The strategy is simple: your trained turkey dog scents, finds, and flushes a fall flock. Near the break site, you hide that canine and yourself, and try to call those scattered birds back to your setup.
It’s not enough to have a turkey dog though. You have to know how and where to use it.
It’s best if you’re a serious fall turkey hunter before you become a flock dogger. You need to understand fresh ground sign in the form of tracks, molted feathers, droppings, and scratchings where your dog might find turkey flocks based on your scouting efforts. A trained dog can then be used as a tool to help you find and flush turkeys.
Breeds differ, of course. Individual canine hunting abilities exist among the range of retrievers, pointing dogs, versatile breeds, and hounds, and so it is with those used as turkey dogs. John and J.T. Byrne of Lowry, Virginia are widely renowned for their Plott hound/point/setter line of turkey dogs. Outdoor Life’s Gerry Bethge is a longtime practitioner, as am I.
Some weak-nosed dogs may find turkey flocks visually, setting after them in open fields or big woods situations. Other canines locate flocks both by sight, and with their solid bird-scenting abilities. Other hyper-aware turkey dogs with superior noses put visual evidence and location sense together in a way that tells them wild turkeys are just over the next ridge. This quality of terrain recognition is hard to beat. All types can help your hunts though. I’ve owned all three.
No matter how able your hunting dog is, if you’re a fall turkey enthusiast—and assuming the tactic is legal in your state—you can use that canine to help you find and flush flocks. Bottom line, your dog (whatever the breed) needs an inborn, instinctive “prey drive” so you can build on it.—Steve Hickoff