History of Turkey Hunting with a Dog since 1958 by Earl Sechrist
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Earl Sechrist carrying a Virginia wild turkey"I'm originally from Pennsylvania. I hunted with my Grandfather and his turkey dogs from 1958 to 1968, near Red Lion, PA. In 1972 as a Marine, I hunted with Charlie Price, Rick Knight, Gary Hart and Major Billie Windsor, who ran the program at Quantico Marine Base. Have guided other militiary there. There's not many guys turkey dogging there now. They shoot 50 to 75 birds on the base in the spring on 58,000 acres and on average now in the fall 15 birds." Earl 8/27/2006
old Virginia turkey hunter and his dog with a wingbone call"Going to visit Kit Shaffer this week. Ed Pierce died, 72 or 73 y. o. He had 3 great turkey dogs, gave 2 away to friends and I'm getting his #1 dog, an 8 y. o. female Brittany, pick up this afternoon. She was a big runner, the last time I hunted with her, it ended up she ran across 610 and got hit by a car." Earl 12/31/2006
Earl Sechrist's signature cigar"Hello to all. My name is Earl Sechrist. Live in Midland, VA. Married with a wonderful and most understanding woman (Donna) that never has a problem with my turkey addiction. We have a son and daughter and they each have a son and daughter. My favorite season is the fall, but started turkey hunting in the spring of 1968 when PA allowed the first spring season. Have done the fall and spring hunts ever since. Although I was a Marine from 1970 till 1991, I was lucky to have had very understanding CO's that allowed me leave even while stationed over seas to come back for a few days, to hunt in the spring and fall. Being in the Marines and making friends allowed me to travel andhunting dog with grandchildren hunt other States over the years. Some times Donna joins me on the hunts but she antique hunts which really cuts into my turkey hunting and cigar budget. I have deer hunted some over the years, but mainly only focused on the turkeys. I have not deer hunted now for over 10 years. I like hunting the public land birds. Here my main hunting ground is Marine Corps Base Quantico and Fort AP Hill. When I travel to other States I will stay with friends, but again hunt the public lands, although do hunt private from time to time. Have a lease here in VA that I am the only turkey hunter, all the other members are deer. Love Fort Campbell, KY, great hunting there. Also I still hunt with a couple of my grand dads doubles. Just hope to enjoy the site and fellowship, and get some hints on out whitting the wiley feathered friends." Earl 11/10/09
Loss of a great friend and fellow turkey hunter.
the best turkey calls"Charlie Price passed on at 90 years of age, of which about 70 of them were spent turkey hunting, due to health. The last 8 years were hard on him, since he could not get out. He was a local legend when it came to turkey dogs and fall hunting. Charlie was a hardcore fall turkey hunter although he did take some folks out in the spring, which he thought was a disservice to the bird, to be hunted during the mating season. Charlie was a fellow who would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need and give anyone an interest free loan. Charlie never really believed much in banks and seemed to always have a couple thousand $ on his person. He was always helping out Marines and never once was slighted by anyone that he lent money to.
Legendary fall turkey hunters who used trained dogsWhen the Government bought the land for the Marine Base a lot of the home sites and grave sites were forgotten. Charlie started and headed up mapping out a lot of the home sites and grave sites in the mid 70's and finished it up around 2000. To this day a lot of sites dating back to the late 1700's were found and living relatives today could trace their heritage and some that did not even know about their kin folks. Charlie even went that extra step to research and notify living relatives today.
I was blessed to have met Charlie in 1972 while stationed at Quantico. I hunted that fall and the next with him and then was assigned State Department Duty (Embassy). But was able to hunt a turkey hunting in January with Grandpa's double barrel shotgunfew more till I got stationed there in 1983, which then I spent a lot of fall days in the woods with Charlie and his dogs, till 2000 when Charlie's health turned really bad. Charlie loved those dropper dogs. When I got Jen he was happy for me but really wanted to see me get a dropper. Well when I took Jen to hunt with Frank last year, he told me to not hunt her with another dog since she was not really showing any signs of a hunting dog. He always believed a lesser dog would effect the performance of the better one especially a male female combination. Well Jen kinda of proved him right once Buster fell in love.
Charlie was very opinionated and would make anyone on any turkey forum seem like a member of a church choir.
hunting turkeys in the winter like it should beHe was a turkey hunter, I wish each and everyone of you could have met. His love and respect of the bird was that of a god. He would be honored to take someone in the fall that wanted to learn the ropes of fall hunting. He was very polite and understanding of new hunters, more so then me since I was tagging along during some of those outings. In fact I think some of Charlie rubbed off on me in that respect.
I know Charlie and my grandfather must of been from the same mold. Their love of turkey hunting were about the same. If there is a place for old grizzled turkey hunters then they are there together.
There are way too many hunts/memories with Charlie. I would not know where to start, but I will cherish them one and all." Earl 7/14/09
a few decals on the back of a truck"How true and sad today that a high percentage of turkey hunters have no clue about fall/winter turkey hunting.
