My Life as a Turkey
Q&A with Naturalist Joe Hutto




Immediately following broadcast, we invited viewers to ask naturalist and writer Joe Hutto questions about My Life as a Turkey and his experience raising a rafter of turkeys:

Have you always been so connected with animals?

Yes, I suppose I was one of those kids who was born a little congenital scientist or some such thing. I was obsessively drawn to other living things– often to the exclusion of all other priorities. My parents were, if not supportive, at least indulgent to my obsessions. And bless their hearts! They just laid down a linoleum floor in my bedroom, and the rule was: any critter is OK, as long as it stays in the bedroom or outside, it must be well fed and clean, and absolutely no poisonous snakes inside the house! I rarely kept my animals in cages and almost all slept with me in the bed. The list was endless. Big, small, mammal, bird or reptile. I think at one point I had a small bobcat, a gray squirrel, and a seven foot boa constrictor, all living in perfect harmony.

Where was the Florida Turkey piece filmed?

My Life as a Turkey was filmed on a large family ranch in south-central Florida. My original project was conducted adjacent to a National Forest and Wilderness Area southwest of Tallahassee in northern Florida. The ecology in the area of north Florida is very dense, swampy and jungle-like. The Ranch location was, in many ways, a very similar oak hammock ecology with sandy scrub-oak ridges. The plants and animals were basically the same with a few exceptions, however there was open “savannah/prairie” like cattle land which was much more photo-friendly. The north Florida location would have been more of a continuous wall of green. The ranch also afforded better logistic accommodations for the crew, with complete privacy for the turkeys. All the wild animals filmed in the documentary were wild residents with the exception of one or two of the snakes that were obtained from a local snake “Wrangler”.

Did you ever find out who the person was that left the eggs and do you think they were all from the same clutch?

Yes, I knew the fellow who brought me the eggs. He was actually an employee on a very large quail hunting preserve. The eggs were from two separate nests, which allowed me to immediately make discriminations between the family groups according to size, coloration and variations in subtle markings. For example, the color of the legs were distinctive at the time of hatching. Even the eggs looked slightly different in color and speckling. Overall the two family groups were quite different in appearance. And yes, I did have the experience of encountering two of my adult hens when they had 10 week old poults of their own. It was an awkward encounter in the forest where the hens recognized me and were quite unafraid, but of course their poults had never seen a human, and like all wild turkeys, were horrified at my sight and flew in panic. The mother hens were obviously confused but of course had to quickly follow their brood. A lady living miles away had one of my hens living on her place. The hen was relatively tame, would bring her young poults into her yard and garden, but again, the young poults were intolerant of the woman’s company.

Do you think the birds and especially Sweet Pea, were more vulnerable to predation being raised by a human rather than a real turkey mom? Perhaps in the way of being too trusting?

I have been very concerned about this familiarization/ habituation issue that would cause an animal that knows me to somehow be at greater risk from predation or other humans. In the case of the turkeys, I quickly found that 20 million years as a prey species has honed their survival skills to a razors edge and my proximity was essentially inconsequential in the face of any predator. As for other humans, I found that the turkeys were in fact suspicious of other people even at a great distance and could in fact ,with their keen eyes, discriminate between me and anyone else from a quarter of a mile! I have found these powers of discrimination as evident and perhaps even keener in mule deer.

Did you have a sense that the males from your two clutches of eggs might be segregating at all (i.e. hanging out more with genetic relatives)? Did you notice any traits of the males that were socially dominant?

I think Lovett Williams, et al. established or suggested that sibling male wild turkeys tend to stay fraternal throughout their lives– certainly in the first couple of years. That has been my observation as well. However, I think these bonds are somewhat tenuous and involve constant minor conflict to insure the dominance of one particular male. Mature brothers will often display beside an actively breeding dominant gobbler without ever suggesting that they would try to participate in breeding activity. I have photographed this phenomenon many times while concealed in blinds with wild spring flocks. It was not until I lived with the gobbler flock that I raised, that the more subtle dynamics of the male fraternity became obvious. These brotherly hierarchies are generally well established prior to maturity and are formed on the basis of innate individual aggressiveness as well as superior size and strength. A dominant gobbler was probably a dominant poult. Gobblers of course, rarely live to a ripe old age, and so “lone older gobblers” quickly become the norm, but it would be interesting to know how sibling gobblers would preserve their fraternity over many years. And as you probably know, old males will on occasion abstain from all Spring breeding activity and conflict, living a quiet solitary life. I have also observed on several occasions a younger “apprentice” jake, form attachments to an older lone gobbler. I don’t think a fraternal group would ever allow this, but if jake and older gobbler have each lost their family group, I think there is a mutual need for companionship that allows some sort of bond to occur. Conjecture of course.

Were you shocked that “turkey boy” attacked you or was that normal behavior for a tom turkey? Was it a territorial issue? Do you think Turkey Boy was hurt over you leaving?

Hand raised male turkeys have a history of eventually becoming aggressive towards humans. I always thought it might be a possibility– but I was still surprised that my buddy– Turkey Boy– wanted to harm me! It was not so much a territorial issue as just an unfortunate “male thing”.

Turkey Boy and I actually resolved our differences after his breeding season ended. The film had to abbreviate our rather complex relationship for the sake of time. Eventually Turkey Boy left on his own and I never saw him again, and I address this in the book in some detail. So, it was me who was hurt over HIS leaving. After all these years I still miss them. This film is hard for me to watch.

What are the top 3 surprises in your studies?

Top three surprises? Getting the eggs of course was the biggest surprise but at the top of the list would be the overwhelming complexity of these creatures that I encountered. I was already somewhat of a casual authority on these birds– but I found so many interesting surprises. In particular, an extraordinary intelligence characterized by true problem solving reason, and a consciousness that was undeniable, at all times conspicuous, and for me, humbling. It should come as no surprise to any of us, considering what we now know about the universe– the closer you look into reality, whether the microcosm or the macrocosm– whether the particle accelerator or the Hubble telescope– things don’t become less complex– and not just more complex but– infinitely more complex. Even the familiar laws of physics break down and no longer apply and we find ourselves searching for new models and paradigms to explain nature. So too with the nature of living things. We need to see the world once again, with new eyes. The wild turkeys have taught me to never see the world the same way again. You look at any living thing closely enough and sooner or later you realize the complexity is beyond comprehension.

If you could teach the turkeys a human thing, what would you teach? If you were to ask them one turkey question, what would you ask?

Wow, I don’t know of one thing wild turkeys could learn from us that would be useful or helpful. Stay away from the road? I still of course believe wild turkeys to be in many ways, a vastly superior creature. (not entirely tongue-in-cheek). One question I could ask them? What must it be like to exist in a state of complete wakefulness? To be the definition of Sentient. That’s got to be, at the very least, some serious fun!

Why do you think that people always seem surprised that animals show intelligence, reason, use tools, show affection and emotions?

As far as humans finding it difficult to recognize a higher order of experience in other creatures — First, most people honestly don’t have the contact and are not having opportunities to pay attention. We are way to busy just trying to keep it together. The good news bad news answer is, we are also “evolving” out of a darker consciousness, in which humans assumed they were completely removed from the natural world and were entitled to have absolute dominion over it. Even now, we refer to the earth as possessed of our “natural resources”– implying that the natural world is merely the repository of all things consumable by “man”. Humans are, as an evolutionary species, defined in part by an element of aggressive arrogance– highly adaptive for a small creature trying to employ reason rather than overwhelming physical prowess. Because obviously, intellegence is a double edged sword that can turn on us as we become paralyzed by recognizing our conspicuous vulnerability. The old, “none of us is getting out of this alive!” phenomenon. However, is it possible that this arrogance, as seen in the light of our very recent and now overwhelming lack of vulnerability, can and has become, more of an evolutionary artifact? Has it now become mal-adaptive and merely a highly destructive form of ignorance? The good news is, it is possible for us all to become wakeful– pay attention. I think we simply must now become a creature that is truly characterized by reason and consciousness– and perhaps we had better hurry.

