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Q&A with Naturalist Joe Hutto

 

joehutto
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_turkey

 

*******
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

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TRANSCRIPT

Man: DAY AFTER DAY, FOR OVER A YEAR, I SAW NO ONE, EXCEPT MY FAMILY.

IT WAS A FAMILY LIKE NONE THAT YOU KNOW.

BUT I'M A MOTHER, IT SEEMS, AND THESE ARE MY CHILDREN.

AND SOON ENOUGH, LIKE ALL CHILDREN, THEY'LL LEAVE HOME AND I SUPPOSE MY HEART WILL BE BROKEN.

BUT, FOR NOW, THIS IS MY LIFE...AS A TURKEY.

[ THEME MUSIC PLAYING ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST JOE HUTTO DISCOVERED A BOWL OF WILD TURKEY EGGS ON HIS DOORSTEP.

DETERMINED TO SAVE THEM, HE OBTAINED AN INCUBATOR, WATCHED THEM HATCH, AND BECAME THEIR TURKEY MOTHER.

FOR MORE THAN A YEAR, JOE WAS A FULL-TIME PARENT AND RAISED 16 TURKEY CHICKS.

THE EXPERIENCE CHANGED HIS LIFE.

THE JOURNAL JOE KEPT OF HIS LIFE AS A TURKEY ULTIMATELY BECAME A BOOK.

THIS FILM IS A REENACTMENT OF HIS REMARKABLE JOURNEY, TOLD IN HIS OWN WORDS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST VERY RARELY HAVE PEOPLE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO OBTAIN YOUNG WILD TURKEYS, EITHER IN THE EGG OR AS YOUNG POULTS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I'VE BEEN TRYING TO GET MY HANDS ON WILD TURKEY EGGS OR YOUNG WILD TURKEYS FOR DECADES.

THEN THIS LOCAL FARMER WAS ON HIS WAY TO MY CABIN WITH A BOWL FULL OF EGGS.

IT WAS A DELIVERY THAT WAS TO CHANGE MY LIFE IN WAYS THAT I COULD NEVER HAVE IMAGINED.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST MY CABIN IS DEEP IN THE OAK HAMMOCKS OF FLORIDA.

EVER SINCE I WAS IN COLLEGE I'D EXPERIMENTED WITH 'IMPRINTING' -- BECOMING A MOTHER TO YOUNG ANIMALS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST WITH WILD TURKEYS, I'D ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT IF I COULD GET SOME POULTS TO IMPRINT ON ME AS THEIR MOTHER, THEN I COULD OPEN A WINDOW INTO THEIR SECRET WORLD.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST IMPRINTING GIVES THE OBSERVER AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE INTO THE LIVES OF CREATURES THAT YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE OTHERWISE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST SOME PEOPLE MIGHT THINK THIS IS A VERY STRANGE THING TO DO.

TO ME, IT WAS A LEGITIMATE AREA OF SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST BUT THIS EXPERIMENT WAS GOING TO LEAVE SCIENCE FAR BEHIND.

FOR THIS TO SUCCEED, I HAD NO IDEA OF THE EXTENT TO WHICH I'D HAVE TO ACTUALLY BECOME A TURKEY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I CAME HOME ONE AFTERNOON AND THERE WAS A STAINLESS STEEL DOG BOWL FILLED WITH EGGS ON MY DOORSTEP.

SO I RACED OUT IN THE NIGHT, FOUND AN INCUBATOR AT A FRIEND'S HOUSE, BROUGHT IT BACK.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I DIDN'T KNOW IF THE EGGS WOULD BE DESTROYED BY TOO MUCH HEAT, OR IF THEY WOULD DIE FROM NOT ENOUGH.

THEY HAD BEEN WITHOUT INCUBATION FOR AT LEAST SEVEN OR EIGHT HOURS, SO I WAS REALLY CONCERNED.

NO ONE'S DONE THIS IN THE WILD.

THIS WAS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT FROM ANYTHING ELSE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST EACH ONE OF THESE EGGS HARBORS A MYSTERY; IT'S SOMETHING UNTAMED AND VIRTUALLY UNKNOWN TO US, AN EMBODIMENT OF WILDERNESS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND, YES, THIS IS THE SPECIES FROM WHICH OUR DOMESTICATED BIRDS COME FROM ORIGINALLY.

