Fall Turkey Hunting Q&A
By: Tracy Breen

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Some of you may regularly read my articles here at hunting.net. As a result, you may know that I am a passionate fall turkey hunter who uses dogs to help find turkey flocks in the fall. I recently purchased another turkey dog puppy and am in the process of training the pup to be a turkey-crazed lunatic much like my first turkey dog.

People regularly ask me questions about fall turkey hunting with a dog and how the process of chasing turkeys with dogs works so I thought I would take a few moments to answer a few questions about fall turkey hunting that I regularly get asked.

McKinley 1st bird.jpgQuestion 1: Is turkey hunting with a dog legal?

Answer: Turkey hunting with a dog is not legal in all states. It is legal in many states. The number of states that allow the use of dogs to fall turkey hunt is on the rise.   

Question 2: Is it ethical to use a dog to hunt turkeys?

Answer: Fall turkey hunting with a dog has been around for generations. In fact, it was legal for decades before spring turkey hunting became popular. Fall hunting with a dog is more challenging than spring hunting because birds (especially gobblers) don’t run to the call the way they do in the spring. In the fall, more calling, skill and patience are required than in the spring hunt.

Question 3: What does the dog actually do?

Answer: A turkey hunting dog is similar to a coon dog or bear dog. Once in the woods, it searches far and wide for turkeys. After it finds a fresh track or fresh turkey scent, it follows it to the flock of turkeys and then runs into the flock, barking. This often catches the flock by surprise, causing them to run and fly away and separate from each other.

Next, the hunter and the dog set up near the flush sight and call the birds back in. When a flock of turkeys gets scattered, their goal is to relocate each other. They typically come back to where they were flushed. The caller acts like they are the boss hen or tom, calls and reassembles the flock. When the birds call back and eventually come in to the setup, Thanksgiving dinner is purchased. Sometimes it takes 45 minutes for birds to start coming back to the scatter sight; other times it takes three or more hours.     

Question 4: What do you do with the dog when you are calling the birds in?

Answer: The dog is trained to climb inside a duffel bag and sit quietly while the birds are being called. When the gun goes off, the dog knows it is ok to come out of the bag to get her reward, which is a flopping turkey.

Question 5: Can you shoot hens and toms in the fall?

Answer: In the fall, it is legal to kill hens and toms. Young hens often make great table fare.

Question 6: Is training a dog to hunt turkeys difficult?

Answer: Like any type of bird dog, you often get out of it what you put into it. Right now I am playing a lot of turkey wing hide and seek with the dog which teaches her to smell out turkeys. In the fall, especially when the dog is young, I spend as much time as possible in the woods so the dog gets a lot of experience hunting turkeys.

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