“There’s hardly been a day in my life I’ve not owned a bird dog,” says 100-years-old Garrett Lockee while telling about chasing wild quail for most of his life. The National Bird Dog Museum in Grand Junction, Tennessee, became his tribute to yesteryear bird hunters and the beloved bird dogs that define a bygone American era. Describing in colorful detail stories about his family, fondest memories and favorite dogs, Lockee characterizes perfectly the heyday of American quail hunting, how and why times have since changed.



The National Bird Dog Museum is dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of bird dog, field trial, and hunting traditions.

National Bird Dog Museum https://www.birddogfoundation.com


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A Visit to the National Bird Dog Museum & an Era of History Long Past

Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, today I am in Grand Junction, Tennessee at the National Bird Dog Museum. I was blown away when I walked in, 23,000 square foot of bird dog history and culture and stories that represent an era that may be bygone, especially down here in the Deep South, when we start talking Bobwhite quail, but maybe not. Joining me first up today is Mr. Gary Lockee, 100 years young. Gary, we were cutting up before the podcast, you were born before prohibition. You were born before a lot of stuff. How are you doing today?

Garrett Lockee: But part of the country I lived in, I really didn’t know that, don’t you tell anybody this, but I enjoyed Mr. Roosevelt for sort of bringing this out because I knew a lot about the depression and it wasn’t good. And I’ve had a few days that I was hungry.

Ramsey Russell: Yes, sir.

Garrett Lockee: But we did have a small farm in North Carolina, we grew tobacco, we grew cotton and we grew corn and hay for two mules. And I was allowed to ply one of those mules when I was 7 or 8 years old. And one of the cute stories that I like to hear, we had our own farm and we leased 4 or 5 acres from a neighbor and this neighbor drove by the field one day the corn was tossed up and he went to the landlord and says, I think there’s a mule loose down there in your field. And this old country boy says, if you’d have waited long enough, you’d have seen the little boy behind that plow. So that’s one of the tales that he liked to tell when I was a kid, because my father rigged up a plow just for a little guy. So instead of having them like a grown up, I had them like a young scout, 8 or 9 years old. But I did a lot of that. But now, if you really want to know some things about what I did in my early life, did you ever heard tell a sucker in tobacco? Okay, when you raised that flu cured tobacco back in my day, you had to sucker it, you had to top it to get it to come to quality to sell to the cigarette making people. And then if you had a certain quality that you made chewing tobacco and I think it’s gold now and things like that has all come from that kind of, for me. And if you never pick cotton by hand, you have never had a rough time in your life. Because I tried to get up to 200lbs a day and I even went out early the morning and tried to pick it when the dew was on it, so I’d get a little plus on the weight and I even failed at that.

Ramsey Russell: Times were different back then, weren’t they?

Garrett Lockee: Yes.

Ramsey Russell: When did you start quail hunting?

Garrett Lockee: Well, I started going with my dad when I was 6 years old, but when I became 12 years old, I was allowed my first gun.

Ramsey Russell: What gun was that?

Garrett Lockee: That was a 410 side by side, which is the worst gun you can ever give a starting hunter.

Ramsey Russell: Why?

Garrett Lockee: Well, you don’t have many pellets in the shell and the thing kicks you a little bit regardless of whether it’s a 410 or 20. But man, when I graduated to be about 12 or 13, I could put them quail on the ground because I go out with my dad and we had a good time quail hunting.

Ramsey Russell: With side by side 410. Who made that 410?

Garrett Lockee: I believe it was an L.C Smith, believe it or not.

Ramsey Russell: Really? You don’t still have that gun?

Garrett Lockee: No. But if you’ll go right back there, I’ve got my grandfather’s gun, I got my father’s gun and I’ve got the first gun I ever bought, sweet 16 browning. And believe it or not, if you would lock me up in a room, I could hit one of the walls. But it’s just certain guns that don’t fit just right and you just as well not go hunting if you have that gun. But now I could steal my dad’s gun when he wasn’t around and that thing just apparently fitted like a glove. And I could knock quail down with that thing. But then when I got a little older, I started getting those Remington 1100 Lightweights. And I don’t want to be too boastful or something, but I killed 5 birds on the rise one time. But now the birds accommodated me very good. Like they got up way to my right and flew across me to the woods and I had 5 shells in that gun, so you do just click them off one at a time and I put 5 quail in my hunting bag.

Best Hunting Gauges

My favorite gun was my dad’s 16 gauge.

Ramsey Russell: What gauge was your favorite over the years to hunt with? You started with a 410.

Garrett Lockee: I didn’t use that 410 very long. My favorite gun was my dad’s 16 gauge.

Ramsey Russell: 16.

Garrett Lockee: And then when I got able to say by several guns, I really like those Remington 1100, 20 gauge. And I hunted quail with those guns, I hunted chucker with those guns, I hunted Bobwhite, even pheasants. Nearly everything I shot was with a 20 gauge, Remington 1100.

Ramsey Russell: 20 gauge, that was your caliber of choice was a 20 gauge. It’s a light gun, you can carry it.

Garrett Lockee: Correct.

North Carolina Waterfowl Hunting Traditions

He deer hunted a lot, he turkey hunted a lot, he shot doves and he shot quail.

Ramsey Russell: Talk about growing up there in North Carolina. Did your people hunt?

Garrett Lockee: Well, let’s just see, about 1930, we had plenty of quail. In other words, it was farming country and nearly everybody in that part of the country had a small garden and around their back door, some in their house, there was a covey of quail. And my dad, of course knew everybody around and he knew exactly where to go and in about 4 hours on the ground, he’d have a limited birds. In other words, it was an enjoyable situation because you invariably knew that you had enough birds to say, I don’t like to talk like my brother, he always figured like, you need to get a limit. But it wasn’t too difficult to get a limit.

Ramsey Russell: What was the limit?

