My Life as a Turkey
Sketches from the Flatwoods

Joe Hutto is a nationally recognized naturalist and wildlife artist. During his time as a turkey mother, Hutto created a series of illustrations documenting his time with his chicks. Here’s a selection of sketches, featured in Hutto’s Illumination in the Flatwoods, the book that inspired the film.

Turkey Face

  • MarkOutThere

    If you have not picked up this book, you need to. It is one of the most wonderful chronicles of human/wildlife interaction I have ever read and the sketches that accompany this book are a huge bonus. Hutto’s ability to put you in each moment will keep you glued to the pages.

    I read this when it first appeared some years ago and it has been a treasured part of my library every since; I can’t wait to watch the full film on Nature.

  • Phyl

    Why can I find NO information on Joe Hutto, the person. Where is his biography? I find no Wiki on him, no history. When I try to find out about the man , the only thing I come up with is Nature, and some sketches.
    Why nothing on the man himself.

  • Kay Edwards

    PBS you gave me such a wonderful gift tonight in your program about the turkeys!!!!!
    I was absolutely enchanted! How did you find this special, special story of this man and his turkeys? I would really love to know…

    Thank God for PBS…otherwise TV would be so blah!
    Love and Gratitude,

  • MM

    I am astounded at how well done this film was! Beautiful photography, great variety of shots, editing. How the re-enactments were done I cannot imagine. The music too fit so well the scenes. How long did it take to make this movie. How was it done? I’d like to see a “making of” dvd.

  • Nancy Affleck

    Thanks to Nature @ PBS I now have a new naturalist to follow ! As R. D. Lawrence did for me 3O yrs ago., Joe Hutto will continue where R. D. had to leave off. I would like more information on Mr. Hutto as well, & a “the making of” DVD would indeed be fabulous !!!
    Thank you so much !

  • Patty Pratt

    Wow! what a truly impactful shared experience in a way where the present moment was truly the only beckoning minute to minute. Joe Hutto is the most subtle insightful philosopher I have ever listened to and his thoughts born of living with a creature of unassuming nature. Beautiful. Eloquent.

  • Deb Terry

    What a treat to come across this film tonight on Nature on PBS. I knew by the landscape it had to be somewhere near Ocala. I am now in NC and enjoy watching wild turkeys here in the mountains. What a beautiful and touching story. Joe Hutto, you are awesome and an artist to boot. I am not sure who shot the footage but they did an amazing job as well. Thank you again. I will be purchasing the book and hopefully some of the sketches.

  • Mark Hartley

    i am a hunter and after watching this program ill never hunt a turkey ever again. absolutely amazing every last bit. ill be buying the book and ordering the DVD asap

  • Robert

    Such is God’s providence, in that a man, could interact and “speak” the language of the Wild Turkey. Wonderfully composed and deeply touching to any man’s soul. Looking forward to the book and DVD as well.

  • Susan

    I stumbled on this program last evening, and came away feeling that I had shared a deep kind of magic. Very personal, open-hearted, and beautifully crafted. I don’t know exactly how this was able to happen, but perhaps from the very human longing to connect.

  • Sandi

    I’ve still got turkey bumps for the joy this film brought me. I, too, would like to know more about this amazing man and his communes with animals. Soooo beautifully done, so touching, brought laughter and tears…wanna see more! Thank you PBS!

  • Roberta

    I would LOVE to know how the re-enactment for “My Life as a Turkey” was done! How long did it take? The person in the film obviously had to go through the imprinting process himself in order to create this. Will PBS ever show the “Making of……” of the movie? I think there will be alot of people who would be interested in seeing that.
    Thank you so much, PBS! Excellent film!

  • rodger wilson

    what a story,could not get over the ending!



  • Ann

    I was clicking channels last night and thank God stopped on this show-luckily I caught almost the very beginning.
    It was trully one of the best films I have ever watched. The wildlife was amazing- Joe Hutto is my hero.
    A man’s man, but also a loving and gentle soul-
    The next time I see wild turkeys I will think of Turkey boy and Sweet pea .
    Thank you Joe Hutto for proving that our wild beasts and birds are more intelligent then we ever give them credit for.
    Thanks to PBS as always .

