gratten hepler book"I first started turkey hunting with dogs in the early 1970's, when I was in high school hunting with my friends' English Setter. Around 1975, I got my first turkey dog; a Brittany Spaniel. I also used a German Shorthair, but she ranged so far in these mountains I couldn't keep up with her. I have been an avid turkey dog man ever since. I currently have a 8 year old Brittany named Jenny. She has been my best dog to date. This picture is of our opening day hunt 10/25/04. Two jakes and a hen. They were killed on Potts Mountain which can be seen in the background of the picture. Jenny hunted great. The fellow on my left in the picture is Tad Robertson. I've been fall hunting with Tad for about 20 years. On my right is Rob Tyree. Rob has been hunting with me for about 10 years. In fact, he killed his first turkey with Jenny in 1998. He shot the bird, wounded it, and Jenny ended up catching it; saving a lost bird." Read about Jenny's textbook flush in the first winter turkey season in Virginia in 31 years.
Jenny's turkeys
"If turkey hunters use a turkey dog while fall hunting, the number of wounded and lost birds will go way down. This is one point I stress to everyone I talk to, about using a turkey dog. I have seen three turkeys wounded while hunting with Jenny and she found all three. Also, it's a fact that while turkey hunting with dogs has been allowed in Virginia for many years, our turkey population continues to grow every year, and our fall season is 6 weeks long.
Turkey Dog Tales"I've chronicled my 30 years turkey hunting with dogs in a book now available at Amazon for $13.95 plus shipping.
Turkey Dog Tales
Gratten Hepler
"Today my Dad and our turkey dog Jenny were out on a morning hunt, while I slept, and they busted up a gang of about 15 turkeys. Dad came back and woke me up, and we went back to set up and hopefully get a shot. We built a blind and sat for about 30 minutes before making a call, but when my Dad decided to make the first call it wasn't one minute later before we knew the action was on its way. We heard several calling and I saw a few fly down, but two decided to come up our way. I singled one out and squeezed the trigger. It hadn't hit the ground before Jenny was on top of it. We got our Christmas turkey, all thanks to Jenny."
Ben Hepler, 16 y.o.
Ben Gratten Jenny turkey
Another good day for Jenny
I had the pleasure of going on a hunt last week near Yanceyville NC. A good friend of mine, Mitch Childers who lives in Thomasville, and his son Colton were my host. We were hunting in Caswell County on opening morning with Jenny, my turkey dog. Jenny jumped some turkeys early but we had no luck in attempting to call them back. Around 11:00, we went to another spot and Jenny soon picked up the trail of a gang of birds. It wasn't long before she caught up to them & scattered them. We saw 10-12 birds fly in all directions. One made the mistake of flying over Mitch's head. He shot twice hitting it both times and bringing it to the ground. To our surprise, it was up and running away with a broken wing. I called Jenny back to our location and she quickly picked up the trail of the wounded bird. She trailed it for probably a quarter mile but finally caught up to it pinning it to the ground. It was a very nice gobbler with a 9 or 10 inch beard. We believed that all the birds had been big gobblers. We made our way back to the flush site & quickly set up our blind. I stayed put while Mitch went to get his son, Colton, who had been hunting a different spot.
NC Winter Hunt turkeyMitch & Colton Childers
About one hour later, after giving some old gobbler yelps, I noticed a lone gobbler coming in silently. When he got to about 30 yards, I shot knocking the bird down for good. Soon, Mitch and Colton showed up. We took a quick lunch break and Mitch began calling with Colton in the blind. Mitch called in two more birds but they didn't get within range for Colton's .20 ga. Around 3:00, they heard another gobbler yelping in the distance. Mitch soon had this bird on it's way. The big gobbler yelped, clucked, cut, and even gobbled as he came to Mitch's calling. Colton finally got an open shot killing the bird cleanly. What a day of hunting!! Three 17+ pound gobblers in one day. Having tagged out, the only thing left to do was come back the next morning with a video camera. We called in five more birds all with long beards. In over 30 years of hunting turkeys with a dog, I've never had such a hunt with the long beards. NC doesn't have a lot of participation for their one week winter season for turkey hunting but I know of three guys that had a once in a lifetime experience. Thanks to Mitch, Colton and Jenny for a hunt I will always remember & cherish. Gratten 1/29/06
Mitch Gratten JennyColton Childers turkeyNC winter turkey
Brittany turkey dogI'm working with my new 8 month old pup, a liver and white Brittany named Missy.
