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I’m obsessed with my trail cameras and run them year ‘round, catching everything from rutting bucks to sneaky coyotes and hungry bears. Turkey season keeps me busy in the spring and I buy tags for as many weeks as possible to keep an excuse to be out there! My favorite part of the hunt is calling, and I enjoy calling turkey in the spring, coyotes in the winter, and deer in the rut. I recently started a trapline and have snares set for fox and coyotes.

Turkey Dogging with Vic

Last October, I had a prime opportunity to experience fall turkey hunting in a way I had never done before.  I was introduced to Vic, a young male Vizsla and well-known turkey dog in Western Wisconsin.  Vic was full of energy and seemed to be able to smell the turkeys while still in the vehicle.  His owner, who writes the online blog, Charlie Elk (www.charlieelk.com), brought Vic to meet me in my favorite woods in Dunn County, a special place where turkeys have been harvested for years.  This was my first time hunting turkeys with a dog in the fall, so I was not sure of the techniques. 

We began by entering the woods and letting Vic run off the leash.  Like any dog, Vic took a minute to mark his territory, sniff out the surroundings, but then went to work as we crossed a dusting area that had been used recently by a flock.  Vic went into hunting mode and the sound of his nose at work could be heard from yards away.  He scoured every hillside, creek bed, and blowdown that we crossed.  It was an interesting style of hunting; myself and Vic’s owner walked leisurely, enjoying normal conversation and moving freely.  It was unlike any other hunt I had been on. 

TurkeysAs we walked through the peaceful autumn woods, it was explained to me that when Vic encounters a flock, he will “scatter them”, or run at them to break them up, causing birds to fly off in all directions, creating chaos.  As any avid outdoorsman knows, birds are very social and when separated, will call incessantly to find each other until the flock is reunited.  This was the concept that was used as Vic’s owner had a handmade wingbone call hanging from his neck.  When Vic scatters the birds, the hunters pick a tree and sit quiet and motionless.  Vic is trained to immediately run back to his owner after the flock is scattered, and sits on the opposite side, putting the hunter between him and the bird.  As we crossed the swamp, Vic stopped in his tracks and pointed to a dogwood bush.  Vic’s owner was aware of that behavior and said it was most likely a grouse or pheasant, as he has Vic trained on both.  Sure enough, a nervous male grouse began to pout and ran out of the bush, but never flushed.  It would have been an easy meal, and Vic looked at me like he was disappointed that I didn’t take the shot, but he understood that we were after another bird species and that shooting a grouse at 10 yards with 12 gauge turkey loads would have ruined the meat anyhow. 

Vic_and_SkyeAfter covering approximately 500 yards in a counterclockwise motion, it was time to give Vic a break, as the temperature was abnormally high and that dog was working his tail off to get on birds for us.  We had been crossing a lot of fresh sign, including molting feathers, dust bowls, leaves scratched up and fresh droppings.  We were just entering the “Oak Island” area of the woods when we heard a thundering noise of commotion-Vic had flushed a flock!  Vic’s owner directed me to sit at the base of a tree and he made a quick whistle, telling Vic to retreat.  Vic came running out of nowhere back to his owner and lay down beside him.  What I witnessed next was unbelievable.  Vic, the energetic puppy that seemed to drive himself crazy searching for turkeys, lay motionless next to his owner.  I tried to watch diligently for a blink, a twitch of the ear, anything, but that dog looked like a statue.  Vic’s owner began making putt-purrs and yelps, in an attempt to pull the majority of the birds back toward my area for a shot.  A few hens responded, seemingly coming closer (in Wisconsin, it’s legal to shoot a hen in the fall), but then a handful of birds from the flock began vocalizing stronger and those hens went right around the spot we were hunkered down in.  The whole time, even with live turkeys calling within 50 yards of him, Vic stayed still, quiet, and blended right into the red and brown leaves on the forest floor. 

Wingbone callWe could have chosen to chase that flock around all afternoon, but with the high temperatures and humidity, and my desire to bow hunt that woods in a few hours, we decided to call it quits and head back to the truck.  We did not connect on birds that morning, but I was introduced to a new sport that grabbed me by the reins and wouldn’t let go.  I have always enjoyed and respected hunting various game with dogs, including rabbits with beagles, and now had a great understanding of the relationship between a hunter and his dog.  Vic’s owner gifted me the same wingbone call we used on that hunt, and I grabbed a quick photo opp with the famous turkey dog who showed me lots of love, even though I didn’t harvest a trophy for all his hard work.

Note: You can meet Vic & Charlie Elk plus Mossy Oak Pro Staff member Skye Goode at the 2014 Talk’n Turkey Expo, March 22, 2014 at the Howards Grove High School, Howards Grove, WI.  Hours are 9am-6pm. Find out more here: http://talknturkeyexpo.webs.com/