Garrett Lockee: It was 10 at one time and then dropped down to 8.

Ramsey Russell: I’ll be darn. Did everybody in the community hunt? That seemed like everybody back in those days probably quail hunted?

Garrett Lockee: Well, nearly everybody had a bird dog and most of the people had one bird dog, but we had 3 bird dogs and we thought we were really something. And one of the best examples I ever had about using 3 dogs, we had a dog named Buckeye that he was a quail seeking rascal and you didn’t find birds with him on the ground, you just will pick up your shotgun in your car and go home. But we had another great big setter named Rex and after he was getting a bit old age, my dad told my mother, says, now you lock up Rex, because I just want to go with 2 other dogs. Well, she locked up old Rex and about an hour later, she turned him loose and he trailed my daddy for 2 or 3 miles and showed up where we were bird hunting. I mean, you just wouldn’t believe the nose on a bird dog and say, how in the world did they find those birds? They were born that way.

Ramsey Russell: They were born that way, weren’t they? You all raised your own bird dogs?

Garrett Lockee: Well, yeah, we did. And occasionally my grandfather turned out to be a southern Baptist preacher and he’s preached all over the country, believe it or not, sort of like the traveling evangelist. And invariably he found somebody that had a litter of puppies and they would give him a puppy. And then at the time he was doing all that traveling, those dogs always ended up my dad’s kennel.

Ramsey Russell: I’m assuming your granddad hunted birds, too.

Garrett Lockee: Oh, man alive. Every time he showed up at our house, he had boots ready, gun ready, shells ready and off he’s gone. He loved to hunt, anything. He deer hunted a lot, he turkey hunted a lot, he shot doves and he shot quail.

Ramsey Russell: You were saying you went to World War II, so how old would you have been when World War II hit?

Garrett Lockee: Say again?

Ramsey Russell: How old would you have been during World War II?

Garrett Lockee: Well, I got commissioned at 20 years of age and I went to Gunnery School and went to Fire Control School and went as a very junior offson and destroyer that was being commissioned in Seattle, Washington. So as soon as that ship got commissioned, we were off to a short period of time for training and then we were off to the Pacific and we got in the tail end of the Marshall Islands, which you don’t even know where it is, do you?

Ramsey Russell: I do know where it is.

Garrett Lockee: Okay. But we travel with what we call the service group, the tankers and ammunition ships, provide escorts for them, that’s the job of the destroyer. Then soon after, parent of the powers that be says, I think that ship’s ready to go to the big leagues. So we started escorting as big carriers all over Pacific and the Philippines, Formosa, Carolyn Islands, we even went close to Japan one time and we controlled some aircraft flying over Japan. I was talking about 25 miles off the coast. But that was a long time, son.

Ramsey Russell: So born and raised in North Carolina, plow mules at age 7, quail hunting with your daddy and your granddaddy, never not had a bird dog in your life. World War II ends, you come back where? North Carolina?

Garrett Lockee: Well, my dad still was living in North Carolina. And of course, now during the war on a ship, there’s a very few quail out in that ocean. But every time I got a chance, I went bird hunting. So I missed a couple of years. But after that and I spent my 30 years in the navy, I made up for lost time because I almost went hunting every day.

Ramsey Russell: I bet you did. In North Carolina?

Garrett Lockee: North Carolina and South Carolina.

How Has Quail Hunting Changed?

Ramsey Russell: Yes, sir. How did quail hunting change? What was quail hunting like before World War II and what was it like after World War II? And I asked that question because it was around World War II or after World War II that the middle class began to emerge in America.

Garrett Lockee: Well, I think you need to think of what happened. And if you ask, I believe 10 people what happened, every one of them can give you a story. I can give you a story, I’m sure Dr. Wayne can give you a story and if this guy was my left bird hunted, he can give you a story. And some people will tell you the farming changes in farming had a lot to do with it. Now, I know that positively, because my dad had retired and we come back from the war and we’re out in Nebraska, pheasant hunting and we had these shelter belts out there, long shelter belts and our dad being pretty old and we were young and we could walk 10 miles and 20 miles a day, but we put him at the end of one of those shelter belts and boy, before we could go around to the other end and drive through that shelter belt, we heard him shooting. And I said, what in the world is he doing? He shot himself or what in the world goes on? Well, lo and behold, when we got down there, a bunch of quails out there, so he’s shooting quail and we were pheasant hunting. So those shelter belts disappeared in Nebraska. The woods in North Carolina, where we used to hunt a lot, there are shopping centers now. So the habitat that quail liked to live in, a tremendous amount of it was removed or changed. And that started right after World War II and just kept going and kept going, fewer and fewer birds. And now you talk to Bob Whaley, who developed a breed of dogs, he would tell you that certain parts of the country, the rain fell on certain parts of the habitat and birds could not live in that environment. Now, is that correct or not correct? I don’t know. The shelter belts being removed. Is that the only reason? I don’t know.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve heard a lot of ideas about what may have happened to quail in the Deep South and I tend to think, it’s like, if you look at it historically, before European settlement, most of the pines we see from central Mississippi all the way down to Florida were longleaf pines, which evolved –

Garrett Lockee: We had that in North Carolina –

Ramsey Russell: And that evolved in fire.

Garrett Lockee: It had a lot of wiregrass, a lot of small farms and around those small farms, there was one or two covets. And if you know where to go, you go from one small farm to another neighbor’s house and another neighbor’s house and so forth. And it’s like I just said a little earlier, that’s a covey of quail around the garden of nearly all those houses.

