Boykin spaniels serve dual purpose
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Turkey hunter Al Szymanski sits with his 'turkey dog,' a Boykin spaniel named Hunter, after a successful hunt in New York State a few weeks ago. The second turkey belongs to Szymanski's hunting partner, Jack Swiggart, of Ford City. Szymanski has harvested more than 90 wild turkey in 14 states.
MANOR -- They make good pets and great house dogs, they love to retrieve ducks, they have a great nose for sniffing out pheasants, grouse or quail, and according to Al Szymanski of Manor Township, Boykin spaniels make great turkey dogs as well.
When it comes to hunting wild turkey, Szymanski knows what he's talking about. He's taken more than 90 of the big birds in 14 states. In 2007, the Pennsylvania Game Commission permitted the use of dogs to hunt fall turkey. That decision prompted Szymanski to do something he's wanted to do for the past several years -- get a Boykin Spaniel.
He said Boykins were developed by South Carolina hunters during the early 1900s to provide the "...ideal dog," for hunting ducks and wild turkeys in the Wateree River Swamp. They needed a small rugged dog, compactly built for boat travel and able to retrieve on land and water. Heavier dogs were a drawback in watercraft already loaded with men, guns, provisions and other gear. Boykin males typically weigh about 40 pounds at most, and females less.
Szymanski said he got his dog, aptly named Hunter, last Thanksgiving, from Nicholson Run Kennels, owned by Randy Good.
"Hunter was only four months old when I got him" Szymanski said. "We spent a lot of time together, just bonding. I think that's important. I learned that these dogs are not only great hunters on land and great retrievers in water, but they are wonderful house dogs as well.
"I spent the next several months teaching Hunter basic commands. He was a quick learner. When it came time for training, I trained him on turkey only. The breed is close ranging and will hunt all game birds and will retrieve ducks. But I wanted a turkey dog. It looks as if I have one."
Szymanski said Boykin spaniels are trained to hunt turkey by searching for the fresh scent of birds that recently passed over a certain area. The dog goes to work by following the scent. When it locates a flock, it rushes headlong into its midst, barking loudly.
"This, of course, breaks up the flock," Szymanski said. "They scatter in all different directions. So then the trick is to call them back, but you have to be patient."
He said that once a flock is "busted up," he will position himself near the point the flock was scattered and conceal himself in camouflage.
"Boykins are usually a dark brown color and mostly don't need camouflaged," Szymanski said. "But for safety reasons, I have Hunter wear an orange vest. So, I have him crawl into a camouflage pattern collapsable bag made just for him. He will lay very still by my side and won't move or bark."
Szymanski said it's important to have patience during this phase of the hunt.
"When a flock is busted up, I always wait until I hear a bird calling to the others before I call. Gobblers are not as vocal as younger birds," he said. "When a flock goes up, you should try to note its composition. Try to see if it's composed mostly of hens, younger birds, or older gobblers.
"The composition will determine what type of calling you do. For example, 'ki-ki' runs are good for younger birds, 'yelps' will call back gobblers or hens, and the 'lost call' works for mixed flocks. If you don't know these calls, there are a number of good teaching tapes on the market. Good calls are reasonably priced."
Szymanski said that no matter what part of the country one may hunt, turkey behavior and response to calls is basically the same. He said that during the fall season, it is important to do a lot of scouting. Find out where the birds are.
"When you call a bird into range and shoot it, the Boykin will run to it and mark its location. That's important because a lot of birds shot by hunters are lost because they were not hit solidly and went down but then got up and ran, only to die in another location. They won't go far, but they can be very difficult to find in any sort of thick cover. But they can't hid their scent from a good dog, and that's where dogs like Hunter shine."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penn State coach fires offensive coordinator
- PSU Fayette men’s basketball team loses to Lock Haven
- High school notebook: TJ, Clairton head into enemy territory
- Norway mulls using medical heroin to prevent deadly overdoses
- Police charge New Florence man in St. Clair officer’s killing
- Fatal HOV lane crash in Ross under investigation
- Soutmoreland girls basketball team primary goal: playoffs
- Penguins centermen enjoying better faceoff success rate
- New Kensington man killed in North Buffalo crash
- Israel suspends contact with some EU groups over labels on exports
- Iran gives investors glimpse of $30 billion in oil deals to come