able to train her on some more advanced techniques and she broke flocks multiple times when she was with him.
I am looking forward to hunting with Maizy this fall, she is showing all the signs of becoming a great turkey dog. Because of the conservative fall limits in PA (and starting this year in NY), I am looking into hunting in Virginia this year, where all of this started." Nick Dalasio King of Prussia, PA Sept. 10, 2015
Update October 12, 2015:"I had Maizy (10 months old) down to Virginia to train with Earl Sechrist & his dog Patch (18 months) this weekend. We went to the Quantico marine base, GREAT turkey population. Maizy put in 6 hard hours Saturday, 4 yesterday. She had 7 breaks total, all with a ton of barking. 4 of the flushes were within eyesight, 99% sure the other breaks were turkeys, not her barking at deer since we saw birds in the trees afterwards and were watching her on Earl's GPS system, she was working the same area (not heading out in a straight line). She's ranging as far as 400 yards. I feel this was EXACTLY what she needed, gave me some piece of mind as well. Oddly enough, when she gets a good scent, she'll let out a couple small barks first, then she's off to the races. I'm picking up a GPS collar today, might as well get the best. In for a penny, in for a pound." Nick Dalasio King of Prussia, PA
Update November 16, 2015:"GREAT day in the PA turkey woods today. I hunted with Job Seger and his Byrne's dog Gunner. Both Gunner and Maizy were in on the break, Job got his bird first, and 40 minutes later I killed this first-year jake. Maizy sat great for me, and headed straight for the bird after the shot. This was my first bird that I killed with Maizy, we've had a lot of close calls this fall, but were able to put it all together today. SOOO proud of my girl, she keeps getting more confident each time I take her in the woods. A day I won't forget for a long time." Nick
Scroll down to the green row near the bottom of this page, to see Gunner 5 years ago, when he was 4 1/2 months old, with his first bird! A couple of great Pennsylvania turkey dogs, carrying on the tradition!
|Tisch Mills, WI (AP) - Husband & wife archers report failure when deer & turkeys gang up for their protection. Exclusive to TurkeyDog.Org - 9/20/14|
"Turkeys are walking right under the deer, like chickens walk under cows in the barnyard. No fear of each other. They work together now, like one species."
For years, hunters have reported deer are getting harder to hunt, because the turkeys warn the deer, and vice-versa. After seeing many examples such as; 'football like' huddles of deer and turkeys (pictures left & right), to big bucks that survived the hunting season (walking single file, hiding in the middle of a flock of 15 turkeys), to turkeys walking underneath the deer, by 2014 the symbiosis is complete.
The biologists say it's facultative, not obligate. And the best alternative archers have, is to invite turkey hunters to put the fear of dog into them. Otherwise, because of their affiliation with the turkey lookouts, the big bucks become harder to find. Guaranteed to increase the archer's odds, as the deer's perimeter sentinels will be watching for dogs, instead of deer. © 2014 turkeydog.org
|Here's a tip
on 3 things to keep stick-tites and burdocks (aka cockle
burs) from sticking to the hair of Setter type dogs. (members only). If
you have a long hair dog and have stick-tites or burdocks where you
hunt, this tip alone is worth the price of membership.
|While this picture jokingly refers to
the hen being the enemy, many turkey hunters (who have only hunted
spring gobblers), may fail to appreciate the critical position the hen
has in the flock hierarchy. Except for the spring breeding season (when
the hens are obviously in command of the toms), and for a few months in
the Winter, the males never associate with the rest of the flock, only
with other males. Males are only dominant over other males and are
rarely dominant over females, except during the brief act of
copulation. Hunt turkeys in the Fall and you'll find they're all more
difficult to hunt than a gobbler in the Spring. Hens are the ones in
charge of the flock's safety all year long. You see that in the
Springtime, when they order the Toms to follow them (rather than come
to your call), in the Summertime raising their young, in the Fall
protecting the family, and in the Winter when the Toms have joined the
flock. Hens are far more wary and responsible year round. Especially
more than the gobbler obsessed with just one thing in the spring, when
you see even old
running in to the gun. Try hunting
turkeys in the fall - your calling and woodsmanship will have to
improve. You'll see where the term 'Boss
Hen' came from.
I'd rather shoot a gobbler if he was called in, but never pass up the
young of the year. They're the most tender, particularly for a
traditional Thanksgiving meal. I'll let the adult hens walk out of
respect, and because they're experienced in raising the young. Jon
remember a pretty incident in connection with a turkey hen
demonstrating a knowledge of character on her part. I had taken my
stand on the end of St. Eosas Island, off Pensacola, to watch for deer
that the hounds were driving. After my arrival a turkey hen came
skimming to the ground, and presently walked toward a knoll of grass a
few yards from my place of concealment. Her anxious look and her
feigned attitude of indifference immediately showed that she was near
her nest, and taking a pocket spy-glass I carried with me to watch the
water channels, I presently saw her settle herself down among some low
willows, until nothing but her head appeared.
