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A Do-It-Yourself Turkey Dog? Why Not?

turkey dogThe Byrne Appalachian turkey dog is a specialist that’s bred and trained for turkey hunting. The question arises: Can any dog do this?

You might leave your Corgi at home, but if you adapt your hunting style to your dog’s capabilities, many of the sporting breeds can be used to break flocks of turkeys.
I have two English cocker spaniels. Don’t confuse them with the American cocker. The English cocker is a durable flushing dog bred for field work, and mine are experienced and successful pheasant dogs. I know they will flush turkeys because I’ve seen them do it.

The older one, Cricket, is not suitable at all for turkey hunting, though. He’s very obedient and has learned to range at 40 yards or closer. He’s also too slow to reliably rush in and scatter turkeys.

His kennel-mate, however, is a different story. Riley is the kind of dog that can get overenthusiastic about bird scent and will go, if I allow it, wherever the trail leads him. He won’t range like Brett Berry’s dogs, but he’ll go up to 100 yards or so. He will not bark, either, but at 100 yards or less, I don’t need him to. I should be able to hear the heavy, panicked wingbeats of fleeing turkeys. It would require a quieter approach on my part, but we could do it — that is, if North Carolina would open a fall season.

I also know that Riley can sit well in a pop-up blind or under camo fabric. I’ve done this while pass-shooting geese, and just for grins, I’ve even taken him squirrel hunting, just using him as a retriever.

Nobody knows your dog like you do. Think outside the box a little bit, and you might just have a functional turkey dog. Of course, if you want to jump in with both feet like Berry has, you can’t beat a bred, trained and dedicated Appalachian.

It should be noted that the Byrne’s dogs are not retrievers. They will pin the bird down, but it will be up to you to get it. Retrieving is typically not a part of their training, which, if you think about it, makes sense. A 20-plus-pound bird is a pretty hefty retrieve, and it’s just more practical for a hunter to go to the dog in that situation, rather than forcing the dog to do something it is not inclined to do.
— Greg Lobas

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