What has it been like to reimmerse yourself into human society? Life with the turkeys seems so fulfilling and spiritual, I imagine it would be so difficult to be a part of the human world.

In fact it was rather difficult to re-enter my old life and culture. Living with the turkeys was a very intense emotional experience and yes, as you say, spiritual. I had some difficulty, for a year or two, trying to reintegrate and attach significance to other things. Perhaps like a touch of “PTSD”. I also experienced something very similar when I finally had to leave the mountain after several months living alone with the bighorn sheep above timberline in Wyoming. Living in a wilderness environment for months or years, tones and heightens your awareness. All the associated physical stress also raises the level of intensity. In both cases, the thought of having to return to my “normal” life and just having to be boring old me again was a dreadful notion. Who was it? Byron or someone who said, “I love not man the less but, nature more”, well it’s sort of like that I suppose.

Do you keep in contact with friends and family while doing your studies (via phone or online)?

Not really, and I have a fundamental dislike of the things– don’t know why. When I conducted the turkey study in the 90s, cell phones were not around yet. On the bighorn sheep study, cell phones would not work in a remote wilderness at that time. There is no question that a cell phone will save your life on occasion in the back country. I do carry one now in remote places, but refuse to ever turn it on, except in an emergency. Wilderness is more of a romantic notion than a reality anyway, and a fragile notion at that, so when I have a chance to fulfill the illusion, I would never choose to interrupt, or worse destroy, a magic that is so hard to achieve!

In this re-enactment, was it necessary to have a new brood of poults imprint on you and was it necessary to relive the entire year-plus experience with its intense immersion? Did you find that the “actor” birds naturally assumed the roles of the 1991 birds, one clingy, some adventurous, and so on, and finally one who hung around long enough to emphatically chase you away? Did you find that re-enacting this experience allowed you to have somewhat more detachment the second time around, knowing how the course of the project would unfold? Was the experience much changed by the presence of the cameras and camera operators?

The American PBS version of the film tried to make it clear that this was a “reenactment”, as it says in the opening credits. In fact, the film was a genuine “recreation”– a complete replication of an experiment. It served as a vindication for me, in the sense that if an experiment cannot be replicated it is considered to be of no scientific merit. I of course, had no way of knowing if other young wild turkeys would behave as mine did. So, the simplified explanation is: After permitting was accomplished, the State of Florida trapped wild turkey hens, installed radio collars in Spring, robbed nests when they started laying ,and the backwoods savvy actor, Jeff Palmer incubated and began “imprinting” the eggs. (Hens, by the way, will nest a second time or even a third if they are unsuccessful on the first try.) My roll was strictly on-screen and off screen narration. The guy you see with the birds is always Jeff. They did in fact film for over a year in order to record all the development and life cycle. Wild turkey personalities vary wildly, so conveniently, there were similarities in the group that approximated a Sweet Pea and a Turkey Boy– and yes, poor Jeff got butt kicked by the Turkey Boy character. To my absolute amazement, this film crew– mostly legendary British cinematographer, Mark Smith– managed to actually recreate many events in the book that I considered impossible. He and Jeff were incredible! Jeff had to be with those poults, as I was, and my hat is off that they pulled this project off. I frankly was very pessimistic that this “recreation” was a possibility. I felt that I had been impossibly lucky in the first place and there was probably no way there luck would hold out as well. There were about a thousand things that could have gone wrong at any point along the way that would have killed the entire project. This was an heroic effort by Passion Pictures from London, PBS, BBC, and of course Jeff. And such lovely people– all. I will always be grateful.

The end of the film said you were now living with mule deer, how did you become involved with them?

Leslye and I live on an old historic ranch in Wyoming. We back up to the Wind River Mountains with unbounded wild lands surrounding us. The location is prehistoric winter range for mule deer (and so of course, mountain lions and other large predators), and our winter herd usually averages between 35 and 40 individuals. We have a number of year-round residents as well. I have been studying these deer and developing extraordinary relationships with them for over six years now. They have volunteered and chosen us, by the way. It is suggested that mule deer may have the largest brain of any deer in the world, as well as a number of other unique characteristics. They are in fact– profoundly intelligent, and capable of remarkable communication and have shown an overwhelming curiosity and willingness for human contact and interaction. We are multiple generations into this herd, they allow me to accompany them on excursions into the back country, and once again, I am being treated as just another, “perhaps rather odd”, member of the family. A book is in the works.

Are you filming your life with the bighorns?

There has been talk about a “bighorn” film. However, unlike the turkey documentary, it is a very complex story involving a large ecosystem with issues that are being studied and explored by a small army of gifted researchers. It has been suggested that a 50 minute documentary would not do justice to such a broad study. There have been rumblings about a full length feature film that could treat the subject matter more appropriately.

I personally think it would make a profoundly beautiful and timely film, with many compelling elements in a drop-dead-gorgeous place on the planet.

Are you going to have some turkey this Thanksgiving?

Well, I must say I would be a hypocrite if I disapproved of people eating turkey at Thanksgiving or any other time, as I was born into a hardcore turkey hunting family and culture. But, it’s probably obvious at this point, that I could never kill a wild turkey. And also, I must say I’m very conflicted and largely disapproving of the commercial meat industry in general. But, I live in Wyoming– defined in part by the livestock industry, and many people here don’t always rely on other people to kill their animals for them. So, as you can see, I’m skirting around the question. We are joining some friends for Thanksgiving and I’m guessing we’ll have elk tenderloin. I’ll rely heavily on the greens and cornbread!



Joe Hutto is a nationally recognized naturalist and wildlife artist. He lives in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming and is currently studying the largest wild-sheep herd in North America: the bighorn sheep of the Whiskey Mountain Herd. He is the author of Illumination in the Flatwoods, the book that inspired the film, My Life as a Turkey.


Photo © David Allen
Photo © Joe Hutto

  • mark

    Where was this filmed Joe? Where these Oceolas?

  • Kathy

    You obviously understand how wonderfully sensitive,emotionally complicated and highly aware all living beings are. So I can only assume that you and Leslye are vegan in both philosophy and diet? It would be wonderful if you could do a little “seed planting” to teach others how human actions effect other sentient creatures that we share this planet with. Just a thought, you could have a peaceful influence on so many

  • Annalisa

    The show was wondrous and beautifully done. Thanks you for a precious gift…

  • Lainy Durocher

    Where in Florida were you ? Its just beautiful, beautiful country !!!

  • Wade

    Ditto Lainy, where exactly in florida were you? And secondly, in the film you said that you never saw the flock again once they left. Do you suppose they survived and if so are there descendant flocks now in the area?

  • ron b

    I just found my life as a Turkey on my dvr and was immediately touched… I had to share the experience with my family the next day. We all felt many emotions you must have felt. Thank you for sharing this with the world Joe.

  • Caro

    God Bless you, Joe Hutto. Thank you for opening our human eyes.

  • Ben

    We were so sad about Sweet Pea! Do you have any thoughts about what/who killed her?

  • Jack

    After watching this myself, I showed it to my seven year old, and stayed home from work to explain and discuss its significance. I think my son understands the beauty of nature better now, and the natural order of things.

  • Carol

    The privilege of seeing the world from the eyes of a turkey actually alters our human perception of reality. I once read that the ancient Druids possessed all knowledge and could even talk to the animals but that knowledge is lost over time. I think this film recaptures some of that lost knowledge. Every human being should be have to watch this film for a deeper understanding of nature you would not think possible.

  • Jean

    What a beautiful film. My only question is, how was it filmed? Obviously there was another person (or persons) involved to get those shots. How many of the shots were set up as opposed to happening serendipitously ? I’m especially thinking of the time that a snake came into the coop and ate a turkey when they were young.