Ramsey Russell: If you think about historically, back when there was wildfire, back before Smokey the bear, those long leaf communities would burn, you had a lot of grass underneath it. Quail aren’t scratchers like a pheasant, they’re peckers. They just walk along and peck on the open dirt. And then as we began to clear cut, there was a massive boom back in the massive, where all the first cut, all the timber was cut in the Deep South and we had maybe some fires going on, we had dirty farming mules and plows. So, even if I had my crop out there, I had weeds, I had stuff that the quail could walk along and peck. And then as we become more civilized, wildfire became suppressed, the forest got real dense, now we’ve got roundup agriculture and it’s changed a lot. Some people hypothesize, some people just speculate that maybe there was a 50 year period of time in American history that because of the changes on the landscape opening up and everything else, that there was this massive boom in Bobwhite quail that just was kind of even unnatural in and of itself, and that maybe now it’s maybe more normal, I don’t know.

Garrett Lockee: Well, one thing that I do know about is when you’re raising cotton, you’ve always got, what is it? Bow weevils.

Ramsey Russell: Bow weevils.

Garrett Lockee: All right. Now, when the farmers started using herbicides and stuff to kill the bow weevils, they killed a lot of the areas where the birds ate, because we used to find birds in cornfields, we used to find birds in cotton fields, we used to find birds around the edges of haystack. And I want to tell you one thing about how smart I am, and I don’t want you to overdo this, but we were bird hunt with my dad one day and like, we’re going in this direction and the wind is doing like this, and I told my dad, I smell a covey of birds and he looked at me and says, what kind of nut are you? So I says, okay, let’s go this way for about 50 yards and we go that way for about 50 yards and we found the edge of a field that had soil and we found where those birds had been wallowing, I call them dussing in this field. So I felt pretty good that I gave my dad a lesson on how bird dogs smell birds and how I smell birds.

A Tribute to Quail Hunting

On one hand, it’s a tribute to quail hunting, but really it’s a tribute to the dogs, because quail hunting is all about the dogs.

Ramsey Russell: Speaking of bird dogs, you never had a day in your life you didn’t have a bird dog around the house. What was the best bird dog or your favorite bird dog you’ve ever had?

Garrett Lockee: Well, I think that Buckeye dog I talked about, but now, before Buckeye’s time, we had a dog and I think we called him Jasper. And the next thing I knew about him, we went by haystack because we had a lot of hay feeding horses and mules and what have you and old Jasper was laying there dead. And as kids, when your parents die and when your pet dog dies, you always cry. So I didn’t hesitate to cry when we went back and saw that dog.

Ramsey Russell: I still cry when a dog dies.

Garrett Lockee: Okay. All right. Then at the same time, we had a dog named Rex, he was a big setter, the Jasper dog was a pointer and we had another setter called Dan. And to make me happy, I guess my dad let me claim Dan. But he took Dan hunting all the time he wanted. But then we had a guy come to our place one time and he was one of the guys selling mules and cows to the farmers, when you need a mule died, you need to replace it. So he says to my dad, he says, we got a bird dog that lives around where we kill all of our cows, dressing your beef and so forth and so on. And he asked my daddy, do you want to buy him? He wasn’t giving anything away. And my dad says, bring him here and let me see him. And he happened to be a great big pointer that weighed 80lbs, believe it or not. We call him old Joe. Now, that rascal, you hardly ever saw him in the woods and we probably spent more time looking for him than we were looking for birds. I mean, he was just like us field trial guys would say today, man was that a hunting old age dog? But a lot of times you would find him and he’d been there for 30 minutes or 45 minutes and he was lying on the ground, but you could tell he had pointed. And we showed up, he’d got up on his feet and axe, the trailed a covey of birds 25 or 30 yards before we could get him to fly, in other words. But a lot of times he hunted a little closer, but I remember old Joe, he was some old age dog and found a lot of birds for us.

Ramsey Russell: But pointers are known for running wide, for running big. Like we’re here in the museum and I see a lot of horse saddles, you don’t really chase behind setters on horse saddles, do you? Like you would have to cover that big country with pointers.

Garrett Lockee: Well, we hunted walking. You talk about riding or something like that. I never knew you could ride the vehicle till I was 45 years old. But now, like you go down in south Texas, we had a Ford pickup rigged for bird hunting and we would go with this vehicle just all over Texas. And I remember one day and I didn’t expect anybody to believe it, I don’t expect you to believe it, but we found 30 covers of birds in about 4 hours. But now that was Texas. Now, Texas has been a place where you’ve had a lot of birds and you’ve had a few birds. Now, Texas didn’t have necessarily the same problem I had when I was a kid, caused us ranches back in Texas, our big ranches and there was birds like the king ranch, we hunted on the king ranch. You were in birds nearly all the time. You might get a covey up and go into the single birds, you flush another covey. And my wife, now, she turned out to be a bird hunter, too and she loved setters. I gave her a setter before we got married, but after we got married and was going to Texas every year for 20 years, she got a setter bitch out of some good breeding and she felt like she should see her dog all the time. I said, now you turn a puppy loose and let the puppy do what it wants to and you go bird hunting. But she says, well, now, where’s my dog? She almost cried because she couldn’t see her dog, lo and behold, I says, you see that covey of birds flying over there? She was chasing them. And man alive, she turned out to be a bird finder. Hey, she stopped hunting, she just went to the birds. Stopped hunting, just went to the birds. Now, she turned out to be a field trial dog and we got her through the derby year and she won quite a bit. But now she did not have the style and the class you needed for field trials.

Ramsey Russell: Talk a little bit about that, because here we are at the National Bird Dog Museum. On one hand, it’s a tribute to quail hunting, but really it’s a tribute to the dogs, because quail hunting is all about the dogs.

Garrett Lockee: Correct.

Ramsey Russell: All about the dogs. I’ve been to parts of the world, Mr. Gary Mexico I’m thinking of where we go hunt quail, they ain’t got no dogs and I’m like, I ain’t doing, I said, I ain’t going to just walk along till a quail gets up and flies, that ain’t quail hunting. I want to walk in on point. That’s quail hunting.