  • Iris

    Thank you PBS for the great show. I was captivated by the connection he developed with the turkeys. Within my soul I have always suspected we are part of one being interconnected and equipped with an amalgam of feelings and instincts.

  • David

    As a passionate turkey hunter, I have a deep understanding, respect, and appreciation for the wild turkey. I have studied the wild turkey since my youth, can mimic their calls with accuracy, and feel like I know the birds I pursue as well as themselves. With that being said, I learned so much by watching this film that I may not have been able to attain in a lifetime. Its no secret that wild turkeys have the odds stacked against them relative to predation. Out of 1000 eggs that are laid, only four of them will make it to four years of age (which is relatively old for a turkey). We exercise predator control and habitat enhancement on our property to help even the odds for turkeys, but as we saw in this movie, even under the careful eye of Joe he still managed to lose two poults. Great movie about an incredible animal.

  • Lyn Marie

    Loved the show and will suggest it to my book club~~~

    and Nancy: happy to see someone who cherished R.D. LAWRENCE as i did; best wolf – info stories!

  • Gary

    I don’t have anything new to add to the comments above, but it was such a great show that I just had to say something. I stumbled across it near the beginning and could not leave it until the end. I’ve always been interested in man’s relationship with the other animals (we are animals, too). They have feelings just as we do, but it seems like most people don’t realize it or they don’t want to think about it. Thanks again for a great program.

  • Joe

    Very touching. I had 10 turkeys at my bird feeder yesterday in NJ and I have a new perspective. I missed the very beginning. How did he come into possession of the eggs. Similar to what happened to Sweet Pea?

  • Maggie

    Wonderful, wonderful program…………..Sent emails to all my family to be sure to catch it next time it is on.

  • Mark Damohn

    I am looking fro some contact information for Joe Hutto. I write children’s books and would enjoy doing a children’s books about his turkey story.

  • Margaret

    For Joe:
    His neighbor left eggs on Joe’s porch, 20 I think, and Joe had to borrow an incubator from a friend. The eggs had been without incubation for about 7 or 8 hours., But all was fine. Joe had to turn the eggs 3 times a day for 25 days then stop. Didn’t see how long the gestation period lasts.
    Beautiful captivating breathtaking.
    Thank you PBS .

  • elizabeth

    thank you, joe, you have reconnected with life.

  • Debbie

    I would like to know why Turkey Boy attacked Joe? Did Joe pose some sort of threat? After the bond I am bewildered at this attack. Unless out of some weird corner of Turkey Boy’s eye he spied a female turkey and looked at Joe as a threat…and attacked…! So scary…too bad…he loved those wild turkeys but alas, they are wild! Never know what to expect from wild animals of any kind. (”> chirp!!!

  • Kay Burkett

    I am watching this film again tonight! I was so moved by the beauty of the story, the fabulous photography,the music and the human/ animal connection. This is what the world needs more of!
    Where can one find more of Joe’s art?

  • Swanny

    I think maybe Turkey Boy attacked Joe because turkey brothers with spar, rough house if you will, or maybe drive the other off.

  • Ramona

    Thank you for bringing Joe Hutto to all of us…this was not only educational, but opened the soul of many…because “his” soul, was shown to us! He is quite an amazing person. Is there a contact for him?
    Will be getting his books and dvd….
    Thank You PBS.

  • Swanny

    Those little turkey babies have to be one of the most adorable things I’ve seen. Their little bodies on those log legs.

    Great show

  • Renita Hunziker

    Me too……I was surfing away from all the nauseous football news and I always check PBS and was drawn in by how the narrator peered into the camera making me feel as if he were in my living room. I was wondering if it was another great Ken Burns production….he’s such a perfectionist in his work. How moving to see a man explaining an affection for nature vs. showing off his forty point buck.
    At the end of the show it mentioned that Joe was headed for Wyoming to live with the deer mule. My only wish for Joe is that he doesn’t try this with the grizzly bear…..please remember the last man who tried this.

