Of Turkeys And Dogs

He’s just plain old Oscar — a mutt who’s breeding is mixed opposites in the bird dog world, a Black Lab and an English setter.

In spite of his lack of lineage, his tenacity is nothing short of impressive. Oscar is a do-all bird dog, equally at home retrieving ducks or flushing pheasants, but his favorite trick is scattering turkeys.

“Basically, all we have to do is locate a flock of birds and turn him loose,” said Oscar’s owner Bob Shaw of Delhi, N.Y. The dog’s job when it comes to fall turkey hunting is to scatter the flock in every direction and then return to his master — rather a neat trick.

The classic method for fall turkey hunting is to scatter a flock of birds and then call them back together. Given their very social nature, a scattered flock will call to each other and try to regroup. This is a standard hunting technique, and on the surface it sounds very simple. The problem is that it is difficult to scatter them right.

Finding Flocks Easy
Finding a flock of turkeys in the fall is the easy part. They will usually show up in the fields to feed at some point during the day. Scattering them is another thing entirely. Making turkeys fly off is only part of the game — they have to fly off in different directions. If they all flush in the same direction, they will get together too quickly and a stationary hunter will usually not draw any of them in by calling.

Dave Shaw poses with a turkey.

A flock of turkeys on the move will outrun any hunter, but a dog, on the other hand, is a whole different story.

Arriving at a cut corn field, it was time to put Oscar and his buddy Sheena (Bob’s son’s dog) to work. A nice flock of toms was feeding in the back corner of the field amidst a flock of about 50 geese. What happened next could best be described as mayhem. Dogs ran, geese flew, turkeys ran, and it was all very confusing for animals and hunters alike.

Unfortunately in the melee, the geese were scattered better than the turkeys. It wasn’t a problem for long, though. Shaw’s son Dave looked up in the far corner of the field and spotted another flock. Soon his dog Sheena was off to the races, scattering a group of hens in two different directions.

After calling the dogs back, the Shaw boys set up and started calling. Unfortunately a combination of steep terrain and a heavy wind made it hard to hear the “kee-kee” calls of the hens.

Flock Scatters
On the next farm, it was a different story. A flock of hens was spotted right near the road on the edge of a green field, and Oscar was off. The turkeys had quite a lead, but at the end of the 300-yard dash he caught up with them, scattering the flock in several different directions.

Dogs were leashed and guns were hastily retrieved from the truck.

As the calling began it was apparent that this time it was going to work. The dogs were the first ones to hear the turkeys. They were quite good about not barking or whining as the turkeys answered. Both dogs lay there by their respective masters, looking in the directions of the turkey calls with their ears perked.

Turkeys moved in from several directions, until finally one got within range of the younger Shaw. At the shot, Sheena was off to retrieve the bird for her master. It was a great end to an exciting day in the woods.

If you have never tried hunting fall turkeys with trained dogs you are missing a treat. It is a lot of fun to watch them run like mad and try to launch the turkeys in the air. In addition, hunting with a trained dog will add immensely to the experience. In states where it is legal, it is also a great method for bowhunters to get in on fall birds by letting the dog scatter a flock and then setting up a “pop-up” blind before calling the birds back in.

Legal In Many States
There are a number of states with fall turkey seasons where dogs can be used. The list includes: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Training a turkey dog takes some work. It is relatively easy to get the dogs to cut loose on a flock, but the dog must have the discipline to keep quiet as the birds are called in.

Hunting turkeys in the fall with a pair of dogs is an adventure, and like most forms of hunting where man’s best friend is a participant, it is hard to tell who is having the most fun. With dogs such as Oscar and Sheena, watching them do their thing is great. It is amazing to watch how excited they get when they are let off their leash to play the game.

For a fine selection of Turkey Hunting gear, click here.

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