Garrett Lockee: We soon got where if the birds weren’t pointed, we didn’t shoot them.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Garrett Lockee: Yeah, that’s right. In other words, there was no point in not working your dog and enjoying your dog. Now, like in Texas, we would put down one dog at a time and I had a dog named Jill, all white pointers, she came out of some of the Ferrell Miller’s blood, Miller’s dog. And if you put her down and didn’t have some birds in about 10 minutes, you just, well, pick up all your dogs and go home.

Ramsey Russell: Ain’t no birds.

Garrett Lockee: The birds weren’t moving. There was birds there, but if they’re not moving, a dog has trouble finding them.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Garrett Lockee: So she was one of the joys of my whole life. But now she didn’t particularly like me, but she hunted for me.

Ramsey Russell: Why didn’t she like you?

Garrett Lockee: Well, she just wanted to go bird hunting. And when you shot a bird down, she’d go pick it up, but she didn’t want to bring it to you, she’d drop it, she wanted to go find another convey. I mean, she was a miracle dog and I’ve had maybe 3 or 4 miracle dogs, but when you have one that is just looking for birds all the time, hey, it sort of impresses you.

Ramsey Russell: Well, when did you get into the field trial and the campaigning and things of that nature in your career?

Garrett Lockee: Well, I went to my first field trial and I think in 1946 or 1947, but now I didn’t have a dog, did I just go to field trials and watch things go. But then after I had little –

Ramsey Russell: You had a hunting dog, you just didn’t have a field trial dog, is that right?

Garrett Lockee: I didn’t do, I just had hunting dogs. I did not have a field trial, but I went to a lot of trials.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Garrett Lockee: But now, somewhere along the line, maybe 20 years later, I got a dog that turned out to be a champion and she’s on the wall back there and she ended up 11 times champion. That time there wasn’t a dog that I was aware of in the whole country that had 11 championships. Now, Ferrell Miller came along later and had a dog, I think had something over 20 championships. But now, you see, he was an average field trial guy and he raised 7 or 8 litters of puppy and the only ones that feuded, he suited me, were the ones he messed with, and he ended up with a dog, Miller’s true grid or something like that, I don’t remember the exact name, that had 20 championships. Now, he enjoyed dogs, he enjoyed hunting, he enjoyed beating you and he did. But now this dog that I had, it’s 11 times champion.

Ramsey Russell: What was his name?

Garrett Lockee: Jerry’s runaway bandit. Now, not Gary’s runaway Bandit, Jerry’s runaway bandit. Now, she was a champion on chuckers out because I lived some time in California. She was a champion on Bobwhite quail, she was a champion on pheasants and it just seemed like she was a champion on those California Valley quail, which they run in big coveys.

Ramsey Russell: They like to run.

Garrett Lockee: Oh, yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Those western quail like to.

Garrett Lockee: Right. But now, she was a dog that if you got on a horse, she says, we’re going field trialing, if you were on your feet, she started bird hunting.

Ramsey Russell: She knew both games. She played two different games.

Garrett Lockee: Dogs are like some people now, not me, but she was highly intelligent and she knew what to do and she did it.

What Makes A Good Field Trial Dog Versus What Makes A Good Hunting Dog?

it takes a smarter and better dog to pin down wild birds than it does liberated birds. 

Ramsey Russell: I was going to ask you a question. For guys like myself that aren’t involved with bird dog field trials, what’s the distinction in a dog like Jill, it’s a great bird dog, but wasn’t a good field trial dog. What makes a good field trial dog versus what makes a good hunting dog?

Garrett Lockee: Well, if you can find a dog that runs big enough and that you can train it where it’s steady to winging shots on nearly all conditions and there’s a lot of people can sense those dogs as puppies. Now, if you look at Mr. Hoyle Eaton, Farrell Miller, several of the dog trainers that are long gone, they knew how to pick out a puppy. Just Mr. Farrell Miller, for example, like he might have 20 puppies at one time and he’d get on his horse and start riding with those puppies. And the ones that stayed with him, they became the dogs that he trained, field trial and won with. I didn’t have that kind of skill, but now I’ve had, I guess, 3 or 4 dogs that were champions, but I think maybe only one of them that I brought it to maturity or something like that. But you get some of these old timers that did nothing but trained field trial and trained dogs. They were magicians, in other words, when it comes to really training. And of course, we probably got two types, well, I should say several types of dogs. We got the all age dog, which you expect to run out of existence. You’ve got shooting dogs, which Bob Whaley says, these are magnificent dogs for the gentleman hunter. And it was sort of like talking about the gentleman hunter that were walking and bird hunting. Now, you still got some other types of dogs. You got the people that train hunting and shoot to retrieve dog. You got some people, the national bird hunters and some of the people that you hunt in just a field, in other words, a large field. And you go in there and most of them are liberated birds, of course. And we had this one old guy says, I said to him, he’s a shoot to retrieve guy. I said, how in the world do you judge those dogs? And he says, when you count them in the bag. In other words, if you had 10 birds in your hunting bag and I only had 7, who do you think won the trial? The guy with the most birds.

Ramsey Russell: Times have changed, quail hunting has changed because of habitat change that we’re talking about. We don’t have the prolific conveys in the Deep South, we used to. Therefore, the bird dogs have changed, the hunters have changed, the liberated birds have become a big deal. And I’ve known people to liberate them early in the year and try to let them naturalize some operations, just go and put them out and go hunt them immediately. And I think it’s affected. I mean, the dog smells it, the dog points it. But my experience, very limited compared to yours, Mr. Gary, is that it takes a smarter and better dog to pin down wild birds than it does liberated birds. Those liberated birds just sit there.

Garrett Lockee: Well, I had a dog that would actually blink liberated birds, but loved wild birds.

Ramsey Russell: Like, what do you mean? Describe that. Blink. What do you mean? He would blink liberated birds.

Garrett Lockee: In other words, he was ignoring them.

Ramsey Russell: He’d ignore them.