  • Nancy Davis

    I never knew a man could understand the deepest of mother hood so beautifully. This is so well done and the family sat and watched it together as we’ll do again tonight. Thanks for airing it again. Also,thanks to the Nature show for making such a great family program for all ages and with such nobilty. Something that gave us pride about being and living in the USA. What a change on TV and it took Nature to do this:)

    Bravo Joe Hutto and crew!

  • Lisa Trejo Bautista

    Dear Joe,
    I do not really have any questions just some comments. I was deeply moved by your program. One moment, laughing and the next crying. I too, love animals of all kinds and know that it is possible to have a deep, connection with them. God created us all, and we are all made in his love. So really it is not that bizarre is it? ;0) May God bless you and your family this holiday season, and all through the year. Thank you so much for allowing us the viewers to take this journey with you… I shall never forget !

  • Sandy

    This is a terrific story and I think the making of the story would be just as interesting. Please consider intoducing the photographer/s, how the shots were made, where the story was filmed, and as many of the details as possible. Nothing you could show would detract from the story telling. Why were there so many deer, so willing to share their time with Joe as well, how do you get a snake to drink from a leaf puddle on que, how did you get the turkey to take that specific grasshopper on film. The photography of this story is just a fantastic masterpiece!

  • Colleen

    Thank you so much for answering my question about if you keep in contact with family and friends during your studies. This makes so much sense – “Wilderness is more of a romantic notion than a reality anyway, and a fragile notion at that, so when I have a chance to fulfill the illusion, I would never choose to interrupt, or worse destroy, a magic that is so hard to achieve!”

  • Harold K. Cinto

    I wanted to say that i was very moved by this program,” WOW”. I commend you in all your efforts in studying the Wild Turkey. I love all Animals to; but still an Avid, Ethical Turkey Hunter and all Hunts I go on. I look forward to seeing more great viedos, and you future Books! Again, I learned so much more from your show. Thank You! I hope all of your days are blessed!!!

  • Rubyquail

    Thank you for helping me remember MY nature (I grew up rurally in Northern NM – bighorn sheep, bobcats, black bear, etc.) before getting STUCK in the city and losing my spirit! The film was profoundly awakening – so, this thanksgiving I’m thankfull for coming across it via PBS! I’m almost finished with an anthropology degree now in my mid-50’s because I’m following my own nature and preparing to do field studies similarly embedded in a “foreign culture” (or foreign vulture, however it works out!). Consider yourself extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to live in what is left of our imagined wilderness… I’m very jealous!

  • Carol Reese

    Thank you. Wonderful film. Funny that living with nature and without other humans is your passion, but another passion is sharing it with other humans. Thank goodness. Wrote a column about this once, since I noticed the same thing in myself.

  • bonnie harris

    Hi Joe, I was a couple of years behind you in Tally Leon. Loved your book, as well as the program. Was this filmed near St. Marks? My parents had a beach house on Live Oak Island…so we tromped around alot in those areas,
    I am looking forward to your new book.

  • gloria spaulding

    This had to be the most interesting show I have watched in a long time. I tell everyone about it. we had a flock on our land near the creek not long ago.
    Will be looking for the show on the mule deer….

  • Claudia

    This was a moving film… I was also sad about Sweetpea. It really affected me. She did appear very sweet. I could tell. I’m glad you shared such wonderful times with her and the other turkeys. I just wanted tto ask why she and her eggs weren’t being sheltered somewhere if there were predators in the area? Did she lay any other eggs that survived? Thanks

  • tommy schock

    I thank you Mr. Joe for such a great film on the life of wild turkeys, they are truley a very keen animal, much more than the deer. I, like others, found myself laugh, then cry for the beauty of nature and all its grandure, what a wonderful world we live in with all the animals and creatures shared with us, for us, and the ones attactched through us in this life, may our GOD bless you and your endeavors, may you make many more films for all to see my brother, thank-you again V/R TOMMY SCHOCK

  • gina

    Thank you for sharing your life with the turkey!!! The photography was incredble. You story was very moving! I cried when the flock would not follow you home, and the loss of sweat-pea. Thank you for sharing your world with us. Going to get the book tomarrow!

  • Ginny Evans

    I was unable to give your program the attention it deserves, so I taped it to watch later on, but definitely after Thanksgiving. If I watch it before I’m afraid I could not be the proper Thanksgiving guest that my son and daughter-in-law expect and deserve.

  • Ginny

    Loved your experience and appreciate your sharing it. I cried of course. We have turkeys at work (19) and we became very attached to a few of them…one in particular which we named Phyllis. She was smaller than the others and always alone so we fed her and she would run to us for food in the morning when we arrived at work. Heartbroken when they found her half eaten on the property. There were coyotes there. I share your heartbreak. It seems they are there and then gone for a period of time. Once we pulled 2 turkeys (males) off another male turkey as they were trying to kill him. We grabbed them by their tails from the bushes and set him free but never saw him after that – I think they finished their job after we left work that night. Another time we broke up a fight between 2 males – one had his beak down the other’s throat. It was horrible. Thank you again. I could not take myself away from the video.

  • Lisa Weiner

    Joe and PBS,

    Thank you for an absolutely beautiful film! And kudos to the photographer/videographer for such brilliant work. The story was phenomenally enhanced by the incredible imagery. Who was behind the camera? The film brought me back to a time when I thoroughly immersed my self in natural world: once lying in a field, deep in the remote Rocky mountains, for hours, as still as possible and letting rabbits, chipmunks, deer, and even elk, sniff and lick me…a day full of memories I will always treasure.

  • Theresa Mills

    I love the film and want everyone to see it…Thank you & pbs for making it and putting it on the computer so everyone can watch it…God Bless You

  • Texas Slim

    There were several scenes that involved snakes and the turkeys. One scene showed a rat snake swallowing a turkey. Is there some good reason why you did not kill every snake that the turkeys encountered when you had the chance?

  • bob tarver

    I was so amazed that when you were with the turkeys that you were able to get so close and interact with other creatures of the forest. The inate knowledge of the turkeys about their habitat was wonderous. How they knew which bugs to eat and what snakes were predators. that was amazing. the noticing that the difference in a fallen stump and a cut stump are capabilities that no human would believe had an effect on the turkeys.

    just think every animal in the forest has these abilities but us, humans. Maybe we need to use the knowledge of the animals to help us survive without destroying our envrionment.

    i would like to come and have lunch with you sometimes to get more insight into what the animals have taught you and could teach others about how we need to better care for the enviironment.

    bob t

  • Donna

    The mutual adoration between Joe Hutto and the turkeys was heartwarming and, ultimately, heartbreaking when they leave him, and then when he loses Sweet Pea and his dream of living with her and her babies, and then again when Turkey Boy makes his dominance display and attacks him. I was moved and thought about the film for days and came away with a desire to cherish my loved ones more, and to be more appreciative of the “moment.”

  • Virginia Gaines

    The film is indeed wonderful, but it is just that–a film. I kept wondering why the man in the film did not look like the Joe Hutto in the interview sections, and then discovered it was NOT Joe in the film! So whatever is shown in the film, and whoever it is (if there is a credit, I missed it), it’s not Joe doing it. So how was it done? How did the turkeys imprint on the actor portraying Joe? Did they in fact form this relationship with the actor? Obviously they cannot be the “turkeys + Joe” that the real Joe is talking about. Did the filming take place over the time span shown in the film, with the same turkeys, or were the turkeys a different flock each time there was a new time frame given on the film, and if so were these flocks somehow tamed/trained?
    So much of this kind of nature photography requires special equipment and special people to get those shots of the snakes, insects, etc. How is that done? Again, it’s beautiful, but is it just “a movie” with special effects, maybe CGI? I have seen so much technology in commercial films now that I have become an old suspicious curmudgeon. For example, how was Turkey Boy’s attack staged? You see? I assume immediately that it was. So I may not be able to suspend disbelief ever again; still, the film remains a fascinating and moving account of his experiment.