Shortly afterward a fox came by, and coming across the trail of the turkey he turned short about, and throwing up his sharp nose, scented the different spears of grass the bird had touched, and then taking up her trail, commenced following it slowly and cautiously toward where she was sitting. With noiseless foot and undulating body he wound along in the trail, when suddenly, to my surprise, I saw the turkey hen leave her willow clump, and returning on her own trail, walk directly toward the fox. She picked hither and thither, in a nonchalant manner, and when within some ten or fifteen yards of her enemy, who had crouched in the sparse grass when he first saw her coming, she diverged slowly to the right, and the fox, as she turned aside, recommenced his crawlings, keeping his eye on the bird and leaving the trail he had been previously following. In this way they progressed some hundred yards in a direction contrary to her nest, when coming near a low tree, with a soft chuckle, which seemed to say, as plain as accent could make it, "What a fool you are!" she flitted up in the tree.
The fox being then on open ground, at once knew himself discovered, and rising from his crouching position, after one or two longing looks, and a whimper of disappointment, trotted over the sandhills, and was lost to sight." Camp-fires Of The Everglades, Or, Wild Sports In The South Charles Edward Whitehead 1891
|125 years after Whitehead wrote that, we know a lot more. Yet, it's just recently realized that most dinosaurs had feathers, not scales. Despite all the studies, we still don't understand the mystery of such phenomenal collective behavior
as how birds and butterlies migrate to somewhere they've never been,
how schools of fish move as one, how insects swarm, or how 30,000 birds
instantaneously communicate high-speed synchronous murmurations. |
Hunting in the fall with a dog gives us more insight into the collective intelligence, complex cognitive abilities and defense mechanisms of wild turkeys, than hunting in spring. In most of the country, we are (or recently were) living in the golden era of turkey hunting.
Is the aggregate knowledge of older, experienced turkeys critical to survival of the flock? Is spring gobbler hunting and the accompanying loss of flock intelligence responsible for the population decline in some states? How many genetic diversity studies have ever been done? Should we only hunt them in fall again, when the entire flock has their wits about them? For centuries hunters decoded every call of the wild turkey. It's easier to fool a sex-crazed male accompanied by a hen or two in the spring, than to fool a much bigger flock in the fall.
Does a hen struggle more to protect her offspring, without the biggest, most aggressive, eldest gobblers off in the distance, alerting to danger? The starlings involved in the murmuration video above have declined in the last 40 years in Europe by 70%. Protecting habitat is just part of the answer. The revenue from spring turkey hunting is addicting. Heath hens and passenger pigeons dwindled slowly at first too. Bronze courtesy of Walter Matia
|"Here are pictures of my 12 wk. old
Brittany female named Kee-Kee. I'm hopeful and excited about her
progress thus far. I thought about getting into turkey dogs for quite
some time. With turkey populations pretty high in my area, I figure
it's now or never. I'm very excited to be a part of this organization
and hope I can contribute in some small way. Thank you for your efforts
in passing on this great tradition." Todd
Clemens - Richwood, WV 3/10/09
This morning we went for a walk in 3" of fresh snow and Kee-Kee's good nose found turkey tracks right off the bat! We never did actually see them, but thought we heard them putting and calling. I was VERY pleased with this mornings events, this could get addicting very quickly. Good thing we were only out for a walk, because in WV and VA you can only train turkey dogs during the actual hunting season. Once Kee-Kee understands the rule book we'll have it made. Todd 3/13/09
Here's some new pictures of Kee-Kee, she weighs about 21 lbs. now. The ones where she's laying down, I make her stay, and run the wing over her, until I tell her to get it. The ones with the wing in the air she is barking and leaping after it. Todd 4/30/09
|"I called 5 fall '06 longbeards in
with a wingbone call I made from a spring '06 longbeard, and shot this
one. His Radius bone had been broken & healed. 20#, 10" beard,
1" spurs." JF
1945. Mom always worryied about me being out and about with the
"flock", but I never had any fear. I remember helping butcher the
turkeys, they were hung upside down in the barn while we plucked the
feathers, and I got a quarter a day! These pictures show the old summer
kitchen (now long gone), to the right of the main farmhouse, with all
the apple trees in front." Mary Ann S. - Kiel WI
|"The turkey's closest living
relatives are the Asian pheasant and the African guinea fowl. The
American turkey and the Asian pheasant are close enough genetically so
that they can be mated through artificial insemination and produce
offspring." The Asian
or horned (5 species), Sclater's,
pheasants inhabit the Himalayas and adjacent areas. The African
guinea fowl; White-Breasted,
Did you know the word 'gobble' used to describe the sound has been in
the Oxford Dictionary since 1680? And like some lizards and snakes, the
turkey hen has the ability to reproduce by parthenogenesis (without the
gobbler). The Turkey: An American Story.