BUT PEOPLE SHOULDN'T MAKE THE MISTAKE THAT THERE'S A SIMILARITY BETWEEN THESE BIRDS AND THE ONES WE HAVE TAMED FOR FOOD.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST WILD TURKEYS ARE SO INCREDIBLY DIFFERENT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST EACH EGG MUST BE PROPERLY TURNED TWICE A DAY.

I'M TOLD WILD TURKEYS MAKE UTTERANCES TO THEIR CLUTCH.

SO, SECRETLY, IN BOTH WILD TURKEY AND ENGLISH, I BEGAN TO TALK TURKEY.

Hi, guys.

[ IMITATING TURKEY CALL ] ALMOST IMMEDIATELY I STARTED HEARING A RESPONSE FROM THE EGGS.

I WOULD MAKE A TURKEY-LIKE NOISE AND I WOULD HEAR DISTINCT LITTLE PEEPS AND TRILLS COMING OUT OF THESE EGGS.

[ JOE CALLING, PEEPS COMING FROM EGGS ] BUT I HAD THIS PROBLEM -- 25 DAYS AFTER INCUBATION BEGINS, THE MOTHER STOPS TURNING THE EGGS.

BUT I HAVE NO IDEA WHEN INCUBATION STARTED WITH THESE EGGS, SO I HAD TO JUST GUESS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST BUT THEN, SURE ENOUGH, CRACKS BEGAN TO APPEAR.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THIS WAS A CRUCIAL TIME.

THIS IS THE MOMENT THAT THE POULTS MUST RECOGNIZE ME AS A PARENT.

IMPRINTING ONLY OCCURS IN THESE FIRST FEW MOMENTS OUT OF THE EGG.

AND THEN, SUDDENLY, THE END OF THE EGG FELL AWAY, AND THIS LITTLE POULT FELL OUT.

AND HE'S WET AND HE'S CONFUSED AND HE'S SCRAMBLING, AND IT'S OBVIOUSLY A DESPERATE TIME.

WELL, I FINALLY REMEMBERED TO MAKE A SOUND.

[ CHIRPING ] AND I MADE MY LITTLE TURKEY SOUND THAT I HAD BEEN MAKING TO THESE EGGS.

AND THE LITTLE TURKEY STOPPED IMMEDIATELY, AND HIS LITTLE SHAKING WET HEAD ROTATED AND HE LOOKED ME SQUARE IN THE EYES.

AND THERE WAS SOMETHING VERY UNAMBIGUOUS TRANSPIRED IN THAT MOMENT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND HE IDENTIFIED ME AS THE... THE PAIR OF EYES BELONGING TO THE CORRECT VOICE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND IN HIS WAY, HE STUMBLED AND HOPPED ACROSS THE FLOOR OF THE INCUBATOR.

AND JOINED ME AT THE EDGE OF THE SHELF AND HUDDLED UP AGAINST MY FACE AND WENT TO SLEEP.

AND SOMETHING ALSO MOVED INSIDE OF ME, SOMETHING VERY PROFOUND.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND I REALIZED THAT MY INVOLVEMENT IN THIS EXPERIMENT WAS GOING TO BE A VERY PERSONAL, VERY EMOTIONAL RIDE FOR ME, AND NOT JUST A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST IT HAD TAKEN A DAY AND A NIGHT, AND I WAS EXHAUSTED, BUT I WAS FINALLY MOTHER TO 16 WILD TURKEYS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THIS ALL HAPPENED VERY SUDDENLY, AND I HADN'T REALLY ANTICIPATED IT.

I MORE OR LESS JUST DISAPPEARED INTO THE FOREST.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AFTER A VERY FEW DAYS, I REALIZED THAT THIS WAS A COMPLETE, 100%, RELENTLESS COMMITMENT THAT I HAD MADE TO THESE BIRDS, AND THAT IF I WAS GOING DO THIS, I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO BE A WILD TURKEY PARENT FOR SOME UNKNOWN PERIOD OF TIME.

I HAD NO IDEA IF THIS COMMITMENT WAS GOING TO LAST WEEKS OR MONTHS -- OR, AS IT TURNED OUT, YEARS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I AM IGNORANT ABOUT BEING A TURKEY MOTHER.

WHAT DO THEY ALREADY KNOW, AND WHAT DO THEY NEED TO LEARN FROM ME?

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THEY ARE BORN ENTOMOLOGISTS.

IT'S ALREADY THERE -- THEY DON'T HAVE TO BE TAUGHT WHICH INSECT IS DANGEROUS, WHICH ONE IS PALATABLE.

THEY DON'T HAVE TO BE TAUGHT WHICH SNAKE IS HARMLESS AND WHICH ONE IS VENOMOUS.