I was lucky this past year to be 1 of 12 selected to sit on a VA State turkey advisory committee to develop a 10 year wild turkey management plan for the State. I learned a lot how even here in VA, the tradition of fall turkey hunting is slowly decreasing in interest and hunters. And that a lot of input was focused around the spring season. Luckily there were 3 of us on the committee that were fall turkey dog hunters, to remind the State and many others the history and importance of fall turkey hunting. We started this back in Feb. and the last meeting was in October. The final and approved plan will be out in Jan. I'll send you a copy of it. Now I've got to hit the woods for some turkey hunting." 12/12/13 Earl
fall and winter turkey hunting"I got a puppy this past Thursday from Danny Dye, a great gentleman. She is black and a dropper. 6/1/14
Danny and his brother have been turkey dog hunters here since the 60's. They do not advertise their dogs, they're just dog hunters. Kinda like Charlie Price and Sylvester Kyle were here in the area. Price and Kyle were very well noted for their dogs but both have passed." Earl 12/25/14
"Training a new turkey dog pup is quite the task. But so far very impressed with Patch. She is a smart one and picks up on things quickly. On her first few times out, she did not know what she was really hunting for, although I was training her with turkey wings. The big test was that she would not chase deer, which she has not and I am thankful for that. She has not bothered any other animals either; rabbit, squirrel, etc.
Virginia dropper wild turkey hunting dogThe epitome of an Appalachian dropper turkey dog from VirginiaOn her first kill, it worked out that we walked up over a hill and there 60 yards in front of us, were a flock of about 10 long beards. Well, they were as surprised as us. Except one flew from right to left and I seen it was a long beard and fairly wide open. It was about 25 yards from me and I took the shot with the modified barrel. The turkey folded and went down. I normally do not take wing shots, but know I and the gun are capable of it and that I needed to get a bird shot in front of Patch. Well, the bird was not going anywhere, but crawled in under a blow down. Patch tried going in after it and barking some, but could not get a hold of it. The friend I was with went in after it and got it out. Well the bird started flopping and Patch was on it biting and barking. Of course me and my friend were praising her all the time. The bird expired after a couple minutes, but Patch continued pulling and tugging on it on the walk out.
That day and the next I was using 1 of 3, of my grandfathers doubles. That one was an Ithaca, 30" barrels, Mod. and Full, double triggers. The shell was an RST 2 3/4" 6 shot, designed for older doubles. The pressure on those is down around 8,000 # vs modern shells around 12,000 #.
The next day down at the MCB Quantico I was heading out to an area and when going down the road, next to the area, about 12 long beards crossed the road from one area, into the area I was checked out for. Well I left the birds cross watching them from about 100 yards. They crossed a short field and into a set of pines. I parked the truck, got my gear and Patch out. Got her hunting the Appalachians with a Virginia turkey dogRetired Marine's Virginia turkey hunting with a dog truckto where they crossed the field and Patch was running all around smelling them, but this is where she needs more work and that is figure out the direction they headed and follow up after them. I took her to the edge of the pines where they entered and said: “turkey, go get 'em.” She smelled them and went in about 25 yards and her head shot up and she was sniffing. Then she broke and disappeared for about 20 seconds, when I heard her bark 2 times. Then I seen turkeys flying in 3 directions. She came back to me in about 15 seconds after that. I then took her to get set up in the pines about the break point. I started to make a stick blind when I thought I heard a gobbler yelp. Usually busting gobblers they are not in any hurry to get back. I have set up on them for 4/5 hours before they regroup, or sometimes not till the next day. But then I heard a couple more, only 10 min. after the bust. I thought strange, but one can never figure out turkeys. Anyway, I thought great no blind, but told Patch lay down and she lay'd with her head up listening to the turkeys. I was talking back and forth to them for about 10 minutes, when I seen 2 coming through the pines. I had my gun up on my knee and one hand on Patch trying to keep her calm. The birds were coming in about 30 yards out. So I slowly took my hand off Patch and on the trigger. Just as I was getting ready to fire, Patch barked once but no problem, the one bird stopped and put its head up, that was its mistake. At the shot Patch was on the bird biting and barking till it was dead.
So although she has work tCoveted black dropper turkey hunting dog from Virginiao do in a couple areas, I am very pleased with her progress as an 8 month old puppy. Since then and after 2 kills in front of her she is picking up turkey scent and going nuts where they were, but still needs to sort out the direction they went. Got a friend Gratten Hepler bringing his dog up this week and running Patch with her. Hopefully Patch will stay with her and get in on following up the scent trail and then busts. She worked well with Gratten's dog earlier in the season so at least they hunt well together. Before Patch would not go all the way out with Missy, but would check back in and missed out on a couple of busts. But the last couple times out just running her, she has disappeared over ridges and gone for 4/5 minutes before checking back in. And when we run into fresh sign she goes nuts running around checking out the scent and going off in different directions for about 150 yards, but then returning to the scratched up area." Earl Sechrist - Midland, VA January 12, 2015
"The past 4 days I had a good friend Gratten Hepler visiting and hunting Quantico with his dog Missy. Missy is a 9 year old veteran turkey dog and a great one. We had a total of 6 breaks and all seemed to have been gobblers (very unusual). When Gratten was up in the early season, my dog Patch ran well with Missy and picked up on a couple things.

