The National Bird Dog Museum
As I write this, it is only a few days away from the opening of bird season in Wisconsin. If you want to see a tribute to our wonderful breed, then you must make a visit to The National Bird Dog Museum. It truly makes you proud to be owned by an English Setter.
I have had the opportunity to visit The National Bird Dog (burdawg) Museum, in Grand Junction, Tennessee, on more than a couple of occasions. I grew up ‘down home, not a fur piece down the road’ from the museum. I hunted behind burdawgs, Setters. My first dog was a Setter; an English Setter named Lady. Setters were English Setters. If there were any other setters, then you called them by their names, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters or Red & White Setters. Today at the National Bird Dog Museum, when they refer to a Setter then they are only talking about an English Setter. We hunted the bottoms of the Wolf River, which borders the Ames Plantation (this where they run the National’s in November every year). I’m sure that I took my limit off the Ames Plantation more than once but who knows because if it wasn’t fenced and it was fair game. Those were the “good ol’days”. How I long once again, to put on my boots, get my gun from the corner and walkout the backdoor to ‘let the dogs out’ and have 18,000 acres to run dogs before school. It still is a long way from Wisconsin to Tennessee & Mississippi to run dogs for the weekend. Enough! Quit wandering and wondering!
West Tennessee has a rich bird dog heritage. Geographically, the area is recognized as the birthplace of America’s pointing dog field trials and as the home of the century-old National Field Trial Championships. They were first held at the Ames Plantation and today are still held at the Ames Plantation.
This is a first class museum operating on donations from sporting dog people. Caption Lockee, retired navy, gives you a personal tour through the museum. The museum has portraits and pictures of every national winner since the first national bird dog trials. The first national winner was an English Setter. There have been numerous other times an English Setter has won since 1895. The sire (Count Noble) of the first national winner has been preserved and is on display in the museum in a natural mural setting with Pennsylvania Quail. Count Noble was on display for 30 or 40 years at Carnegie Hall. When the display was dismantled, it was donated to the museum. Count Noble lived from 1879-1890 and was campaigned as the top sporting dog (field trialing) during his era.
The museum is a three-part tour and is still growing. It highlights each national winner with a write-up and portrait. Then, it has a Hall-of-Fame of sporting dog people (Capt. Lockee is an inductee) included are a breed section and a trophy/gunroom (not all-sporting dog breeds are recognized). It has an art exhibition room; Eldridge Hardie just finished showing, A Celebration of the Sporting Tradition. Originals from private collections are on sale to the public with the proceeds going to the foundation. On either side of the Art
Exhibition Room is an Education Room of all game animals native to North America in natural habitat murals. This will be used to help educate and preserve the memories of hunting in North America with of course the emphasis placed on birdhunting. On the other side is a full library of sporting dogs with an up-to-date periodical section for bird hunting periodicals.
Outside the museum is a walking area with bronze statues of hunters, their dogs and game birds depicting hunts in natural settings with a restored Model A Dogtruck. It also has a demonstration yard which is used for seminars held at the museum. Birddog trainers like Sherry R. Elbert or Delmar Smith. Sherry was sponsored by Wilson D’s (formally Dunn’s Catalog Sporting Goods-Wilson Dunn started years ago). His original store and now his present store is located in the old schoolhouse behind the museum (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you like the audio portion of the tour at the museum by Capt. Lockee, then you will love talking with and taking another tour through the schoolhouse store with 82 year old Wilson Dunn. Wilson had one national winner and bred two other winners, he’ll tell ya, and I won’t spoil it. You will hear all about it, you don’t have a choice. He might even offer to take you on a tour of the Ames Plantation, where the National Bird Dog Nationals are held each year or take a ride through the plantation yourself. The plantation is a working agri-site of the University of Tennessee.
The museum is located 50 miles east of Memphis on Hwy. 57, 30 miles south of Jackson or about 120 miles west of Nashville, Tennessee. Admission is by donations only. It is a class operation! I believe, it is a true representation of birdhunters. I was raised bird hunting. Every hunt I ever went on, including today, is always a true memorable time with class people. Bird hunting is a gentleman’s sport. The museum is a wonderful representation of us.
My Dad, uncle and cousin went with me and it was fun to sit in the Trophy room and the Game room and listen to them reminisce about hunting trips. If you do not have any stories to tell, believe me, Capt. Lockee has plenty he will share. You will like him. He loves being the tour guide and YES; he does know what he is talking about. The navy was his job, birdhunting and campaigning fieldtrial dogs was his life. Birddog Foundation, Inc. 901-764-2058 or www.fielddog.com.
Edward M. Johnson