  • Lee

    What a wonderful film! I am so grateful to Joe Hutto and PBS.

    One question: were Sweet Pea and her chicks killed by a predator? Or had Sweet Pea killed her chicks and then disappeared? And if that is the case, was it because Sweet Pea had imprinted on Joe so profoundly that she didn’t know what to do about the chicks, and so killed them?

    Either or, I found this so saddening, as I can clearly see Joe did.


  • ann

    I just caught about 3/4th’s of the Turkey show and it was really cool. I’m turning my large yard into a native garden and letting stuff get overgrown. I’m cultivating butterflies and planting stuff they like and I’m amazed at how many birds I have now because of this small oasis of natural habitat. I live in Florida and too much of this state is getting tarred over and developed, too much pesticide use, too many non-native plants. It’s displacing the animals and wildlife. My little yard in the whole scheme of things probably isn’t making a dent, but some days I can have 30 butterflies and tons of birds chirping away and I know I did make some tiny difference to the handful of wildlife that wandered by. It’s up to all of us to do our small part.

  • Mark Damohn

    Hi Mr. Hutto: Where in Florida was the “My Life as a Turkey” filmed and were did you live as you were raising the turkeys. I would like to work with you doing a children’s book about your life as a turkey. Thank you.

  • Ann

    Dear Joe, I was so warmed by your story and life with turkeys. As a child, I spent so much time walking the woods near my home. I was not well, in and out of hospitals, but those woods were my sanctuary. Yes, I know that feeling of being fully in the present and awed by the unfathomable beauty of Nature. The Eastern religions talk of this but Nature is the true teacher of this wisdom. Thank you so much.

  • Ann

    P/S. Oh as for a show for your Western studies, why do a series. I do not think a movie is enough time.


    Mr.Hutto ,Like yourself I am a artist ,sportsman,photographer and conservationist who has a long time interest in wild turkeys since 1971,especially the Florida osceola,which are one of my favorite subjects to both paint and photograph. I enjoyed the show,excellent .

  • john p. morrissey

    i would like to know the names of the artist that contributed the songs use and song title please was that hanna gourges at the end and was there a annie defranco song in there somewhere ?

  • Bill Anderson

    Amazing story and video! I can’t really put into words as to how much I enjoyed this program. I have a deep love and respect for the outdoors and every aspect of nature. This show reveals what we should try and learn from the animal world. Living in the moment, even though this is not entirely possible for us, we should always look for any opportunity to do so. One thing that was very interesting is the fact that being with the turkeys opened up a whole new opportunity to see so many other creatures that would not otherwise be there to see. The connection all these creatures have was truly amazing. I was taken in by the beauty of the flat lands of Florida and would love to visit and photograph it’s beauty some day.
    In closing, I must say how much I admire Joe’s conviction and patience to bring this wonderful story to fruition.

  • Anastasia

    Mr. Hutto,
    Your life with the turkeys was wonderfully chronicled and told. You revealed the intelligence and sensitivities of another species and even entered into their space. When you “got inside” that space, you were able to not only look around and sense its’ realities but also and most importantly report back to us what you learned and felt.

    Your journey with these fine, wild animals is as significant for us to understand as is our exploration of the outer reaches of space. I am very grateful for what you’ve shared with us about the universe next door.


  • June Heimsoth

    This was the best video I have seen in years. Not since the “Natural History of the Chicken” have I been so entertained. Thanks, Joe.
    P.S. The guy in the video (not the narrator) looks like a different person. Am I right?

  • Wendy Kochenthal

    I am a poet and animal lover and before I heard about Joe Hutto and “My Life as a Turkey”, I wrote a poem called “A Turkey Like Me” and I would like to send Joe a copy. How do you suggest I do that.

    Thank you! Sincerely, Wendy Kochenthal

  • Robert Bushman

    What do you make of Turkey Boy attacking you in the end?

  • meme lansford

    I would like to see the program again on PBS ….. The tears wept often kept me of seeing the action and understanding what was happening. I was in a constant state of awe by the UNDERSTANDING Joe Hutto had with the turkeys and the communication acquired JUST BY BEING WITH THEM.

    I would like to take notes at next viewing …. and I am envious of the life Joe Hutto leads. To have the love of the land and the creatures that reside within that land is so Spiritual and must be next to GOD.

    Please, let us have more programs like this …. so PURE AND TRUE.

    Thank you.

  • Raven Gray

    I watched this film last night. I loved it so much that I watched it again the very same night. Then I ordered the DVD. And then I ordered the book.

    Joe Hutto is my kind of guy. I love how he fully gives himself over to the raising of wild turkey hatchlings into adulthood. I love how this changes him, how his consciousness gets cracked open into “turkey mind” – a whole new way of being. I love how he questions his own intelligence in comparison to these wild creatures. I love that he acknowledges their sentience, and the way this humbles him. I love that he learns the gift of being fully present. And I love his experience of turkey joy, wonder and curiosity.

    One of the best parts of the film is when Joe talks about learning turkey language, and his realization that these birds, who are often considered “stupid”, are actually communicating with each other in a very intelligent and complex way. I’ve been learning Bird Language for 2 years now, and am really heartened to see that other people have been discovering this language for themselves, and are validating the sentience of other life forms.

    Thank you so much for producing this film, and thank you so much to Joe Hutto for his incredible work and message to our people about the need to wake up to our own sentience.

  • Mindy Bartholomae

    I was so, so moved by this film; not only for the beauty of becoming one with these birds and seeing the world through their eyes, but also for your humble sense of honoring these creatures for what they taught you.

    We live on a farm in Ohio and 2 years ago, when chick days rolled around at our local feed store, we picked up our layers, but always take in the unclaimed- ducks, turkeys, extra peeps. We got 2 domestic turkeys and 2 “wild” turkeys? Obviously bred at a hatchery, but nonetheless, all the appearance of your brood. Most did not survive, but Boyfriend did. He was spared for Thanksgiving; just too grand a creature! I love the language and rhythms of the birds, but Boyfriend and I developed a special relationship. I would sit in the coop; he would size me up. I lured him closer with a handful of mash. There was lots of eye contact, lots of “speaking.” Then, one of our straight run roosters came into his manhood and started becoming more aggressive. Boyfriend was very aware of this and he made strange sounds directed at the rooster, displayed his feathers and would slowly, but very obviously, usher the rooster out of the coop. I couldn’t believe it at first, but every morning, when I came to feed them and collect eggs, he was there for me. Thus the name “Boyfriend.” Our relationship was so special. He, too, when he got older, would perch atop a light pole next to the chicken yard. Such a sight to see this grand creature silhouetted by the night sky!
    Then, he got a cough, runny nose, swollen eyes. Obviously a bug. I medicated his water. He carried on for several weeks, but still the cough. I was worried, though, and sure enough, the sad morning- I found him dead on the coop floor straw.
    I never thought I’d ever be crying over a turkey. But watching “My Life As a Turkey” brought my special bond with Boyfriend all back. Thank you for the memories.

  • Bonnie Lopez

    I have been a domestic animal rescuer, and wildlife rehabber for about 20 years. I have experienced a very personal and spiritual phenomenon upon the death of several of my most dear animals. As I watched the show, I noticed the presence of a crow as you were burying the two turkey that died of the unknown illness. Did that crow just happen to be in that scene, or have you experienced the same phenomenon?

  • Morgaine O’Malley

    Well, my Christmas shopping has become a whole lot easier this year.

    I’m proud to say there is not one person on my list who will not be as touched and inspired as I was when I first saw it on PBS.

    Thanks, Joe.

    P.S. Say, were they serious about the mule deer project? Updates anywhere?

  • Cathy Spencer

    Here in the north, we see flocking up of family groups over the winter with dispersion in the spring. I feed a large group (50+) during the worst weather and one young female recognizes me and now brings her offspring for food. They are getting less shy after a few weeks of consistent interaction. Turkeys are such amazing creatures, I wish I had more time to spend with them.