Beautiful black setter pointer dropper Virginia turkey dogWell the last day Friday we took along a couple of other friends, new to fall hunting. About 0930 Missy broke what we sure were gobblers, but they split the power line. So Gratten took the one inexperienced hunter on one side with Missy. The other hunter took the other side. But since he was an experienced spring hunter, I left him and took Patch to check out another part of the same area. Patch has still got a lot of work to do sitting still and quiet in the blind.
Note: I am tagged out, but am allowed to walk along, of course with no gun and train the dog and assist in calling a bird for others, or for training purposes here on Quantico.

As Patch and I neared a small patch of Pines along the woods road, she stopped and looked hard in the pines. She took off fast and maybe 50 yards in out flew 2 turkeys. She did not bark but came back out on the road, looking at those 2. I then said turkey, go get them. She then took off back in the pines and maybe 100 yards in she started, not barking but yipping in an excited voice. About that time a bird flew up and out. She continued to yip and a few seconds later another bird took wing. She continued to yip a couple more minutes, running around in the pines. She then came back out to me. I took her back in and seen where the birds were scratching. I built a quick stick/brush blind and sat there with her the next 2 hours trying to call something back, but since they all flew in the same general direction, well. But for the most part Patch stayed fairly still and quiet, but if birds had come back, I am sure they would have known something was up.