    Looking forward to ” My Life As A Deer Mule”

  • Shirley Oede

    Watched your program last night, I was captured by the love you have for the wild turkeys
    and the awesome photography involved. You truly touched my
    heart, you are an amazing person dedicating your life to nature.
    Would love to have conversation with you regarding all that you do.

  • Thomas Benefield

    I was really hoping Sweet Pea was going to make it. However, Nature has no favorites. She reminded me of a Chicken that escaped from some Cambodians’ cooking pot and took up with me, I guess as a last resort. He sure didn’t act like any chicken I have ever encountered. Anyway, it is sometimes wonderful the things that fall into and or sits in our laps. I enjoyed this program.

  • BT

    I enjoyed this program so much. It was awesome to watch the narrative of Joe Hutto and the wild turkeys. I cried when Joe found out that Sweet Pea had been killed and cringed when Turkey Boy attacked him. I have to admit I wanted a fairy tale ending for this narrative research, but I realize that could not have been.

  • Leslie

    I’m glad to see so many positive comments about this Nature program. I too enjoyed it greatly. In fact, it was one of the best I’ve seen. And it truly resonated with me on so many levels. Yes, it was a wonderful and fascinating story about the wild turkeys, but it’s also a wonderful glimpse into the thinking of an intelligent man who is inquisitive, introspective and extrospective, and cares greatly for the natural world. Thanks to Joe Hutto for his commitment and passion. And kudos, PBS, for choosing this project.

  • Yvonne

    This program reinforced my belief in humankind. Thank you, PBS and thank you Joe Hutto.

  • Kathy

    Thank you, PBS, for an unforgettable program. I phoned my two grown daughters in other states so they could enjoy it too. Since my husband was out for a meeting, I invited him to watch it with me today via this website. It is amazing how much there is to learn about nature. I wish that more people would watch such programs and learn to appreciate nature more (and take wiser care of it). Joe Hutto is a special person, indeed!

  • Lynda

    WOW! What a show! I had the same feelings and opinions as all of you. I loved Joe’s analogies, such as the young turkeys probably thought the turtle was “a snake in a box”. Another thing, the other wildlife seemed to not be afraid of Joe probably because he was accepted by the wild turkeys. What did you all think about the turkeys herding the rattle snake out of their territory? One of my favorite parts was when the turkeys were playing with the fawn. I can’t imagine how Joe managed to learn to vocalize the turkey language, and to talk to the turkeys while they were incubating. Remember when the research came out that parents should talk to their unborn children, play classical music, etc.? Joe is obviously a genius and a gifted artist. I too, would like to know more about his work, biography, and how they reinacted the film, if it wasreinacted. Is it possible it was filmed live?

  • Rosalind

    Watched this with my 8-yr old naturalist son. We were both spellbound with love and respect for Mr. Hutto and in awe of his deep attention not only to the birds themselves, but also to the meaning they have for him — and through him, for us. Please put me on the list of 40-something women who have a crush on this man for his lovely heart and spirit.

  • Susan Devich

    What an incredible study he provided us about the life of a turkey! Thank you so much!

  • Cindy

    Thank you so much for this wonderful story! What a sweet and gentle soul Joe Hutto is. I can’t wait to read his books. It amazes me how all of us “animals” are so much alike.


    What an amazing program AND person! THANK YOU,to all involved in producing this!

  • Irina

    My family watched this show from start to finish, cuddling under a big blanket. It was one of the best Nature specials I’ve seen in a while. Wish we knew more about Joe Hutto.

  • Barbara

    This is one of the most amazing Nature episodes I have ever seen. Truly magical. Thank you PBS for bringing this amazing person to our attention .

    As a resident of Wyoming, I am curious where he is doing his mule deer study. Also, did he do a study of sheep in the Wind Rivers?

  • Sharon

    My husband and I watched this program last week and then again on Saturday when it was repeated. We were both enchanted by not only the story but the camera work as well. What a wonderful, unlifiting story. Everyone should see this. Thank you PBS. You never disappoint.

  • Dan

    Was just clicking through channels when I saw this story. I was just drawn to it. It was so good I have shared it with friends at work. Some have found it on the web and watched it. All are so amazed at the filming of this and the care of the story. Finally something good to watch on TV besides the trash that is on other channels. Hope to see more stories like this. Outstanding!!!