  • linda augden

    I was enchanted with your film and in love with the turkeys, I live in a 90 year old stone cottage on 5 acres-mostly woods.I’m just getting to know the turkeys living in the woods and feel this is their land and I’m just a visitor.I wish I could clone you so you could spread your message of love and respect for the animal world everywhere.I have a degree in biology and I’m in cancer research.I do know all of our lives have become too complicated.We are left with no time to appreciate the real beauty in life.It is so beautiful to watch your relationship with nature.Please let me know how I can follow you as you live and learn from wildlife so I can learn also.

  • Gordon Belcher

    I would very much like to know what format this beautiful story was filmed in. 35 mm film, digital video? What camera was used?

    Thank you for any assistance in this quest.

  • Melanie

    This is very interesting work. But I have to disagree with the comment that wild turkeys are as different as dogs and wolves. Dogs and wolves are different species entirely. From what I read, wild turkeys are the same species as domesticated ones (although certainly much breeding has been done which has created reproductive problems). I’m glad you lean toward vegetarianism. I am a vegan, given I dislike the killing of other animals. You either love animals or you eat them. I know it can be socially difficult, but I encourage people to research the agricultural industry and go vegan themselves.

  • Sue Laun

    I was fascinated by the fact that the turkeys instinctively knew which plants, insects, etc. were poisonous and which were edible, even without an adult bird to teach them. It raises all sorts of questions about intelligence being genetic. I wonder… if a clutch of eggs from Pennsylvania were brought to Florida to be hatched and raised, would they instinctively know the southern dangers, or would they only be programmed for those one would encounter in the north? An intriguing question.

  • Dr. Harold Olmstead You could learn a lot about how to live life from these wild turkeys. This may be some of the most inspiring 50+ minutes one will ever spend. It captures an essence of love, communication and humility of relationship rarely seen in life. This is Joe Hutto as the “living man” as a triune of mind-spirit-body sharing in the life of a magnificent group of “wild turkeys” that let him in on the subtle secrets of the natural earth and its wonderful creatures in their natural state of harmonious relationship. When one listens and sees life as it is, it opens it’s splendor to one. This is what being awake looks like and how the mundane and simplicity is revealed as ones discernment unfolds and prejudice fades. this exemplifies the space of a healing nurturing relationship. Bravo to you Joe Hutto! You are truly an amazing and inspiring human being in the highest most reverent sense of the term. If you recall Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be the national bird, there is more in that choice than meets the eye.

  • sally caraway

    while driving through west virginia in the early hours last december on my way to visit my mother, i found a wild turkey standing in the road. i’ve spent alot of time in the woods and have never been forced to shoo a turkey away. but in this case i had to stop the car and follow the bird around it a half dozen times with rice cakes in hand to lead him to safety. he had no sense of fear, did not appear to be injured and i was within inches of him for a good five minutes while i played ‘follow the leader’ and eventually led him off the road. still, i had no good sense that he would remain safe for very long.

    it was a remarkable experience for me and i have no explanation for it though my brother feels the animal must have been suffering from dementia.

    do you have any ideas?

    thanks so much.

    sally caraway

  • plato

    i wonder why turkeys are cheaper to buy than chicken. the size?

  • birdmother marcy

    I was held spellbound for the duration of this touching film. I have felt those same emotions and experienced profound sadness during my years of avian rescue and rehabilitation of exotic and wild birds when one I’ve loved ioses its life be it from old age or sickness. The birds handfed from birth are amazingly just like your own children, as if you hatched the egg! Some birds never lose the imprinting as the Wild Turkeys did.

    The part of the film that haunts me the most….is the scene with the snake…the close-up of the baby’s feet and legs sticking out of the snake’s mouth. Disturbing! Was that for real? Was a baby sacrificed for the real life aspect of the film?

  • Anne

    Absolutely loved your film. What a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the natural world and intimately come to know another species. I am anxious to see or read about your work with mule deer. Thanks for sharing your experiences in film.

  • Marc Sudret

    I have and love my wild Turkeys.
    I’m just waiting to have all the wild species now, nether have the same character… But all are love !
    I just live for my wild Turkeys, my wild turkeys love me, I love them.
    These in the film are Osceola that’s right ?

  • Cayce

    I’m glad I finally got around to watching this.

    My favorite segment was the Turkey Boy attack (sorry, Joe). I was raised on a good sized pecan farm in the panhandle of northern Florida, north of Panama City, and I know the endless exploring that world can afford a youngster. My Dad was always coming up with new things to make life interesting and once brought home a dozen young turkeys, which I proceeded to raise. Turned out to be 11 hens and one tom. These were domestics, growing to be bigger than the average wild turkey. It was pretty cool, in an almost comical way, watching Tom strut for the hens (and anything else that would watch) as he grew up, and he & I were getting along fine until the day he decided I needed to be shown the pecking order. I had no clue a turkey could even do what he was about to. I was milking a cow in the side of the barn that opened out into the grove, late afternoon, sitting on a stool with a double handful of cow udder, my back to the yard where Tom was struttin’ his stuff. I could hear him behind me but wasn’t thinking much about it until I heard a commotion & flurry of wings, and before I could turn around, Tom was trying to rip my shirt off with chunks of me in the mix. I jumped up, the cow tried to bolt over the stall, milk went everywhere, and with the air still churning with dust I turned to see that turkey standing about ten feet away looking at me like, “WHAT?!!”.

    He decided from that point onward I was to be disciplined at each opportunity and it took a while for me to convince him that he was a guest, and needed to behave like one.

    Great piece of work there, Joe. Made me miss my home. Keep it up.


  • Katrina Glanville

    Hey Joe I am so glad I saw your film it is truly wonderful! Like you, I adore animals of all kinds, and am intrigued about the nature/nurture debate, and your film showed just how close we can get to an animal’s world, but never so close as to change anything (and why would we want to?). I loved watching your changing relationship with the Turkeys and how they each had their own little personalities and I admit, I loved that Sweetpea was so affectionate towards you..that was special..I cried when she was such a moving which must have hurt you deeply. Since watching your film, I have told many people about it and they too have watched it in wonder..thank you for sharing such an intimate and beautiful is one I will never forget..will your film be available to buy on DVD? Thank you Joe is people like you that help us learn and appreciate the world of animals and therefore give us a much deeper level of understanding.

  • Wendy Kochenthal

    I asked on Nov 27th, “how do I send Joe my poem” and I still don’t know, so I guess I will print it:

    A Turkey Like Me

    Driving to Dynamite Coffee Roasters Cafe
    with hot goat milk in a jar
    rye toast buttered with honey

    Two cars stopped
    turkey in the road
    out there – frantic, turns around
    walks back to the other turkeys

    all this indecision, confusion, changing of mind
    (turkeys do have minds and feelings)
    and we wait patiently

    my fear: all those bad, heartless people
    out there will run them down
    but three of us cared.

    He passed me and waved

    Why am I crying?
    the turkey made it across the road
    to its brother and sister

    vulnerable turkey, like that child whom I grieve for
    never made it back to my brother and sister

    We cared enough to stop for a turkey.

  • Alyssa

    Joe please help. I was given seven turkey eggs this morning from a nest that was run over by a brush hog near my home in VT. What do I do?

  • Jane Miller

    Have just seen your turkey film for the second time and cried in all the same places ! What a wonderful film ,I work in a school age range 4-18 like the turkeys they need nurture early on and gradually left to find the world for themselves like the turkeys.
    The scenery magical beautifully filmed, very different from here in th UK. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.

  • ray mendez


    i have just watched your “life as a turkey” programme on the bbc2 channel hear in the uk.i just want to say how very much i enjoyed it,especially your views on living in the are so right about not constantly looking ahead and losing out on where we are at this very moment.thank you for being who you are and making me smile this day.
    best wishes,
    ray mendez

  • siwla virago

    Hi Joe, watched you’re turkey program this morning and thought it was wonderful. You are also a very inspiring person. Thankyou. Regards Siwla.

