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Why Do My Bird Dogs Like Turtles?

  • Blog Post by: Bob St. Pierre
  • May 30, 2013 - 10:45 AM

While running my shorthairs earlier this week, we encountered a large snapping turtle.  The big “hen” snapper had left the confines of a nearby wetland to (I presume) lay her eggs.  My older GSP, “Trammell,” caught a whiff of the turtle and b-lined for the reptile.  After a moment’s wavering point, Trammell went in for a closer look only to be nipped in the snout with a glancing blow from the turtle’s pliers-like jaw.  Seconds later, in spite of my scolding, my younger shorthair, “Izzy,” mimicked Trammell’s path.  Fortunately, the younger pup was quicker and avoided the snapper’s jowls.

Box turtle
This flush could take a while. Pheasants Forever File Photo

This encounter immediately had me recalling a visit to the Fort Pierre Grasslands of South Dakota in which Trammell locked up solid on point . . . of a box turtle hidden in a stand of beautiful bluestem.

My next thought was to Bob West, Purina’s bird dog expert who I often call upon when my own bird dogs leave me perplexed.  “Do you have any idea why pointers have a propensity to lock up on turtles?” I questioned.

“I have no idea,” West responded with a chuckle.  “I can remember a particular field trial many years ago where I lost track of points after dozens of pointers locked on box turtles that day.  There is just something about the scent of turtles that makes a pointer lock up.”

Bob and I discussed the fact most turtles in the north (painted and snapping) spend almost all of their life in the water, so turtle points are less common compared to areas further south with lots of terrestrial box turtles.  Either way, West went on to assure me, “There is nothing wrong with your dog, it’s very common for pointing dogs to lock up on a turtle.”

How common is it?  Has your bird dog ever pointed a turtle?

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

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