  • Eileen Gunning

    I have raised heritage and standard turkeys for 16 years. Many of the things Joe notices happens with domestic turkeys as well. Even though I often don’t have the chance to see the first moments of hatching, my babies respond to my voice and calls. I find them endlessly fascinating. One year a neighbor brought a wild turkey to me to be raised. “Sadie” stayed with me for three months. Just before Thanksgiving, when her clutch mates would be off to their destiny, Sadie left the barn and for a few days, she returned back to the ridge near the barn in the evening before going to roost. For the next few years, around dusk, a single female turkey would show up on the ridge. I am sure it was Sadie.The last time I think I saw her, the single female had a few chicks. I love turkeys, but often a similar experience as at the end of the video occurs. I have scars. This video was truly inspiring.

  • C. H. Williams

    Without a doubt the finest production ever shown on PBS. A modern masterpiece.

  • Liza

    I never would have thought a man and his turkeys could affect my life this way. Joe Hutto, his book, and this film are absolutely amazing. I am looking at Wild Turkeys and life through new eyes with the sincere intention not to betray this nor the next moment ever again… Thank you PBS.

  • Johnnie Enloe

    What a wonderful film. Thank you, Joe Hutto for helping me to see through your eyes. Thank you PBS for bringing this film to us.

  • Sharol

    Loved this program! Thank you for a new view on turkeys & life. I am looking forward to more excellent works by Joe Hutto. So inspirational & educational on so many levels. PBS rules: we would lost without you.

  • Tobe

    Love the show; is there an explanation why they turn in the end?

  • Lorna says

    I have considered Joe Hutto’s book Illumination in the Flatwoods my favorite book ever since my sister gifted it to me when it first came out. How wonderful that PBS has brought this wonderful experience to the world through your program. I encourage all to loved this program to buy his book.

  • Andrew Harris

    Great book but Joe totally blew it by not using the power of the story to, at the very least, discourage turkey hunters and eaters. His sensitivity to these living dinosaurs was obviously quite shallow as he ate a turkey sandwich with them??? All turkeys, wild or crammed into a warehouse waiting to become a sandwich, are victims of our human want and greed. We want to shoot them because it is exciting, and we want a turkey sandwich on demand. This book succeeded in convincing quite a few turkey hunters to never hunt them again, possibly sparing a few thousand turkeys a year. It could have convinced quite a few turkey eaters as well and that would have made a much more significant impact on the bird we have exploited so shamelessly.

  • katie

    PBS is the only programming worth spending precious time with. I pray for many, many more blessed opportunities for PBS. You do show us that GOD’s DNA is in all of the created. And we humans were created last, though in HIS image. Joe Hutto, you are a rare and fine gift, we appreciate you. Consider yourself hugged,by all of us.

  • Jeff Sayre

    Awesome show!
    Some of these comments are interesting.

  • Nancy Hutto

    My husband and I found this program tonight by accident. We were attracted to it at first because of the last name…Hutto. Then we watched the entire program…spellbound!!! What a wonderful story! Now we would like to find out if we are related to Joe! PBS did a fantastic job producing this program!

  • Lynn Mikkelsen Posey

    Found this PBS program by accident tonight…needed a rest after taking care of birds and animals all day- I am a wildlife rehabiltator.
    Joe’s insights were phenomenal! The more time one spends with nature, the more human (in the correct sense) one becomes.
    Wildlife rehabiltators, raise, socialize and release ORPHANED birds and animals back into their natural environment. It is a calling that requires much discipline and research to do it correctly- much is learned and enjoyed alon the way however!
    The bird and anmials DO tune us in to what matters in the world….. Thanks for the presentation, hope you will do more similar programs. This is TV worth watching.

  • m hamilton

    I am enthralled with the PBS special about your experience with the wild turkey. Your artistic passion for the environment and nature is to Be honored. Thank you for sharing this year of your life and your “Children” with the world.