  • clare

    Dear Joe,

    Your turkey film was repeated here on BBC in the UK yesterday at 10.00 in the morning. I sat mesmerised and close to tears by the beauty of it all and your wonderful insight into how we live (or do not live) our lives. Beautiful to look at, the programme haunted me all day and again this moring I feel better for having watched it. Very grateful to you Joe for sharing this with the world. Very best wishes, clare

  • Islay Aslett

    Joe your turkey story has really touched me, I have 11 chickens and i’m 13 years old 14 next week and your story is very similar to mine, we rescued the chickens from our neighbors because they were neglecting them (not giving them food, water and not cleaning them out) so we rescued them we had one beautiful bird bluebell but she was still attached to her old home and kept going back but they had a violent dog and i woke up one morning witnessing bluebell torn to shreds. We kept the other birds and have looked after them for about 2 years, one of them was broody and laid, we had 6 but now had thirteen sadly two of them died. But we heard after all of the chicks had hatched one of the three eggs that hadn’t hatched was still cheeping and cheeping alot, so we put it under another broody bird and it hatched, I called the boy chirpy, every day when i got home from school I would play with him and give him cuddles and he loves me (just like little sweet pea!) and then when we let him in to the hen house at night I would come outside to shut the door of the hen house and half way up the path I would see this little figure running down the garden making a racket, And I would hush him and cuddle him for about 20mins and then put him to bed, I still do it now. I also have twin girls MeeMee and KiKi, KiKi is still getting used to me and is very shy but MeeMee is adorable! Whenever it rains I run out side put my big coat on and MeeMee would jump up at me and go inside my coat knowing it was warm and I would cuddle her for hours and fall asleep outside in the rain. So thank you Joe very much and I hope somebody reads this, thanks :) Email me if you have any feedback:

  • Sharol Lambert

    Joe, Thank you for your profound insights & instilling a sense of awe into us all.You are an animals best friend. I hope many are encouraged to become informed as you are – you are a great inspiration to me.

  • russell

    i got 2 6 week old baby turkeys and the white one has struted 12 times that iv seen is it a gobbler

  • Bonnie Davis

    Lovely film, but I was really horrified that Joe hit Turkey Boy as hard as he could with a giant piece of wood. Poor Turkey Boy probably went away to die. Was there no other way for Joe to get to safety? I was so moved and inspired until that happened and then I was heartsick for hours. Am I the only one who felt bad about this? (I didn’t read every post word for word but I didn’t see any comments like mine.)

  • Katie Klus

    Am just watching this film. It had been on before but had put it off. What a mistake! I fell in love with your turkeys…with all turkeys. I am a naturalist myself, and your film proved that I will never cease to be amazed by nature. There were many times where I starting tearing up. The film was so moving!

  • Marianne Ronayne

    We watched this wonderful program on a TV in Christchurch New Zealand on October 29th, 2012. Christchurch was decimated by a massive earthquake two years ago and to see the destruction done by “Mother Nature” was such a massive contrast to the visions of Joe Hutto and his life with the wild turkeys was an incredible experience.
    Thanks to the wonders of internet and Google we are now able to follow the adventures of this remarkeable man and wonder why he choose this path in life and to enjoy his travels. Thank you Joe Hutto.
    John & Marianne Ronayne (in Australia).

  • Jessica P

    I am not certain you will ever see this but I wanted to thank you for both writing a book and filming the movie recreation of your experience with turkeys. There is a wild turkey hen that lives in my (urban!) neighborhood, and she has just charmed and fascinated me. Observing her and wanting to learn more led me to your book and movie. Thank you!

  • Jessica P

    Just wanted to respond to a few of the posts about Turkey Boy. In the book, the story doesn’t end with Joe hitting Turkey Boy. Turkey Boy comes back, very ill (from something unrelated to the fight), and Joe nurses him back to health and they end up having a good relationship again.

  • Claudy

    You’d love to read a book by Harold Klemp: Animals are soul too.
    I just listened to your program and found it very interesting.

  • helen from Montreal

    Awww i just saw this film in subtitle in french. Beautiful image, beautiful place and what a wonderful touching story. When they don’t followed you i tough oh now they are teenager lol Thanks for sharing this and animals give us humans a lesson. THANK YOU

  • Melissa S

    I have not seen the film yet, but will watch it tonight on line and again on tv when it airs the 21st. I just finished the book last night. I loved every word, every page, and as an artist was astounded by every sketch, the love and detail that went into each one.
    I have a similar kinship with animals and while my experience is not as vast as yours, I totally “GOT” everything you said about the fellowship and magic of it all. I have raised 3 orphaned baby squirrels (3 different times) and felt the overwhelming joy and heartbreak of the communion and releasing them to the wild. I have had several amazing and wonderful experiences with wild turkey on our farm and treasure them. I also have chickens who free range during the day (safe in coop each night) and I am constantly amazed by their affection and intelligence.
    Not to mention that my cat and dog are two of my best friends! We have covered miles together, hiking in nature. Yes, the cat goes, too!
    I am buying the book for my brother and nephew in hopes they will never kill another creature. I have encouraged them to “hunt” using a camera instead. I can’t bear to even trim a limb off a tree much less kill anything.
    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing experience with us. I can’t wait to read your other books.
    FYI I saw and purchased your book in a sweet little book store in Apalachicola, FL earlier this month.


  • Harry H MacDonald

    While I feel kudos may at times have certainly become redundant for this wonderful work and documentary.
    Mr. Hutto you appear to be a wonderful, compassionate gentle soul. Thank you so very much for allowing a glimpse into your world and extended “family!”
    The silloutte of the first tree roost, wonderful!
    On behalf of many thank you!

  • E.F. Parsons

    Dear Mr. Hutto,
    God gave us dominion over all the wild animals, and the way in which you honored the free will given to us by our creator is truly awesome. As the mother of two daughters and grandmother of two wonderful little girls, I have experienced deep love for the newborn and young. Your deep and abiding love for the turkeys touched my mother’s heart.

  • Deb

    Thank you Joe,

    I am vegan but feed my dog meat and vegetables. I bought a large turkey for her and feel very sad. Handling meat, fish included, is difficult for me. I am not a natural animal lover, I came by it at around age 40. I really love your respect for them. I have said for a long time that I do not, at all, consider the human race superior to any animal. My spirituality is tied into my beliefs about animals. I want to work with them but feel so strongly about their welfare that it is hard to find a place to work…advocates are usually volunteers.

    Your documentary was superb. Thank you for what you do for them, I feel very grateful.

  • Asa Jones Jr.

    Hello joe,

    What a great piece of work, My family enjoyed every minute of it ! I am a writer myself and I know good work (and research) when I see it. Once again, thank you for this wonderful gift.


    Asa Jones

  • Dale Fern Mills

    Thanks for being so much yourself on the turkey program. I’m like you in many ways. I like to be out alone in nature and become part of the life around. Not like the mountain climbers that want to conquer, people on quads that tear up land and silence. I’ve moved from my small house in the Crowsnest Pass in Alberta to a year or two to help my daughter attend school and help her with her children. I stare across the busy road across and miss the silence. I was having almost a nervous breakdown the first couple of months until I finally convined a family of magpies that I liked them, fed them non-poisonous foods and would talk to them and look at them through the window. It’s so important to remember how nature is us, to those that it is. I felt bad when you would lose some of your turkey’s and even the end. After a car accident a decade ago I was spending a lot of time on my front deck, surrounded by tall lilacs, and a fifty year old elm…and one day noticed a crow couple sitting beside one another the special way they do and noticed that one was very lame. After a lot of learning and trust making this crow and his family all came to trust me and migrated right back and look in my den window from the deck railing, for six years. This last year he didn’t come back and I was totally devastated and felt hollow. I sold my house in the fall but fed his generations so they were in the best shape they could be for their flight south. During the six years I saw how much damage humans place on birds like crows. You can say I have little positive to say about man for much of the time. I’m sure I’ll write something about this in the future but it’s too devastating right now and man’s part in it would make it too dark a writing. When I read that you were in Montana with mule deer I called you my hero. If I go through some of Montana on my way to a children’s book writers conference in May I can think that there is someone out there that shares the same wonder, learning and sadness of it all.