Garrett Lockee: In other words, you smell them and you’d see him sniff and then run off. You know what blinking is?

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Garrett Lockee: So this particular dog actually was one of the LU bred dogs. And this dog would run, you’d liberate a lot of birds for training purposes. And man, she knew somebody had touched that bird and she had nothing to do with it. She was off looking something. So you got all kinds of dogs that hunt all kinds of birds if given the opportunity. Now, like the dog that, you’ve got a picture of her back here, like I just said a while ago, pheasants, quail, chuckers. I’m going to talk about Bobwhite’s and California Valley quail. Now, why was she so good? She was given the opportunity, in other words, to hunt. In other words, she adapted to what you were hunting. If you were in quail habitat, she’s hunting quail for you. If you’re hunting pheasants, she’s hunting pheasants for you. But now those chuckers, have you ever hunted chuckers?

Ramsey Russell: I have not.

Garrett Lockee: Well, that’s a bird that hangs out in a hilly area, mountain areas and so forth. We’ve had her run a half a mile in front of us looking for chuckers and she’d point those things and hold them until you found them. If you took her out here, she ran into national championship here 4 times, but now, 2 years she had a good performance but didn’t win, but she had a good performance. And 2 years, I guess we picked her up because sitting conditions were not good and she was having trouble finding birds, so we picked her up. But she was a bird finding fool and I mean, you just got a thrill out her. And then when she pointed, that tail was used up there, what do you call it? Called it 12:00 didn’t we?

Ramsey Russell: I was asking earlier, like you judge as a hunting dog, that dog’s ability to find birds and do what it needs to do to be a great hunting dog and they’ve got to be a great hunting dog to compete at the championship level. But what other criteria are they judged on, that doesn’t necessarily influence or matter if you’re just a quail hunter.

Garrett Lockee: Well, now, have you judged any? Now, I’ve judged a couple of championships and I’ve judged some smaller trials, I’ve even judged some kids trial. But you’re looking for a classy dog. Now, what do you mean classy? That just looks good running, that when it finds quail, it looks good pointed and that’s almost the criteria you need. And the fact that some additional things you like to see is you like to see a dog use the territory that’s in looking good. In other words, some places are birdie and some places are not birdie, but the good field trial dogs and even the good hunting dogs are looking for birds. And when they find them and got that tail up stiff like that, hey, man, you get turned on? Have you ever been turned on?

Ramsey Russell: I have been.

Garrett Lockee: Okay. Some of these dogs just turn you on and I mean, you can’t help but have a good time.

Ramsey Russell: They hunt hard and they look good doing it.

Garrett Lockee: And to me that’s the simplest criteria. But a lot of judges look for them to back and they look for them to some trial, they actually look for them to retrieve.

Ramsey Russell: When was the heyday of quail hunting in the Deep South? Because you’ve been around 100 years, when would you say the heyday was?

Garrett Lockee: I think as I remember it, before World War II, that would be like from 1930 to 1941, I hunted quite a bit. Then I’m off the war and I come back and I start hunting quite a bit. And even after the war, we had what you’d call adequate birds. But let’s back up a little bit before the war and I want to talk about my dad for a second. He had a job working from like 4 in the morning till noon, and he would come home and grab a biscuit or grab something to eat and he had long legs and he would walk you to death. I mean, the younger you were, the more he walked you to death. Lo and behold, I remember several times he’d come home, like at 12:00 or 12:15, something like that, grab 2 dogs and start walking. I mean, right straight from my house, just start walking. And he walked enough that coming back, it was dark and he didn’t worry too much about the bag limits, but he would come back with a hunting coat full of birds. And guess what happened after that?

Ramsey Russell: They got eaten.

Garrett Lockee: I had 2 or 3 brothers and sisters that we had to pluck them dudes. And I thought that was the toughest job you could ever have. And hey, we didn’t skin them back in those days you plucked them. And my mother knew how to cook those dudes that just make your mouth melt and so forth.

Ramsey Russell: Tell me about that. How did Mama cook them?

Garrett Lockee: Well, I think she mostly fried them.

Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. Would she coat them or butterfly them in half or cut them in pieces?

Garrett Lockee: Well, sometimes you cut them in half and she knew how to cook a whole. I mean, man alive, I live good old while we had food.

Ramsey Russell: Back in those days, I bet she fried with lard, too.

Garrett Lockee: Oh, yeah. Now, that was a good time for hunting. Now, that was before World War II. Now, when we came back home after world war II, I spent a lot of time at his house, even though I was on a ship at the port or something like that, but we’d go hunting. And I remember one time I came home, now, my mother, now, she didn’t cuss, she was a great woman, but she chewed my dad out because in other words, almost like said, you worthless SOB, but she didn’t say that.

Ramsey Russell: That’s what she meant.

Garrett Lockee: Hey, you meant that. She just cussed my daddy out because all you were fitting for us to hunt. Well, after we went with all 3 boys, I got two brothers, hunted with my dad, you, off and on. But one day, let me see if I can get this straight, he did something like this walking I told you about, but there was something else he did. When we came back from the war and dad wasn’t available, this mother of mine encouraged me, son, don’t you want to go hunting? And off I went hunting with maybe my new wife or maybe with my brothers or something like that. But look at her turn from her husband, you sorry rascal, to these sons, fantastic.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. How often did you all eat fried quail at your house growing up?

Garrett Lockee: Now, say that again.

Ramsey Russell: How often did you all eat quail growing up?

Garrett Lockee: Well, we ate quite a few. In other words, you could make, obviously, a whole meal if you eat enough. But my granddad would come to see us and he’d go bird hunting and we’d pluck him, say, maybe 15, 20 quail and he was off to hunt because he lived 100 miles away and he’d parcel those things out to his good friends on the way home instead of eating them himself. So we sort of resented that. In other words, if I’m picking them things, let’s eat them.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right. Are there still enough, Bobwhite quail, wild birds, are there still enough wild birds around? Because I know they’re still having these field trials.

