Our History

The origins of the Bird Dog Foundation and the National Bird Dog Museum began in the 1970s with Dunn's Sporting Goods Store in Grand Junction, Tennessee. The owner of the store, Wilson Dunn, had a small but impressive collection of photographs, memorabilia, and information about the history of the National Field Trial Championships at the Ames Plantation. He referred to the small back room in his store that housed this collection as the Field Trial Museum. Located within five miles of the heart of the Ames Plantation, Dunn's Sporting Goods and Wilson Dunn's small museum received many visitors.

In the late 1970s, Garette Lockee, a sporting dog enthusiast and later a Field Trial Hall of Fame inductee, arrived in Tennessee to enter his dog in the National Championship at the Ames Plantation. He visited Dunn's Sporting Goods and Wilson Dunn showed Lockee his collection of National Champion and Field Trial photographs and memorabilia. Dunn and Lockee shared a mutual appreciation for sporting dogs and interest in preservation of the history of the field trial sport. For several years, these two men talked about the need to establish a museum to better recognize and honor sporting dogs, agreeing that the museum should ideally preserve bird dog history, represent all breeds of sporting dogs, and have the capability to educate visitors about the history of the field trial sport.

Lockee and Dunn were aware that a previous effort to build a Field Trial Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma had failed. They began to talk with friends and fellow enthusiasts about the possibility to building a National Bird Dog Museum in Grand Junction, Tennessee. It was the consensus that the basis of the museum should be Dunn's collection, which could then be expanded.

Lockee, Dunn, and another bird dog enthusiast, Richard Raskin, traveled to Chicago, Illinois, to talk with Bernie Matthys, then the managing editor of The American Field. They encouraged Matthys to help publicize information about their plans to create a non-profit organization, the Bird Dog Foundation, to raise funds for a National Bird Dog Museum. Matthys was the son-in-law of William F. Brown and he desired to see Brown's dream of a Field Trial Hall of Fame museum come to fruition. Matthys stipulated that his support would depend on the Field Trial Hall of Fame being part of the Bird Dog Foundation's effort. Lockee, Dunn, and Raskin agreed and returned to Grand Junction to begin the project.

Establishing the non-profit organization, the Bird Dog Foundation, was the first step to building a permanent site. Like most endeavors, there were problems, but supporters of the idea remained steadfastly focused on their goal - honoring bird dogs and their owners from past, present, and future, and preserving the history of the field trialing and bird hunting sports, in a permanent museum. The primary expediters were Wilson Dunn, Garette Lockee, Bernard Matthys, and John O'Neall, Jr. It was through their tireless efforts that work began in earnest.

A charter for a proposed non-profit organization was prepared and approved on May 25, 1988. The subsequent by-laws were approved and accepted on October 24, 1988. The necessary steps to form a non-profit corporation were then taken, and the Bird Dog Foundation, Inc., was officially established on May 15, 1989.

The first board of directors for the Bird Dog Foundation were chosen and the first meeting of the board of directors was held in Claremore, Oklahoma, on May 5, 1989.

The Bird Dog Foundation's first board of directors included:

Leslie Anderson
William J. Beyer
Joe E. Coleman
Wilson Dunn
George W. Evans
Thomas Faller
Dr. H.A. Gray
Jimmy Hinton
Garrette E. Lockee
Bernard J. Matthys
Jerome F. McBride
Troy Newman
Dr. George C. Olive
John S. O'Neall, Jr.
Delmar Smith
Dr. Terry Terlep
Thurman Thompson
Mike Tuxon
Robert G. Wehle

At the first board meeting, a campaign to raise funds was initiated and plans for the construction of the National Bird Dog Museum and Field Trial Hall of Fame began. The following officials were elected:

Garette Lockee - President
Wilson Dunn - Vice President
Bernard J. Matthys - Secretary

The goals set by the board for the foundation were to collect information and artifacts, to preserve the items collected, to display the collection at a permanent location, to educate others about sporting dogs, to demonstrate how dogs enrich the world, to promote interest in the relationship between man and dogs, to serve as a resource of historic and current information on dogs, to conduct scholarly research regarding dogs, to encourage sporting dog activities, to cooperate in a wide range of projects relating to sporting dogs, and to honor all aspects of the field trial sport past, present, and future.

Grand Junction was officially chosen for the site of the museum, because the area had been the site of the National Field Trial Championship since the early 1900s and the area is also in close proximity to the Mississippi migrating waterfowl flyway which supplies an abundance of waterfowl and game birds. Garette Lockee and Wilson Dunn personally bought 4.5 acres of land in Grand Junction for the future museum site and donated it to the Bird Dog Foundation. The publicity about the proposed museum generated donations from more than 4,000 bird dog enthusiasts nationwide, as well as corporate sponsorship from more than 35 corporations and businesses.

By 1990, individual and corporate sponsorships had successfully raised the needed funds to begin construction of the National Bird Dog Museum within a few hundred feet of Dunn's Sporting Goods. Before the completion of construction, the entire cost of the museum had been fully funded. On February 16, 1991, the National Bird Dog Museum was dedicated and opened its doors to the public.

Since the museum opened, it has continued to expand. Donations from the National American Versatile Hunting Dog Association, the United States Complete Shooting Dog Association, the National Bird Hunters Association, the National Shoot-to-Retrieve Association, the National Open Retriever Club, the National Amateur Retriever Club, the Brittany Club, the Flushing Dog Club, and the Grand National Grouse Dog Championship have grown the museum's collection exponentially. Eventually, the museum's collection outgrew available display space. Therefore, several additions to the museum have been built. The Retriever Hall of Fame was opened to the public in 2008 and was followed by the Sporting Dog Wing in 2012. Additionally, renovations the museum's central atrium, with a rustic barn theme, were completed in February 2016.