    Thanks for giving me a place to say these things. I live in Edmonton until I will get back to the mountains and I drove past an Enbridge facility (This is oil capital heaven…or hell depending on your perspective) and on the facility there were paintings of blue sky and Canada Geese. I took my granddaughter past and could not hold back all my sarcasm of the whole thing. I went back home and fed my magpies, sparrows and Chickadees. They settled me down.

    Dale F. Mills

  • Rebecca T

    This is one of the most beautiful documentaries I’ve ever seen! I was in rapt attention, awed, completely in the present moment the entire watching. Joe’s commitment, attunement and connection with the wild turkeys was mesmerizing, and his wise perspective inspiring. Thank you for this wonderful gift! Also, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the cinematography: it was superb! Absolutely stunning! I was amazed how the photographers could capture so many pivotal and raw moments.

  • Bill Jacoby

    I am glad there are so many comments, I can’t read them all, but they support my exclamation: What a wonderful film! What a message to humanity! The best of the Nature programs I’ve seen, which is no small praise. Thanks, thanks, thanks to all involved.
    That the photography was unbelievably good, is almost the least of the features of the film I would praise.

  • Rodger

    Wow! This film was a real eye-opener for me! Thank you! Who knew turkeys have such an extensive language, make friends with squirrels and dears, and can show _us_ around the forest?! Wonderful! I’m just sorry to see there was such a ferocious fight at the end; and of course the few who came to premature deaths.

  • Charles Conner


    Your work product and devotion is highly commendable.

    Having dealt with wild quail and pheasants (not to mention a multitude of domestic chickens) I wasn’t really surprised by the imprinting or the actions & reactions of the birds over time. The affections and rejections – including the spurings – are often encountered, albeit unexpectedly.

    The most chilling of your observations for me, came after the birds decided they could apparently make it on their own. And subsequently, their mere avoidance of any direct contact with your being, no matter where on the property you roamed, and/or vocalized.

    Your observation that visual contact with other things wild, within that ecosystem, also declined – was for me, the confirmation of the existence of a sixth sense within wild animals. And that appears to ring true the ole deer hunters’ adage – “that for every deer you see, twenty see you.” They know where you are, but you remain unaware of them.

    The simple appearance and disappearance, is apparently a sense & ability that humans, even with technology, may never be completely able to master.

    Continued success in all that do.

  • harriet Donnelly

    You are what a real man is and should be. Caring, sensitive and brave to do what you do. Your awareness into so much of our beautiful nature is inspiring to anyone who sees this. Thank you for this and hope a film is possible on the mule deer. Beautiful work!

  • William (Bill) Leak

    I haven’t be as enthralled since my kids and subsequently my grandson hatched. Beautiful film!

  • Vanessa Torluemke

    Thank you and PBS for showing us your life with turkeys. Very glad you and Turkey Boy made up as it was heartbreaking to see how badly he treated you while realizing theses things are bound to happen.

  • Kelley Taylor

    I just watched the Turkey show and I have to tell you that I was moved to tears. I found the interaction with you to be so interesting and loving. I really felt how much you grew to love them. I was shocked to hear Sweet Pea was killed and how Turkey-boy attacked you.
    It was truly a moving piece that I enjoyed watching, couldn’t step away from the T.V.
    Thank you for allowing us as viewers into that world.

  • Ray Heeter

    Hi Joe, I too have had profound experiences with different birds. A Wild Cormarant (spelling)? Used to stock me down in Key West on diving trips. I love the program I saw on Turkeys. Keep up the great work you do.
    I wonder if birds in general have a certain connection with certain humans because of traits we inherate.

  • Julie

    Joe, I stumbled on the film part way through, while I was browsing the tv selections this past Wednesday – was caught – actually mesmerized, not only by the story but by the beauty of the cinematography. Will watch it again. Then I remembered, I had purchased a book on wild turkeys a few years ago and tucked it away to read some time in the future. I went looking for it and it is in fact, Illumination in the Flatwoods! The future is NOW!!!! Thank You Thank You!

  • Robin Wickersham

    Joe, Your show “My Life as a Turkey” has totally changed my outlook on wild turkey’s…..I loved every minute of it….your life with all of them…..the filming….the story…..everything!!!…Sorry about Sweet Pea and Turkey Boy….part of life is all I can say – but still sad…….a big thanks to you and PBS for sharing this with all of us!!!……I watched it last night then it was on again this morning and I watched it again. I would see it over and over – Thank You again!!!

  • Linda Emily

    While the film was sensitve, wonderful and revealed the beauty and capacity of turkeys there were two reservations. Knowing the reenactment was staged, it was very difficult to see the snake devour the infant bird and to know it was intentionally done for the film. That was not necessary for effect.

    Also, how does one reconcile a deep respect and love for animals and continue to consume them, even elk at Thanksgiving? One does not eat the object of his affection. For consistency and honesty sake, and for the sake of humanity and animals, please become vegan. Thank you.

  • brad

    I am watching pbs program nature. I have to say I was having a pretty difficult day and found the program inspirational at a time when I could use a lift. Heart warming with a lesson in reality.

  • Joyce Davis

    Thank you and PBS for this wonderful program. I was very touched by your interaction with these turkeys. I especially enjoyed the vocalizations you learned from them. I grew up on a large dairy farm in Minnesota and as a teenager one of my chores was to feed the chickens. In summer I would sit on a 5 gallon pail containing oats/chopped corn and “hand out” grain to those who would come close enough to eat out of my hand. One Rhode Island red hen strolled up but was not interested in eating, she evidently wanted to “talk”. She perched on my knee and entered into a long “chickenese” conversation. Her tone was sweet chatter until the rooster walked by. She became very agitated by him and her tone became very “grumbling”. She went back to her sweet talk after the rooster left. This “friendship” lasted until I left to join the Army. So I can see how once you learned their vocalizations you could speak the language.
    Thanks for such a moving film..Will look for more of same on PBS.

  • kcdelap


  • John Ott

    Wonderfull story, but I was dismayed when Turkey Boy attacked you, Nevertheless it was a great story, that I will never forget. Will there be another story of the same type ?

  • Gail S

    Very quickly, I became totally immersed in this story. I too love the natural world and all (most?) of her creatures so it was very enjoyable seeing these young birds as they progressed to adulthood. Your understanding of these turkeys and your willingness to share your personal experience with them was very moving. It was fascinating to watch the ‘family’ as they tramped through the woods, began roosting in trees, and when one day you realized it was just you and Sweetpea and all the others had ventured off on their own. While initially shocking, even Turkey Boy’s attack on you was a natural occurrence in the life of a dominant male turkey. I studied math in college and have made my living by it; but I can’t help but wonder what my life would be like if I followed the different path of being so involved in nature.
    Thank you and all those involved in bringing this movie to the world.

  • Brett

    I’m 11 yrs. old and was wondering how you took care of them.

  • Jay

    You and I share the same heart… But, greed has ruined this planet. So many people watched as the rich doctor destroyed 1 mile of shoreline and all of the nature that belonged to it. The rich doctor was intent on holding back the ocean with his concrete seawall.. Nobody spoke up and for the ones that did… They were told – Its a free country.. And now were at a cross-road and the health of the planet is at stake…. But, dont you worry!! Because, that rich doctor is only drilling a hole in his side of the boat.. And sooner or later we will all need a seawall.

  • Shanti

    Just saw this with family & friends. We couldn’t talk during and after for about 10 minutes. UN. BE. LIEVABLE.