Garrett Lockee: Okay, I came back here. Let me see, it was before we started the museum and Ron Moore was the dog person out at Ames Plantation. He took care of the kennel, he fed the dogs, he would come down and take them hunting and so forth. Now, the Ames Plantation one day the winter found 23 times. Now, they were not all coveys, but they were quail, in other words, like segals and what have you. Now, we haven’t had anything like that since.

Ramsey Russell: How long ago was that?

Garrett Lockee: You remembered the guy that owned Yukanuba Plant before Billy Blackwell? Well, his wife, Carol Leatherman. Now he field trial and it was one of the people that handled some of his dog, but not his dog in this particular case. But I don’t think we had anybody find 15 coveys since then or 15 points since then.

Ramsey Russell: What year thereabout, just estimate.

Garrett Lockee: It was sometime between 1978 and 1980. But I’m not sure I can come up with the exact year.

Ramsey Russell: That’s a long time ago, 40 years ago. And it’s getting tougher as we go in time, isn’t it?

Garrett Lockee: Exactly.

What Does The National Bird Dog Museum Represent To Bird Hunting Culture?

Now, this building is designated as a field trial Hall of fame, this building is dedicated to catalog all breeds of dogs, because the pointer and setter people were the people that sort of pushed this element the most. 

Ramsey Russell: Well, I’m kind of end on this note right here with you is 2 part question I’ll drag out. But what does the National Bird Dog Museum represent to you and to quail hunting or bird hunting culture in general?

Garrett Lockee: Well, now, when I first brought this champion dog back here and ran it in trial, I’d come back, of course, to watch it, even though I did not a professional handler that handled a dog. I’ve sort of halfway lost my train of thought. But anyhow, ask the question again.

Ramsey Russell: What does the National Bird Dog Museum represent to you? What does this place mean to you and to quail hunting?

Garrett Lockee: I’m back in tune. But Mr. Dunn Sporting Good. Do you remember that?

Ramsey Russell: Yes, sir.

Garrett Lockee: Okay. Well, I had a little room, maybe 12 x 15 or something like that, that he had collected several dog pictures and he tried to pick as many hall of fame dogs as he could. But he had a little tiny museum. But did you remember it? In other words, with maybe 25 or 30 photographs, not portraits, no painted things, no portraits or anything. But I came back and of course, we were very friendly and I says, you got a nice little museum here for people that like dogs. I said, but you know what, we’ve got dogs all over this country and everybody loves the dogs. I said, we need a museum that covers all bird dogs. And when I say bird dogs, I mean pointing dogs, I mean, retrievers, I mean, the flushing dogs, all of those people love their dogs just as much. In fact, some of those retriever people pay $200,000 for a retriever. Hey, it took me, I don’t know how long do make $2,000. But in other words, what we’re saying is certain people like certain kinds of dogs. And I said, they all should be represented here. So I started thinking, how can we do something about it? Because now, I hate to bring up something negative, but we had a bunch of, everybody was in field trials and bird dogs got together and had a big organization to have Oklahoma City. A Bird Dog Museum. Let’s say, a dog museum, I don’t think it’s specifically a bird dog. And these people were working for Mr. Bill Brown at the American Field, lo and behold, they had several people pledge almost like a church pledge, pledge several thousand dollars to have this museum in Oklahoma City. Lo and behold, nothing was happening except we had pledges. So they thought, and I don’t know who brought this item up, but they ought to have somebody collect this money. So they got a group of fundraisers, professional fundraisers to collect this money and to collect money to build this new museum that they want to have in Oklahoma City, they even had the land set aside for it. But lo and behold, these fundraisers says, give me your list of pledges and they went off, collect the pledges. For example, we had somebody that told me this, I can’t authenticate it precisely. But in other words, there’s two guys and you got a guy in Miami, Florida, pledge $600. Well, they get in a first class airplane and go down there to collect $600 and they spend $700 going down there. Well, that happened day in and day out, and all of a sudden, they had less money than they had pledges. So what do you think happened? If you don’t finance something, what’s going to happen to it?

Ramsey Russell: It ain’t going to happen.

Garrett Lockee: It’s going to fall apart. So, lo and behold, 25 years went by and I guess I was one of the clowns that said, hey, we need to do something positive. And I says, a 4800 square foot building would be much better than the little tiny museum he had to store. And I said, my mouth got a little bit too big that I says, we’re going to make this go even if I have to do it myself. Now, I was able to do it myself, but I really didn’t want to do it by myself. I did not want to even give you that much money. But anyhow, when we poured the slab for that front building that you walked into, people said, those clowns, I think are serious, they’re going to have a museum. And then when the steel builders come along and put, they really are going to have a building. And the guys that pledged a long time ago started giving money down and nearly everybody that we could contact, that we knew, we knew quite a few people, but we ended up with a notebook this thick with pages in the notebook of people that made donations. So when the building was dedicated, it was paid 100%, it was paid for. Not only was the building paid for, but we started a small endowment fund to perpetuate the life of the museum. We started a scholarship fund, because I worked all night one time, filled out the application to get a 501(c)(3). so I got the 501(c)(3) and then when you tell people, get a tax deduction, I mean, the place just glowed for a while. And lo and behold, we set aside a small section of it for the field trial Hall of Fame. But now we had at that time, close to 100 dogs that were in the field trial Hall of Fame and almost that many people in the Hall of Fame. And one wall would not touch that many people. So in 2 years, we had enough money to build this building. Now, this building is designated as a field trial Hall of fame, this building is dedicated to catalog all breeds of dogs, because the pointer and setter people were the people that sort of pushed this element the most. So we built this building and the retriever people had a big section. I don’t think we had anything but pointers and setters and people. So what you see in this building, we said, we got to have a building for it. And we started collecting money and 2 years after we dedicated the first building, we dedicated this building here and moved all the field trial Hall of Fame memorabilia into this building. Okay, we go down the road a little bit, I said, we told the IRS, we’re going to have an education capability, we’ve got to do something that we don’t have. So let’s start proving ourselves that we’re telling the truth. So, lo and behold, we started the scholarship program, the first thing you know, we had enough money to build an education building. This is 4800 sqft, that’s 4800 sqft, that’s 4000 sqft. So we’re sitting here with 2 buildings and I don’t know how much dealings have you done some programs for retriever people. Okay, I started promoting the retriever people. Now, don’t get me talking about egos or something like that, but I’ve got to say, I. In this particular case, I started going to all the retriever national championships and they have 100 dogs in that thing most of the time. I went to the amateur retriever championship and I had trouble selling the idea that the retriever people need to be in the Hall of Fame because he got famous dogs.

