Thursday, July 22, 2004
Bill Cochran's Mailbag: Spotting turkey dogs
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
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- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
BILL: I was wondering if you have any information on turkey dogs? I was specifically interested in an unofficial breed from the Spotsylvania County area know as a Dropper. They are usually dark brown with a coat and body style that resembles setters. I believe they are a cross between Gordon setters, pointers, Plott or Redbone hounds, and who knows what else. I think they have been bred for about 40-to 50-years in that region.
I had information on a contact person about two years ago, but now cannot get in touch with that individual. I have put out additional request for assistance in finding these dogs, but have had no luck as of yet. If you have any information or ideas for contacts, I would greatly appreciate it if you would pass it along.
JIM: I am not aware of any turkey dog organization in Virginia where you could obtain information. In fact, turkey dogs are rare, which makes turkey dog owners the same.
Two elderly experts do immediately come to mind, Kit Shaffer in Lynchburg and John Byrne, in Bedford County. The last I heard, Byrne is a source of turkey dog pups. His phone number is 540-586-1813.
You are correct: dropper is a name given to a mixed breed. In the bird dog world, a cross between a setter and a pointer is called a dropper. I know that Shaffer has had excellent success with mixed breed bird dogs, the kind that aren’t polished enough for bird hunting.
What you want in a turkey dog is an animal that reacts much like a bird dog gone bad. You want it to run hard and range wide in the fall/winter woods in order to pick up the scent of turkeys, then track that scent with the goal of scattering the flock by barking and snapping and jumping at them in order to scatter them in every direction. Your job is to get the dog under control and call the birds back to your blind.
My son has a dog that is a mixed lab that we have used with success for the past two seasons. The dog is good at locating and scattering turkeys, but lacks the training and discipline of being still when the birds are called in. I recall hunting with Shaffer when he had a dog that would lay motionless under a piece of camouflage while the birds approached. This is asking a lot of a dog, to run wild and scatter birds one minute and to remain motionless the next. But it can be done.
Another turkey dog option is the Boykin Spaniel, a little, chocolate-colored gun dog out of South Carolina. Carson Quarles of Roanoke has one of the best in the business. A positive trait of this species is that the Boykin can be made a member of the family and still be death on turkeys.
BILL: In the past, my family has rented a vacation house at the beach. This year we would like to vacation at Smith Mountain Lake. Are there any rental properties on the lake shoreline?
A.D.: Yes, there is a growing number of rental homes available along the 500-miles shoreline of Smith Mountain Lake. One rental agency is CB Rentals & Sales, which has an office in Moneta. The agency has a color catalog available from 800-203-7368 or you can check its Web site, which offers virtual tours and an online reservation and availability service. Another agency is Lakeshore Rentals & Sales, 800-572-6098, www.lakeshorerentals.com. You also might want to check the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, 800-676-8203, www.visitsmithmountianlake.com.