Upon arriving at Scott Baldwin Kennels on Doster Road, you are greeted with the sights, sounds, and smells of this man’s passion; training bird dogs. The 30-acre training facility has a full array of boarding, training, and hunting options for the dogs he works with full-time now.
For Scott Baldwin it’s always been about the outdoors. Growing up in Madison in a far different era, he carried his shotgun and hunting dog with him through the city streets to pursue quail and other sporting birds near Morgan County High School and where the Recreation Department now sits across the bypass. The father of one (Ansley Baldwin) recalled, “I love to hunt and train dogs. My favorites are the upland game birds like quail and pheasant. We still have some local woodcocks, but I haven’t seen a covey of quail in five to six years now. I first started hunting quail with my Dad (Sonny Baldwin) and my Uncle Charles (Baldwin). The first hunt I ever went on with them, my Dad finally relented and let me go, but he told me, ‘I’m not carrying you,” he laughed. “After that first hunt, my dad stopped at Hilsman Farm and Garden and bought me a Remington 1100 4-10 shotgun. I still have it and still hunt with it.”
Baldwin’s dream career (as he called it) didn’t start out that way. The 1980 Rutledge Academy graduate attended North Georgia College where he received a Business Administration degree, came back to Madison, and began working for the Bank of Morgan County. He later went to work for Tom DuPree as the Director of the DuPree Foundation for 10 years before he started dabbling in training dogs for others. He said, “It started out as a hobby of training my own dogs. One of my college buddies asked me to help him train his. A friend of a friend of a friend training started, and I woke up one day to a full-time job.” Baldwin’s Kennel business has been going strong now for 15 years.
He says he was reluctant at first when Burnt Pine Plantation approached him about guiding for them for quail, pheasant and chuckers. “I eventually gave in and have now been guiding for them for 23 years when they need me.” At the moment he has 15 training dogs, 18 boarders, and around 15 dogs of his own on the property where he does about 90 percent of his work. There’s a pond on site where we watched him work with one of his favorites, Sally. She’s a six-month-old English Cocker and a personal dog of his. What a spitfire she is.
Baldwin sells his dogs as far away as Argentina and also garners stud fees while raising puppies from his own stock. “Ten years ago it was easy to get a dog out of the country, but today it’s much harder,” he commented. “We have to go through a third party pet transport in the fall due to the heat. It can cost up to eight grand just to get them there.”
His legend not only involves training dogs, but hunting and fishing around the world. “I grew up fishing for trout mainly in the Rabun County area and still love. While I was in school at Dahlonega, I majored in fishing.” He has recently come back from a fishing trip to Alaska. “It was a great trip there. The summertime fishing is fantastic. We fished for sockeye salmon, trout, and other species in the Kenai River with no guide as well as halibut in the Pacific Ocean on a guided day of fishing. It’s about as far away from Madison as you can get. However, our two boat guides we met were from Watkinsville and Bishop. Talk about a small world.”
The sockeye were on their annual migration upstream to spawn and then die. Baldwin told us, “They weren’t eating. You could see them come to the surface to get oxygen, but they wouldn’t hit anything. We used a technique called flossing. Here we’d call it snagging. You just pulled your hook close to their mouth and set the hook. The limit was three per person. We had our limit every day within a couple of hours in what I would call combat fishing. People were lined up on both sides of the river, but it wasn’t too crowded. We had about a 50 foot space all to ourselves.” The avid fly fisherman told us that the fish innards were completely empty when they cleaned them. He even said that you could fish 24 hours a day that time of year as the sun never sets.
He’s also hunted throughout the U.S. and in Argentina where the targets were doves and ducks as well as black back antelope. “I’ve been to Argentina twice in Buenos Aires and Cordoba. There’s an unbelievable number of birds that are, in fact, a nuisance there. My goal was to kill 1000 birds in one day. I had 968 by 9:30 a.m. but my bird boy wanted to listen to the World Soccer event that Argentina was playing in so I quit right there. The duck hunting there is outstanding too.” He also took an antelope that he brought home for mounting as well as birds to eat. “There are hundreds of these small animals (antelope) in herds, but there aren’t indigenous to the area. They were brought in from somewhere else, and are now out of control.”
With all of the birds there, you would think they would be a food staple for the local populations. Baldwin said he drove into town with the birds loaded on the back of the truck. People would come and get some to eat, but were mainly using them to feed the pigs and some are used as fertilizer in gardens. He also told us, “While we were shooting, gauchos would come up on horses and fill up their sacks. Then off they’d go on their horses.”
The other part of this story is a love affair of a different kind. Baldwin was recently wed to Carol Martin, a high school classmate of his. He went on to tell the story of how they met, “I didn’t really know Carol that well in high school. She knew where the library was and I didn’t. She came back to Madison for a sporting clays event at Burge Plantation and took out some good friends of mine, Bob Duvall and Andrew Ainslie. I ran into them that night and they told me she had asked about me. Andrew told me I should look her up sometime. He said she liked to hunt, was a good shot, trained her own bird dogs and was real good looking. All that stuck in my mind for a while. How many girls do you know that have that kind of interests? I called her up and our second date was on a hunt together at Barnsley in Calhoun. I probably wouldn’t have called her if it hadn’t been for the bird dogs,” he laughed.
The local outdoor legend was asked if he could have chosen a better career or had any regrets. He responded quickly, “Not one bit. I do miss the people I worked with in the banking industry and with Tom Dupree because I’m a big bull shooter. I’ve really been blessed that I’ve never had a job that I didn’t truly enjoy.” One thing’s for sure. He’s in this for the long haul.
Baldwin has amassed a number of awards, trophies, and recognitions for the dogs he’s trained. His 17 Grand Hunting Retriever Champions, four HRC Hall of Fame dogs, two-time Georgia Super Duck Dog Champion, the Mossy Oak Duck Dog of the Year, and numerous Hunting Retriever Champions and Master Hunters speak for themselves. This guy knows what he’s doing whether it is training dogs, hunting, shooting, fishing, or traveling the world in pursuit of his passions. He’s no doubt a Local Outdoor Legend who deserves the recognition. Congratulations Scott.