Ramsey Russell: Absolutely.

Garrett Lockee: And he got famous people. So I finally located one retriever person and I says, here’s what we need. And he got on board with one of his girlfriends and says, we want to build it of our own. And I said, that’s fine, but I had sort of gotten out of the business of raising money because I got tired. And he said, but won’t you design us another building for the retriever things and we’ve closed in, what do you call a rectangle, 3 buildings around a little atrium area out there. And I, is very busy and cutting the grass and I’m not a gardener, but I did try to get some plants. I got some plants going out there. So we had really a greenhouse in the middle of the building out there, but we stuck with the retriever people and they ended up building that. And I says, well, since they begged me to, say, sort of engineered a place like we had before, so I says, I’ve been tired and they said, well, won’t you just do one more? So we ended up at a big building back there, we’re bigger than these people for the retrievers. And man, once 2 or 3 of them people got in the Hall of Fame, well, you go back and look at it yourself, in other words, to see how big it got. Now, part of it is set aside for what we call the National Retriever Museum, and the other half is set aside for the field trial Hall of Fame. Now, the egos here got pretty active, I guess and the field trial Hall of Fame is loaded with dogs and people and the museum has just a little bit of stuff in it. Before the retrievers got in it, I’d met this guy that collected a lot of retriever memorabilia up in Nashville, I believe, duck hunter, he had boats, he had decoys, he had guns, all kind of stuff. But we were so slow that he got rid of all that stuff, which would have filled up that museum.

Ramsey Russell: Folks listening might have some stuff for your museum, but go ahead.

Celebrating Sporting & Hunting Dogs

And if you look over the front door and read the little sign, it’s dedicated to sporting the world over.

Garrett Lockee: But anyhow, we ended up with satisfying the retriever people. Now they have their big induction ceremony, just like the pointers, et cetera, just like the springer spaniels. And so, in fact, later on, somebody challenged us, I guess, a little bit after my time and we’ve even recognized the cocker spaniels because they’re good retrievers.

Ramsey Russell: They are. So the National Bird Dog Museum is a celebration of all sporting breeds, of all hunting dogs.

Garrett Lockee: All sporting dogs. And if you look over the front door and read the little sign, it’s dedicated to sporting the world over. And we’ve had people from Germany, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Japanese and so forth come here. They had an interesting dogs in their own country and they’ve looked at this stuff, but none of them have actively got involved in it.

Ramsey Russell: Well, let me ask you this. It’s going to bring it kind of on point, so to speak, pun intended. 100 years, Mr. Gary is 100 years old, quail hunting is a big part of your life, we’ve discussed in the last hour. All the changes from the time you was a little boy hunting with your daddy until the modern day, it was 40 years ago that in a national field child champion, a pointer got 23 points in a single day, 40 years ago, it’s not happened since. So I’m going to ask you this question, is quail hunting over? Has that era of true southern American quail hunting ended?

Garrett Lockee: Okay, let’s do two things. Let’s go back where you’re talking about my dad’s time of hunting and let’s go back to present day. All right, back where my dad hunted, it’s just like Tennessee. I don’t think I’ve ever killed but one bird in Tennessee, when I came back here and used to hunt with lawnmower, do you remember my lawnmower? Come back and hunt with him. And I haven’t even heard a quail call in last 20 years. And we had quail whistling around our house in the spring, how they could whistle and I haven’t seen one in 20 years. Now, we did have a guy from Missouri come back here and found a couple of coveys between here and Salisbury or somebody where he actually moved in on it. But now Texas still has some big time hunting.

Ramsey Russell: Parts of Oklahoma, too.

Garrett Lockee: Well, I’ve hunted in Oklahoma also. But anyhow, millionaires conned a little guy like me out of places to hunt, even in Texas, because they had millions of dollars to spend on buying corn and feed their birds and what have you and taking care of their guests. But now, for about 20 years, I had some of you wouldn’t believe the quail hunting I had, I mean, I should be punished for some of it. But they’ve still got quail there and they’ve got the big time corporations, have bought nearly all the leasable land.

Ramsey Russell: But for regular folks, as a culture available to everybody, it may have been an era pass now for wild quail hunting, wild bird quail hunting? Because of habitat changes, because of economics you’re discussing. For the common guy, it could be possible that quail hunting as you know it, for the common guy, that era has passed.

Garrett Lockee: Yeah. A good example. Like I mentioned, North Carolina, if I go back there and hunt maybe a place or two that’s left, I won’t find any birds. Come out here to Tennessee and spend all the time you want, other than a few birds of the Ames plantation, I don’t know of anybody that’s got a dog in North Carolina that bird hunts. So if you don’t have birds, people are not interested in hunting. I don’t know anybody in Tennessee that’s got bird dogs except a couple of professional trainers. We’ve got one guy in Tennessee that raises cocker spaniels and he makes a lot of money selling them, but mostly he sells them to field trial people. So I don’t know. Do you know a guy named Dr. Kelly? Dr. Kelly died within the last year. Now, he had land that he bought up by Brownsville now, like 15 and 20 years ago, he loved to hunt, but the longer he hunted, the fewer birds he had. Dr. Hazelwood, did you know him? Dr. Hazelwood was some kind of heart specialist, I guess. I lent him a dog one time to go bird hunting, he loved it so much, he didn’t have any dogs, but I lent him a dog and wouldn’t you know, the dog found him one covey of birds and he didn’t know the dog didn’t know how to operate under his guidance and he lost the dog for 2 or 3 days. But we kept going back to the last place we saw him and he finally showed up. But, hey, if you don’t have birds, you don’t have dogs.