  • Cindy Moss

    Poor Sweet Pea was killed sitting on her nest..I can only imagine how heartbreaking that discovery must have been..enough animals have to die in the natural circle of life, none of them should have to die just so I can have something to eat, I can eat something else..

  • Cathy G

    Like all the previous responses, I too was spellbound by this episode of Nature. I have always loved wild turkeys but I will never see them the same way again. So on this eve of 2012’s Thanksgiving I pay homage to the Wild Turkey, thank you Nature and PBS!

  • KBHees

    I watched this film a year ago when it first showed on PBS, twice, and was delighted to see that it was scheduled again just before ‘turkey day”. This film gave me the courage to raise turkeys along with chickens last summer. That was a very interesting project for me. I raised both domestic turkeys and a heritage breed (heritage simply being defined as one that can reproduce naturally and on their own). The heritage ones were quite wild. It was interesting to watch this again to see if I could learn something that would help me relate to the birds next time I raise them. I see that I would need to be there when they hatch, but the heritage mama turkey was quite intimidating and well able to keep me (and other creatures) away from her nest. It was great fun watching her with the chicks and seeing them grow up, even if they didn’t let me into their world.
    Thanks for such a quality video, wonderful catching of spider life and other forest inhabitants. It is one I’ll watch over and over, just to see if there is something else that I can learn and understand about the life of animals and because the photography is so beautiful.

  • Martha

    Where can I find more information on Joe Hutto. Loved the program.

  • Elaine

    I found some aspects of this show really great. The thing I had a big problem with is how a naturalist could do something so childish as to attempt to “see” human features in a wild animal. I didn’t see any facts backing that up. That notion is far fetched. Is he so desperate in his attempt to show a human-animal connection? What is to be gained by this? That’s as credible as if I looked up at the clouds and thought I “saw” the face of Jesus! Since he took care of them since birth, the instinct of these birds caused them to think he was the caretaker. Fine, but that doesn’t mean they have human tendencies. This notion of seeing human features in wild animals really has to be removed from our thinking, so we can respect them. That’s why they’re called wild.

  • Betty Slovinski

    Wow, I am blown away. What a beautifully done story. I will never look at turkeys the same way again!

  • Lynne

    It was a pleasure to watch this wonderful film a second time last night! I can’t wait to see the next wildlife encounters! A strange thing happened at my parents……a single female turkey wandered to the chicken coop and wanted in. They opened the door so she could go in and eat and has had her for over a year now and does not want to leave. Her name is Sweet Pea in memory, as she is very sweet! Thank you for bringing us back to the true realities of life and living in the moment through your interaction with turkeys.

  • John Arfstrom

    The perspectives of the turkeys enhanced the experience of a man and offered insight into the “programming” of the turkey mind by evolution for survival. It shows the value of imprinting, both for enriching human experience and science.

  • Greg Jacobs

    The guy on PBS Nature with the turkeys is wearing your hat.
    Great story!

  • Susan B

    The best film I can remember seeing. Thank-you
    God is Love

  • Patrick Fennimore

    The author has created something much greater possibly than he realizes. His experience and description of the year he spent in the oak hammocks speaks to the behavior and culture of all human beings. We indeed do not have a privileged access to reality, we may have lost our access to the reality of the natural world as it existed for the past 20 million years. And it is probably too late to ever get it back. All wild creatures are certainly faced with a fragmented world and with obstacles they are not prepared to deal with. Thank you for a fine program which I look forward to watching many more times and for reminding us to appreciate and to try and live in the moment. I hope to find the book which inspired the program and to send copies to many of my friends.

  • barb b

    Having had many turkeys in my yard from time to time I often wonder where they go and how they survive.
    This program answered that ;question..I loved it from start to finish…I would like to know more about the author,,

  • ziggy

    We watched this wonderful program on SBS in Australia this week, and I agree with all the comments above. Will try and buy the book and DVD if I can get it. Thanks again, if only more hunters watched this and instead of killing these wonderful birds and other animals, they would simply enjoy them and let them live out their lives the way God intended for them.

  • GobbleVT

    A very moving film! Makes us realize how wonderful life is. The natural world around us is magical and can bring us both education and many wonderful feelings. I look foward to the booming spring Gobble.

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