DOWD BRUTON AND WILD TURKEYS
By Tom Gillispie
By Tom Gillispie
The manner is calm, but Dowd Bruton's eyes glow when he talks about his job.
He's wildlife biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation, and he's thrilled with his job.
"I certainly enjoy what I do," said Bruton, who lives in Traphill in Wilkes County. "I tell people it's my dream job."
The wild turkey federation, based in Edgefield, S.C., is a non-profit organization that works for the preservation of the wild turkey. Salaries and money for programs come from membership dues and fund-raising banquets held by the various chapters. The local chapter, the Surry Longspurs, holds its banquet at the Elks Lodge in Mount Airy.
Dowd got his job this way: In 2002, he learned that the wild turkey federation had two openings for wildlife biologist. The openings were in Virginia and Mississippi, but he convinced them that Wilkes County was close enough to Virginia.
He became just the seventh wildlife biologist hired by the turkey federation, and he's been there six years. His original area was North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Maryland, but the latter two states later moved into another region. The idea, of course, was to help him do his job more efficiently, and volunteers in his states help, too.
He regularly travels to all of the areas in his region, and he often comes to Surry County to work extensively with the Surry Longspurs, the local chapter of the turkey federation.
"I probably work more with them than any other chapter," he said. "They're sort of in my backyard, so that's the reason I do it."
His job covers a lot of area and many different subjects.
"It's hard to describe what I do, there are so many aspects of it," he said.
Dowd says he puts maybe 35,000 miles on his truck ever year. He's worked with the U.S. Forest Service and several state agencies, including the state wildlife commission.
The turkey federation provides guidance, money and support to the various agencies and organizations, he said.
One of Dowd's duties was to speak for the turkey federation before the U.S. House of Representatives, and he's done television shows for an outdoors network.
He just came off three 70-hour work weeks, and he intentionally scheduled a slow week — 45 to 50 hours — to provide some "rest." When the right season rolls around, he'll be in the woods, hunting or fishing. Then once a year he and wife Cindy head to Ohio for a week-long bow hunt.
"The best thing about the job is all the people I get to meet," he said. "I meet so many people in different states because of the turkey federation."
Bruton played baseball at West Montgomery High in Mt. Gilead, N.C., and graduated in 1975. He attended Pfeiffer College with the thought of becoming a teacher and coach. When he did his first student teaching class his junior year, he realized that teaching wasn't the job for him.
Bruton says he's not sure how he got into hunting and fishing. His brother did both, but he was 12 years older than Dowd.
"I was a country boy anyway, and it was the thing to do," he said. "I was always catching bream on a farm pond or hunting quail or deer."
He says he never saw a wild turkey until he was 16. "Three or four ran in front of us, and we're like, 'Whoa, what's that?' I killed my first [turkey] when I was 25."
While at Pfeiffer, he met and visited the home of a wildlife technician for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. He realized that the man was living his kind of life.
He learned that N.C. State offers a four-year bachelor's degree and graduate degrees in wildlife biology. He didn't finish at Pfeiffer. After a stint in the Marines, he entered State's wildlife biology program.
He did some part-time work with the state wildlife commission when he was at State, and he took a temporary job with the commission after graduation. Later, the commission had five jobs open, and he got one as a wildlife technician in Franklin, N.C., next to Georgia. He worked there for six years, then worked 16 years as a wildlife management crew leader in Wilkes County.
"We managed property for public hunting," Dowd said. "What led to the turkey job is that we were turkey trappers; the state was in a restoration mode then."
They'd trap turkeys in counties like Ashe, Alleghany and Wilkes and moved them to Surry, Yadkin, Forsyth, Stokes and other counties.
"Me and my crew moved over 500 turkeys in a decade," he said. "We caught a lot more than that and let them go."
Along the way, Bruton did some volunteer work for the National Wild Turkey federation, and he won a 1991 award for excellence for his work with turkeys, and he also won an award from the state chapter of the turkey federation.
That led to his current job.
The one negative about the job, he said, is all the time away from home. He says that wife Cindy was excited about the job when he first got it.
"With the kids out of the house, she gets lonesome," Dowd said. "When I'm around, I try to treat her more special."
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