    PBS should film Joe Hutto & his further animal explorations as a reality show/series, called, “The Real-life Dr. Doolittle.” PLEASE.

    If not PBS, who the frack else is going to show us this kind of wonder & delight…? No other network.

  • Zie

    I’ve read most of the comments and am amazed that so few have been about changing their diets so turkeys aren’t eaten on “Thanksgiving.” Not sure how anyone could continue to eat turkeys after seeing your film and story? What intelligent and playful, sentient creatures!
    How can one eat or hunt (someone said they were an “ethical turkey hunter”— how antithetical putting those words together) an animal after one has peeked into its beauty and life and ability to relate?

    Let’s be as sentient as these turkeys, people!
    Let’s wake up and allow animals to live their lives just as you wish to live yours.
    In peace.

  • Brian O.

    This film is amazing. Nature does not cease to amaze me. I wish I could have experiences such as Joe had/has.

  • cher

    I could barely watch “My Life as a Turkey” tonight as I knew how it was going to end. I cried through the whole show (what I could watch). Birds are very special and a little ethereal. My mom was quite a bird lover, and at one time adopted a Mallard duck which landed on her doorstep, injured. She somehow nursed him to health (name I cannot remember), but he was just there when I visited my mom, for months! Just there! I think he was impaired somehow, but can’t remember exactly how.. he just hung about in the yard…for years! She took care of him.. played with him .. loved him.. and of course… one day,,,, he got attacked by somethting and she found him…. so, to me birds are especially vulnerable to well, death.

    I was especially interested in Joe’s ideas about the turkeys as to their perceptions of the world. It was enlightening that perhaps they have more than a “bird brain.” Granted, feelings are something we humans have, but obviously feelings are more than human? They can perhaps be different? More now, in the present, for birds et al (than in the future)?

    Anyways, thanks for this sad, sad, sad, turkey movie… I do look upon turkeys differently… but love all the birds. Did you ever think that you never find a dead one? (bird), (yes, eggs, chicks, but never a dead bird?).

  • Coby

    This had me glued to my tv. I can’t wait to watch his next production. Nature can move mountains in your soul if you’ll just open your eyes and see the life that is happening around you.

  • Doug Duncan

    Hi Joe. I have now watched the PBS program, “My Life As A Turkey,” at least 3 times! Your story completely drew me in and allowed me to experience such soul-stirring emotions…it really choked me up! When you first realized that Sweet Pea had, in fact, been eaten and her eggs all devoured…O MAN. Then again, when Turkey Boy “turned” on you? I was glad to hear that you and T.B. made up and had more time together after all.
    I don’t know if I am supposed to ask anything in this format, Joe. I just wanted to let you know that this film has completely touched me. I would say thanks for the sacrifices you have made to retrieve such information, but somehow I don’t feel that a “thank you,” is what would be appropriate. But I suppose it will have to suffice.
    I am in awe of such commitment and discovery.
    Doug Duncan

  • Christine Hawes

    I just watched the show and was very moved by it. I have much more interest in the family of wild turkeys that I see in our backyard. Have taken pictures of them several times. Turkeys, who knew they could be so interesting. Thanks for the show.

  • Bryan Zemlicka

    Very nice film with a good message. Rarely do we as humans get the chance to see interaction between animals and humans. I have concerns that others will try to duplicate the study with other animals. I would be particularly be interested in watching a video on the making of the “Turkey Man” film.

  • Sophie Akers

    Joe,I have just watched your amazing story ‘My Life as a Turkey’ here in Australia (for the second time in one day) and wish to thank you Joe for your lifes work and committment to animals, the planet and humans.

    I have spent most of my adult life working in the environment/conservation field and have recently lost my way,as it can be all consuming and heartbreaking to work in this area. Thank you for reminding me of why I chose this field to work in and why it is so important to fight to perserve and protect it.

  • Violet Hignett

    Dear Joe. A friend alerted me to your program on turkeys and I was emotionally moved by the story after viewing it because I have a “pet” turkey. Tommie has been coming on to my front porch since 2011 where he first began fanning his beautiful feathers strutting across one end of the porch to the other, gobbling at hens some distance away near the road. He would come every day in the morning and stay until late afternoon, sometimes had a nap beneath the low windows. Our road is a short one, winding slightly, ending near the top of the mountain. Being a wooded area, homeowners are used to the occasional deer or bear, but what amazed everyone was to see Tommie on my porch day after day. Strangers driving by would stop, take pictures and even pull into my driveway to see him closely. I always talk to him and speak in soft tones as he comes up the stairs .He has his own bowl with his favorite seeds. At arms length he waits until I fill his bowl and clucks softly as if to say “Thank You” pecking away at the seeds. As I sit on the porch chair I talk to him and tell him he is beautiful and has beautiful eyes. He is so smart, I could gush about him all the time. He disappeared for 4 months. We speculated he must have come to a sad ending but he returned on Feb. 26, 2012 to my total happiness. As before he came on the porch two days later for his seeds. However he had changed. He no longer strutted to impress the hens who had since then showed us 16 poults. One of the hens saved one of her poults another saved four. The third had none. As we watched them grow they all fed together in our yards on grass and corn we threw out to them. Tommie became agressive towards the poults and hens in the front yard and there was a lot of chasing–he doing the chasing. But he continued coming on my porch for his seeds and drank fresh water from a large ceramic bowl I fixed for him in the front garden. He had become a loner, stayed in the front yard, or walked around the house scratching for bugs most of the day. You could tell he was comfortable in favorite “hiding” places under azaleas and low branched trees. I am amused when I am out in “his” space hoeing in the small front garden and he is on the porch, preening his feathers. Toward the end of October he disappeared again and am hopeful will return in February. The turkey’s keen eyesight and hearing are amazing. Tommy listened outside the window when he heard music as I played a Mozart sonata on my piano. (My cat also was a music lover). I would like to know more about turkey’s ability to discern color if anyone would respond to that. Thank you for a beautiful show. Sincerely, Vi Hignett

  • Susie

    I stumbled upon this film on PBS last night. I loved it. I absolutely was glued to the screen (and I do not watch TV much AT ALL!)! All night long I worried over the ending. So glad to read above info that Turkey Boy survived the skirmish (glad you did, too!), and he went on to live a normal life. I understand your heartache, however. I will now read your book. Thank you.

  • fred mack

    I found the Nature presentation on your experience bonding with turkeys to be very interesting and enjoyable to watch. I found one thing very puzzling about how the show ended. After the completely unexpected attack on you by Turkey Boy, I’m surprised that you offered no opinions or speculation on why it occurred. Did Turkey Boy suddenly view you as a rival for leadership of the flock or do you have any other theories on why the attack occurred? I would be extremely interested in hearing them.

  • Caryl

    Such a great example of humility and awe. And another, demonstrating that all we need to know can be taught to us by observing nature. Nature is so unfamiliar to many of us due to robot like modern day demands. This is a film presented with such wisdom and grace. I feel humbled and grateful to have experienced this film and want to share it widely. Thank you Joe Hutto. Looking forward to witnessing more from you and your experiences. With Kind Regards, Caryl

  • limbhanger

    I am and will continue to be a turkey hunter and this story is truly amazing. It helps me appreciate turkeys and God’s creation even more!! Only the ignorant suggest that turkeys are defenseless, and this story shows even more how formidable their defenses are.

    I’ve always characterized turkeys as extremely wary but no so smart. From my deer stand, I’ve watched a wild jake pace back and forth for 30 minutes stymied by the challenge of crossing a woven wire fence. Perhaps the fence is just a new (in terms of evolutionary time) development for modern turkeys.

    In a few days, I’ll be in the greening turkey woods turn as night turns to dawn, and the gobblers will sound their lusty calls to the hens and their irritation to the owls and crows. The joy makes the hair stand on my arms, and so did parts of this show. Calling a gobbler within range is one of the great thrills of my life.

    Thank you, Joe, for advancing my understanding and appreciation of the wild turkey.

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