Why yes, a bird dog does belong on a turkey hunt

Why yes, a bird dog does belong on a turkey hunt

Registered Maine Tutorial Tenley Skolfield hunts turkeys with her hunting puppy, Tinker, in Athens before in October. The bell on Tinker’s neck allows Skolfield continue to keep monitor of her dog and also, by Tinker’s cadence, know if she’s managing or browsing. Some hunters use a beeper collar or even a GPS collar, but Skolfield prefers the a lot more standard, aged-faculty tactic. Derek Davis/Personnel Photographer

SOLON — Run, flush, retreat. Eat treat, nap, repeat. 

This is turkey dogging, and though its reputation has not however flourished in Maine at the very least just one Registered Maine Guide can take her German shorthaired pointer in pursuit of wild turkeys in the drop.

Tenley Skolfield’s 9-year-aged dog Tinker, or Tinkerbell, flushes flocks of turkeys with perfection. The goal is to split up the flock and give Skolfield – a chook hunter of 35 several years – a crack at them when the birds reassemble, as this really social fowl normally does.

Apart from in Tinker’s situation, the hunt is not textbook tumble turkey dogging, as it is called in the South. Tinker is a bit of a latecomer to the drop hunt – albeit an enthusiastic one. When Skolfield took up tumble turkey searching two yrs in the past, Tinker already had retired from grouse hunting to the everyday living of a a great deal-beloved family pet. So the more mature doggy has not grasped the sit-continue to aspect of the hunt immediately after the birds flush. Alternatively, Tinker goes in for a nap in Skolfield’s truck adhering to the obligatory treat reward.

But to Skolfield, previous Tinker’s regime signifies the sheer attractiveness of “turkey dogging.” 

“She flushes them, then receives a address and usually takes a nap. It demonstrates that any doggy can do this,” Skolfield claimed.

Skolfield might be amongst the couple of Mainers turkey dogging, but the sport has developed appreciably throughout the region in the earlier 30 many years, reported Pete Muller, the Countrywide Wild Turkey Federation’s interaction director. Drop turkey looking with pet dogs took off nationally in the early 1990s, when it was then authorized in 11 states. Right now, there are 42 states the place tumble turkey hunting is legal and 25 enable looking with puppies, in accordance to the federation. 

Turkey dogging was to start with lawful in Maine in 2002 when the tumble hunt opened for archers only, but use of canines wasn’t useful right until shotguns turned legal in 2007.

A turkey flies into a trees immediately after Tinker breaks up two flocks at a farm subject in close proximity to Solon on Oct. 9, where by Tenley Skolfield had landowner authorization to hunt. Derek Davis/Team Photographer

The apply is preferred in the Northeast and as considerably south as Tennessee – as effectively as throughout several states out West including Oregon, California, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado.

“The the vast majority of in which it usually takes location is in the Northeast, all-around Pennsylvania, New York,” Muller explained. 

Skolfield knew number of in Maine who turkey hunted with pet dogs – and Maine Point out Chook Biologist Kelsey Sullivan also has not run across several who do.

“I imagine it is a market method,” Sullivan claimed.

Unquestionably, it is not for a lack of turkeys in Maine, which has a drop time that runs from Sept. 20 to Nov. 6 in 2021, with a bag limit of five birds (either intercourse, any age).

Considering the fact that the early 1970s the selection of turkeys nationally has developed from about 1.3 million to 6.2 million birds, according to the federation. In Maine the populace has grown considering the fact that birds were very first relocated listed here in 1977 to upwards of 70,000 statewide in the spring and 175,000 in the tumble following the breeding period – although quite a few perish soon after the winter season due to national results in, said Sullivan.

“Maine has a bustling inhabitants of birds that have helped out other states with trap-and-transfer in latest several years,” Muller explained. “Maine hunters are just centered on other items in the drop.”

But not Skolfield, who has pursued her share of grouse in the North Maine Woods. But she in no way had hunted turkeys with puppies right up until she not too long ago moved to Cape Cod and started out looking on tumble weekends at her boyfriend’s camp in Solon, which is smack in the center of farm state – often floor zero for turkeys.

In turkey dogging, the canine flush a flock, return to the hunter and continue to be with the hunter, normally less than a camouflage blind because turkeys have such eager eyesight. Turkey hunters dress in camo head to toe.  

Following the flock is busted up by the canine, turkeys eventually attempt to reassemble. Usually, a hunter has about 30 minutes until eventually the birds discover their flock mates once more, mentioned Kevin Antonovitch of South Dennis, Massachusetts, Skolfield’s husband or wife and an avid turkey hunter. 

In that time, hunters should hold nonetheless, waiting around like statutes. The more mature hen – or “boss hen,” – will make a loud, insistent phone to draw the more youthful birds to her. This is how the hunter is aware where by the birds are – and if they’re drawing in the vicinity of. An seasoned turkey hunter can phone in that manager hen working with a contact they keep in their mouth. 

In the scenario of a novice turkey doggy like Tinker, the hurry-up-and-get-even now fireplace drill that happens as quickly as the birds scatter occurs a little bit in another way. 

But, Skolfield – a native of Harpswell who operated a northern Maine sporting camp for 13 years, is not deterred. With permission from a farmer in the vicinity of Solon, she and Antonovitch park in the vicinity of the discipline exactly where Tinker flushes the birds. Then Skolfield places the doggy in the truck and benefits her with a deal with prior to returning to the area. 

A quintessential turkey pet – which Tinker is not – will bark at the birds as it runs just after it. But for the reason that turkeys fly so remarkably speedy for their dimensions – as quickly as 55 mph – Tinker does not come near to catching just one.

“You can bust them up you. But it’s way extra enjoyment with a puppy. Moreover, a pet is faster,” Skolfield claimed.

Tenley Skolfield puts Tinker in the truck ahead of going to stalk turkeys in the woods. Derek Davis/Team Photographer

From there Skolfield and Antonovitch head to the woods beside the subject as the birds get ready to reassemble – and hold out.

They sit against trees about 40 yards apart. Antonovitch phone calls in a single of at least two hens that appear to be from two various flocks, but the other birds – about two dozen – are skittish. 

The hen walks in just 10 yards of Antonovitch, often repeating its assembly call, but this is a bird with keen eyesight and Antonovitch doesn’t dare draw his shotgun.

“The chicken would see it and operate,” he reported with a shrug.

So after 70 minutes, Antonovicth and Skolfield go away the woods and be a part of Tinker in the truck to go search for a further flock, which they sooner or later discover. At that point, the enjoyable starts off all in excess of yet again. But the working day ends devoid of bringing a turkey residence.

“It would not be searching if it was straightforward,” Skolfield reported with a smile – mimicking Tinker’s enthusiasm. “Having her (on the hunt) is like acquiring a kid. She is aware of she’s heading out. And when she sees them, she’s so energized.”


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