One Good Hunting Dog

Ramsey Russell: That’s right. Speaking of dogs, I want to end this episode on this last question. My granddaddy and a lot of granddaddies, I’ve heard, used to say if a man’s lucky, he finds one good woman and one good dog in his life. Now, I myself have been luckier to have one good dog, that’s not the truth. You’ve had a lot of good dogs, haven’t you?

Garrett Lockee: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Have you had any just bad dogs?

Garrett Lockee: Oh, I’ve had some that I turned over to somebody else that they disposed of them. In fact, I had one female pointer that I gave it away and it ended up belonging to somebody that was on the same lease I was on. And he says, that’s the best bird dog I’ve ever had. I got rid of it because she didn’t suit me. So I got rid of her. And then I had a bitch out of my champion dog here, that every puppy she had was a good bird dog and 3 or 4 of them were a good field trial dog. So I let my trainer have her, I says, you go ahead and breed her and get yourself a litter of puppies. Well, he bred her and got this litter of puppies, I says, I don’t want any more puppies. He calls me Cap, says, Cap, these are good looking dogs, you got to have one of them. And he finally brought the thing to me and said, if I’m going to get it. And at 6 maybe, let’s say 8 months, she was pointing birds, like bad. But I took her out to Nebraska one year, we were hunting sharp tail grouse and I took my brother with me, my brother’s killer, so I had to put up with it. And you don’t have to record any of this. But anyhow, I heard him over in one of those sand pits, shoot 3 times, I says, lord have mercy, I think my brother’s killed himself with all that shooting, he had to be shooting himself. So I went over there and he says, I’ve shot down three birds in this big blowhole and I can’t find one of them. He says, I found 2 and I can’t find the other one. Well, I just happened to have the puppy out there hunting, she went down in that blowhole and actually took a little trail out. He had crippled one of these birds, the bird had run out of the hole and she retrieved it, but not the hand, when I used to tell her to fetch, she’d play with me and run off and drop it down and look at me, says, I’ve retrieved it now, but it’s my bird, I’m going to play with it.

Ramsey Russell: That’s what young dogs do.

Garrett Lockee: Yeah, she played with it. To keep, that crippled bird, we finally had her drop it and I threw my hat out real quick and she went and got my hat, so I got the bird.

Ramsey Russell: My granddad used to always say, to train a dog, you got to be smarter than it is. There’s a lot of truth to that, doesn’t it?

Garrett Lockee: It’s good for people and it’s good for dogs.

Ramsey Russell: You’re 100 years young, when was your last bird hunt?

Garrett Lockee: I think it was 3 years ago in Texas.

Ramsey Russell: Was it a good hunt?

Garrett Lockee: It was fair. But now, I hate to sin on you here, but one of the first years I went out there, we had 6 members in 23,000 acres and I had 2 or 3 guests, as other guys had 2 or 3 guests, we must have killed a thousand birds. I says, that is a sin in anybody’s environment. And before the hunting season was over, the pressure put on that place, it was hard to find the covey of birds.

Ramsey Russell: I guess so.

Garrett Lockee: But now people will tell you and you’ve probably heard this more times than I have, the hunting pressure in most places never eliminates your birds, now that’s back in the good old days. In other words, when my father was hunting and I was hunting, everybody in a radius of 20 miles there had a bird dog and some of us were hunting in the same place and so forth. Now, like I said, that place has grown over now, there’s a couple of strip malls there, houses all over the place. But now to get back to one of your earlier questions, I don’t think there’s anybody, including Hal Lehman in Texas and rolling plains and big hunting place TEM orders have all the answers to why we’re low on quail. Do you think they do?

Ramsey Russell: No, sir, I don’t think so. I think it’s probably a lot of different reasons here in the Deep South, say, from North Carolina to Mississippi, I think there’s just a lot of reasons, not the least of which is Smokey the bear, fire suppression, civilization, modern day agriculture.

Garrett Lockee: Already there are several of the big plantations in Georgia that spend million dollars a year feeding, manicuring their property for hunting and they’ve got birds.

Ramsey Russell: They do, yeah. But it’s just not as widespread. It’s like I told you before we recorded, I can remember my grandfather back in 40s and 50s was a quail hunter around Washington County, Mississippi out in the Delta and my wife’s people were bird hunters up in the hills of Mississippi and it’s just different now, it’s just way different. And really and truly the serious quail hunters, like my brother in law, it ain’t about just killing birds, he’s out there doing what, he’s out there following that dog. It’s as much it’s always been, I think from listening to you, it’s always been as much about the dogs as the birds themselves, but you got to have the birds to have the dog.

Garrett Lockee: I was fortunate enough to have up to 20 dogs at one time. My food bill was pretty steep, but I just loved a good bird dog. And if you’re sitting here, we’d say like 15 bird dogs, there’s probably 3 of them are outstanding dogs, the rest of them are mediocre to like the one I gave away and so forth.

Ramsey Russell: Mr. Gary, I sure appreciate your time. I’ve enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to touring the rest of the museum here with you. And folks, you all have been listening to Mr. Gary Lockee here at the National Bird Dog Museum in Grand Junction, Tennessee, which to me symbolizes, it’s a tribute. It’s a tribute to people and game birds and bird dogs and pastimes and maybe even an era of American history now past. Thank you all for listening this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.


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