Earl Sechrist's dog Patch hunting with Gratten Hepler's dog MissySince we had planed to meet back at the power line at 1200, we all showed up. Either party not hearing or seeing nothing. We then took a lunch break and headed back into the woods about 1315. We moved on down the road about a mile where Gratten shot his bird the day before. We walked down into the area and seen fresh sign but the dogs were not picking up anything. So we continued out over the ridges for the next 2.5 hours, finding one good ridge that was torn up. So we started back to the trucks. We got out on the hard surface road and Gratten put a leash on Missy. I left Patch run, since there is hardly any traffic on that part of the base road. When we got about 300 yards from the truck Patch jumped up into the woods along the edge. After about 200 yards of her acting birdy, Gratten said her tail was moving like an egg beater. She has done that when we have got into fresh sign. But then Patch takes off down through the woods and Missy starts pulling hard on the leash, Gratten said Missy was getting a nose full of turkey. He then turned Missy loose. But by then Patch was about 200-300 yards in the bottom, just yipping up a storm and running back and forth. We seen one turkey fly out across the road. We started up in and by then Patch was coming back to us. But the bad thing was, it was late in the day and a possible good bust, that would have been great to head back in there first thing in the morning. But Gratten and I have a turkey Banquet in Roanoke to attend so that would not happen.

The best day though with Patch, was 2 busts by herself in the same day. Will be heading out Monday and all next week with her again. Got a couple shooters lined up to go along and hopefully things will work out for Patch and the shooter." Earl 1/17/15
"Dogs gain confidence every year of age. Don't expect your 1 year old to do everything an older dog does. That'd be like expecting a baby to do what a 7 y.o. can. By age 2, you'll see the difference in your dog and by age 3 she'll be self-confident and in her prime, for the next 10 years or more. It all depends on their experience, mostly how often you get them out." Earl
"Patch (18 months now) has progressed very well since last year. Been having her out since 1 September this year and she is ranging out 150-200 yards, which is about as far as I want her too. We have gotten into birds every time, some very good breaks and some not. Mainly running into small groups of 3-7 birds. Last week she did get into a flock of about 18 birds and was able to get it on video with about 10 birds flying off. Got a few other busts on video with only 1 or 2 birds flying.

She has this year started to figure out the direction of travel of the birds once she scents them and follows up on them and I believe that is why she is getting into birds. She is getting birds up, so far the longest 328 yards out. I got a garmin 100 this year and that has shown me a lot what she is doing out of sight.

Now after the bust once I sit up with her she comes and lays under my raised legs. She is good for about 20 minutes of patience but if she try to get up I just say lay down and back down she goes for a little while again. But a big improvement from last year." Earl 10/12/15
Virginia turkey dog Patch"All this season Patch was finding and busting up flocks. Starting with her training on 1 Sept. to date she has 22 busts. Then of course she missed the first 2 weeks of the early season due to the barbed wire and healing of 27 stiches and 3 staples. But since then, when the second part opened on Nov. 30th she has been doing great finding and busting them up. But keeping her still in the blind I do see progress, although she has fouled up 9 call back situations. So to get a bird down in front of her, she and Missy busted up some Jakes and this one made the mistake of coming back past me. The kill was only 400 yards from the truck but by the time I got it back to the truck she had the head nearly ripped off along with some of the breasts exposed. Gratten made some of his great turkey salad with the breasts. Just yesterday she busted a flock of about 7 or 8 long beards. It was a good bust with 3 of them flying back past Jim and I but we could not shoot, since our guns were unloaded and standing on a hard service road. We set up from noon till fly up and no response, but Patch did sit or laid in the blind the whole time." Earl 12/17/15
Turkey hunting in Quantico with Virginian turkey dogs."On 15 Jan. 2016, took a good friend of mine out for a fall turkey dog hunt. Doug, who is a great accomplished turkey hunter, has never really been fall turkey hunting. So that day loaded up Patch and headed to Quantico. Patch who has been doing great at finding and breaking turkeys (33 flushes) since the early Virginia season, for her to sit quietly in the set up still remains the only major flaw for her to accomplish. Although I have been able to call birds back in after the break, when the bird gets within sight or sound of Patch, it looks like a WWF match between her and me. Although she is showing slight improvement, she still has a long way to go. And being she is still only 20 months old, hopefully by next year she will settle down some.