She has flushed several gangs and hunts well with my older dog.
Gratten August 2, 2006
New Virginia Turkey DogOur one year old Brittany Missy split a nice gang of ten to fifteen birds young birds late Monday, second day of Virginia's season, after a full day in the woods. We were able to call several birds back and take a nice jake and a hen the following morning. Missy stayed in the blind with me while I called. I had a leash on her just in case she decided to try and leave early. Tad Robertson and Rob Tyree were my hunting partners for this hunt. Missy was hunting with my older dog, Jenny, & has learned a lot from hunting with her. Jenny is now 10 years old and doesn't cover the ground as well as she used to but neither do I. The colors in our woods this fall are beautiful. I don't know how anyone wouldn't fall in love with hunting fall turkeys with a dog. But I'm just a little partial I guess. Gratten October 30, 2006
North Carolina Mike Shillinglaw Missy longbeard gobblerNorth Carolina Mitch Childers Colton Jenny Missy Gratten HeplerJust wanted to send a couple of pics of the winter hunt we had in North Carolina that just ended 1/20/07. The first picture is of Mike Shillinglaw who was my host on this hunt showing a 18 lb. gobbler. With him is Missy, my one year old Brittany. She flushed the gang of gobblers around 9:30. We quickly set up our blinds and began our wait. We didn't know if we would have a short wait or all day. About an hour later, we heard this bird begin to call below our position. It yelped and clucked as it closed the distance coming to Mike. When it got in range, Mike made a good shot. The bird sported an 11 1/2" beard and 1 1/8" spurs. The other picture shows my bird killed a day later. With me are Mitch Childers and his son Colton who I've hunted with successfully for several years in North Carolina. My older dog, Jenny is on the left and Missy is on the right. Thanks to Mike, Mitch and Colton for another memorable hunt in the Tarheel state. Gratten
"You are certainly right about turkey dogs being invaluable when it comes to catching wounded birds. Jenny never let a wounded turkey escape. She caught 5 in her years of hunting. On a sad note, I had to have her put down last week. She had a tumor that the vet found late in December. By February, it had doubled in size. I hated to do it but I was not going to let her suffer. She was 10 1/2 years old." Gratten 2/27/2007
North Carolina winter turkey dog huntHere is a pic from our North Carolina winter hunt 1-17-08. The hunter is Mitch Childers. Along with Mitch is my 2 year old Brittney, Missy and the 15 pound jake Mitch harvested. As you can tell from the picture, it was not the best of weather. We had ice and freezing rain but we stayed with it.
Missy flushed the gang of about 10 or 12 birds feeding in a field around 8 a.m. Unfortunately, they all flew in the same direction landing in a thick grove of pines. We took Missy to the thicket where she was able to make enough noise running through the woods to flush the birds from the tree tops. This time, they scattered in several different directions.
Mitch and I built a cubbyhole blind from dead tree limbs and settled in to begin calling. After about an hour and a half, we heard a jake begin calling in front of us. His approach was very slow and deliberate. When the bird popped up at 30 yards, Mitch was ready and let drive with his 12 gauge killing the bird cleanly. Even though the odds were against us that day with the inclement weather, we still had a great hunt.  2/19/2008 Gratten Hepler 208 Parsonage Lane, Covington VA 24426 Tel 540-747-5203 Cell 540-968-1244 
North Carolina turkey dog
Gratten Hepler's turkey dog Katie
Katie is my 2 1/2 year old Brittany.
She is an awesome hunter and ranges out further than any Brittany I've had before.
She barks on the flush and stays with me in the blind.
I'm looking forward to getting her out in a couple of weeks.
Gratten 10/5/19

Had good luck last week hunting with Katie and Earl Seachrist.
Gun is my 106 year old 20 gauge Ithaca. Gratten 12/16/19
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