|"Until dogs are allowed in the whole
state we use a different method. We lead a team of plow horses at an
angle right up to the turkeys, let go of the halters, stop, and let the
horses keep walking. When the horses get past the hunter, the turkeys
are caught flat-footed; boom! The key is making sure their kick can't
reach you when the gun goes off. We call them our Turkey Horses." David Edge - White Lake, WI
The Chief Biologist from Virginia said: 'In every state you look at, hunter effort for fall turkeys is declining.' That's the same story heard in Wisconsin, and West Virginia. And again in Virginia.
"It could be true considering the fall tradition has been nearly lost, and many hunters don't know how to use a dog. There's a misconception turkey dogs are wide ranging. But in today's urban landscape, and at my age, the close working dog suits me fine. How much interest would there be in pheasant or grouse hunting if you couldn't use a dog? Fall turkey hunting is no different. It can be done alone, but it's always more fun hunting birds with a dog. The only game more challenging to hunt than fall gobblers is sheep and goats, that's for sure. The archers who hesitate to run through the woods chasing turkeys with a quiver full of broadheads can particularly benefit from a trained dog breaking up the flock, so they can call the birds in a controlled manner. Fall hunter participation is not down for lack of turkeys, but lack of awareness. It's too bad there's so few left who know how it's done. Maybe it's too much competition with the other fall hunting there is. Some say us fall turkey dog hunters are a dying breed, but me and my dog still do our part." Shorty Adams - Buffalo Gap, SD Photos © Monte Loomis
Surveys indicate we are a dying breed, and show a decline in both the total number of hunters and the total amount spent by hunters. Overall participation dropped 4% from 2001 to 2006, and 10% from 1996 to 2006. Who's going to fund our wildlife management and Fish & Game budgets? 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (pdf)
the 1960's, Pennsylvania State University researchers conducted
experiments to determine the minimum stimulus it takes to excite a male
turkey, utilizing a model hen. When they removed parts of the model,
including the tail, feet and wings, the male still continued to gobble
and mate. All the male needs is a wooden turkey head on a stick for the
gobbler to become aroused and mount. Next time you wonder if your
calling & decoy are good enough for spring gobblers, remember
on a stick.
"Back when turkey decoys were illegal in Alabama, the alternative was the old coke can on a stick." Ralph Scherffius
"After reading about this enticing research, I decided to try a homemade stick decoy. I used a jake fan and a small red soda can and rubbed the stick in the mud to dull it up a bit. The first morning I put it out, a double bearded gobbler walked in to my tail on a stick, eyeing it the whole time, and stopping to strut occasionally, until he got close enough to my 20 gage. I know it works, picture attached. 7AM 4/17/08 2 beards 10” & 4”, 18 lbs., 1” spurs. The mount depicts his last wing flap as he flew down. Patty N. WI
Thanks for loaning me your decoy, Patty. This grey-phased bearded hen heard our calling, then saw your homemade decoy, and walked right in. When we prepared the meat for my favorite turkey jerky, we found she was the fattest bird we had ever seen in spring! Apparently she didn't waste energy mating or nesting, so everything she ate went right into fat. Thanks again for the decoy that helped me get this unusual bird. I'll use her white-tipped tail fan for my own decoy and see how that works. Aaron F. Madison WI 5/08
kill at age 4 1/2 months, when we hunted with Ron Meek and a few others
at The Roost.
It was sunny and 60 degrees, but that night it started to rain, and for
the next three days. Gunner got a break on Monday, but we could not get
the birds to come in. On Tuesday, we hunted the Gravel Bank Farm. When
we drove up the dirt road, as we turned the corner, there are 2 jakes,
a few hens and deer running into the woods. Ron let Jinger Lou and
Gretchen off the leash and they ran ahead. I kept Gunner
leashed until we got closer. When I let him off the leash, he tore up
the road and started to bark and yip. Birds start to flush. We set up -
I went to the East against a big hemlock. Called a bit, but nothing at
all. About 2 hours later, I hear a soft kee kee to the East and return
the call on my Cox trumpet. Gunner tries to stand up in the bag and
starts to growl real low. I get him to lay down and I see the
bird at 50 yards. He makes it to about 35 yards and Gunner is wanting
at this bird bad. I get the bead on the bird and Boom he goes down,
rolls a bit and is flopping. I let Gunner go to the bird. I figure he
has it under control. The picture with him at the turkey is when I got
to him. Not bad for an 20 week old pup. In case you're wondering, he's
wearing a Garmin tracking collar, it sure gives us some peace of
Seger - Coal Township, PA 10/15/10
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