Well, that day we left the truck and walked down this woods road for about 3/4 of a mile and Patch was covering some ground. She goes 150-180 yards right then, back across to the left and out in front. She covers in a 4 hour hunt 18-25 miles, but one hunt she covered 33 miles. That is all I hunt her in a day. May need a second dog. When we got to an area that Patch busted some birds a few days earlier, she got all birdie and took off. About 210 yards out, she sounded off and we seen 4 birds taking flight in different directions. One flew back past us and we seen it was a long beard. The way Patch continued to bark and run, I figured there were a couple others that we did not see take off. A couple minutes after her last bark, she came back all happy.

Being that Doug is an accomplished turkey hunter, I took Patch back from where we set up about 125 yards and sat there with Patch. Patch sat good for about 20 minutes and her ears perked up and she was sniffing hard. I heard Doug give a couple gobbler clucks but that was all.
About another five minutes and Doug shot and Patch was out of there, when I finally got up and down to the bird, I could hear Doug saying to Patch: 'Don't eat my bird.' She had her nose in and pulling it around. Doug had his first ever Fall gobbler, a 18.5 lb, 10.5 in. beard and 1" spurs, a fine almost 3 year old." Earl 1/27/16
Today, January 14 was the first day of the 2017 Winter season here in Virginia. Patch ran into some razor wire again back in early December, for the second year in the row here at Quantico. She healed well and fast and was dying as myself to get her back in the woods.
Entered the woods about 0845 and walked down a woods road. The weather this morning was rain and 34 degrees. Hunting Quantico with Earl Sechrist and PatchWalked in about 400 yards when Patch came from the right side of the road and was acting very birdie. She paused on the road about 80 yards in front of me for about 2 seconds. She then took off hard into the woods on the left. About 100 yards in she started yepping it up. I then seen 2 long beards flying to my left and front. Then as Patch continued to run and bark 2 more birds took off in a different direction. She then came back to me and I and her went to the break site. There was a perfect blowdown I could climb into.

This was the same birds I am sure she busted just before she got into the wire. On that hunt I had a long beard coming in but when Patch seen that one it was all over. She has had great breaks this year but on call back she got to be too much and ended the hunts (about 11 of them) when they were coming in.

So this time with the truck only 400 yards, as much as I hated to do it, I took her back and then went back to the blind alone. Since I knew they were long beards I sent out a single gobbler cluck and got a response about 100 yards below my set up. About 50 minutes later and calling to the bird about 4 times more with response, he finally showed himself about 35 yards out. I waited till he got about 25 yards and ended the hunt. 18 lbs, 9" beard, 1" spurs.

I then left the bird lie and went back and got Patch. I had her on a leash to the blind. I also before that moved the bird down over the lip from where he came. As I got her in the blind, I could tell she knew a turkey was around. But I held her there and she actually sat well. I made a couple turkey clucks and yelps with the trumpet and then slowly raised my gun. I then fired in the air, Patch was out of there smelling and looking for turkey. It took her about 1 minute to find the bird and began pulling feathers off it. Hopefully by next year (she is 2.5 y.o. now), things will begin to come together for her, to sit quietly in the blind. 

The double barrel shotgun is a Dickenson 12 ga 28" barrel, with an x-full and improved modified (and what I shot this bird with). I alway use #4 shot. Will be out every day the rest of the season, either taking someone or trying to fill my second tag. Earl 1/15/17
Earl Sechrist  Midland, Virginia
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