THEY KNOW EXACTLY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST [ RATTLING ] I CAN ALREADY TELL THEM APART.

ONE BIRD I'VE STARTED TO CALL 'TURKEY BOY,' HE'S INTO EVERYTHING.

HE'S INQUISITIVE AND BRAVE, AND HE'S GOING TO BE A HANDFUL.

HE'S ALREADY BEGINNING TO DISPLAY TO THE OTHER BIRDS, AND HE'S ONLY FIVE DAYS OLD.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST TODAY, I ACTUALLY TRIED TO SHOW THEM HOW TO ROOST, ALTHOUGH I SUSPECT THIS IS SOMETHING THEY KNOW ALREADY.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THESE WILD BIRDS BEAR NO RESEMBLANCE TO THEIR DOMESTIC COUSINS.

IT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PET DOG AND A WOLF.

THESE BIRDS ARE SO WILD, IF I LEAVE THEM ALONE FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME THEY WILL JUST RUN AND RUN TILL THEY DROP DEAD.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THERE'S THIS ONE I'VE CALLED 'SWEET PEA.'

SHE'S VERY LITTLE AND LIKES TO BE HELD IN THE HAND.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I DID HAVE THAT FEELING THAT THIS RAT SNAKE HAD LITERALLY BEEN WAITING ON THAT MOMENT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I WAS GONE FOR A VERY SHORT TIME, GRABBED A SANDWICH, CAME BACK OUT, THERE WAS A SIX-FOOT RAT SNAKE IN THE PEN THAT HAD COMPLETELY SWALLOWED ONE OF THE YOUNG POULTS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND NOW COULD NOT GET OUT OF THE PEN, OF COURSE, BECAUSE OF THE LARGE LUMP IN ITS BODY.

I WAS HORRIFIED, AND THE REST OF THE TURKEYS WERE HORRIFIED, AND IT WAS A TERRIBLE MOMENT FOR ALL OF US.

I REALIZED THAT THESE BIRDS ABSOLUTELY CANNOT BE LEFT ALONE.

THERE ARE SO MANY PREDATORS READY TO STRIKE THESE YOUNG BIRDS.

AND I JUST HAD TO MAKE THE COMMITMENT RIGHT THERE THAT I'M NOT GOING TO LEAVE THEM ALONE, EVER.

UP UNTIL NOW, IT'S BEEN A FULL-TIME JOB JUST KEEPING THEM ALIVE.

BUT NOW MY LITTLE EXPERIMENT IS REALLY BEGINNING TO PAY OFF.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST IT SEEMS AS IF A WHOLE WORLD IS OPENING UP TO ME.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST IT'S NOT JUST THE BIRDS I'M GETTING CLOSE TO -- SOMEHOW, THEY ALLOW ME PASSAGE INTO A SECRET SIDE OF THESE OAK HAMMOCKS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THE DIFFERENT BIRDS' PERSONALITIES ARE EXPRESSED IN THE WAY THEY EXPLORE THE FOREST.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THEY EVEN SEEM TO HAVE THEIR OWN INDIVIDUAL INTERESTS.

SWEET PEA AND ROSITA, FOR EXAMPLE, HAVE A PARTICULAR FASCINATION WITH SQUIRRELS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST TURKEY BOY MET A DEER TODAY.

I'M AMAZED HOW BOLD HE IS -- HE EVEN WALKED AND WAS NOSE-TO-NOSE WITH IT.

THEY WERE ABSOLUTELY UNAFRAID, THEY ABSOLUTELY KNEW THIS CREATURE WAS A BENEVOLENT NEIGHBOR AND NOT A POTENTIAL PREDATOR.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND I THOUGHT THIS WAS A REMARKABLE DISCRIMINATION, CONSIDERING THAT A COYOTE, FOR EXAMPLE, IS A TAWNY BROWN ANIMAL WITH BIG EARS AND AN INTENSE STARE.

WHEN I'M WITH THESE TURKEYS, SNAKES NO LONGER RUN FROM ME.

CORRALLED BY THE BIRDS, A RAT SNAKE NOW TURNS TO FACE US.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THE TURKEYS KNOW JUST HOW TO DEAL WITH EACH SPECIES OF SNAKE.

IN SPITE OF THEIR INNATE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT DANGEROUS THINGS THEY ARE INHERENTLY DISTURBED BY TORTOISES AND TURTLES.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THEY JUST WON'T LEAVE THEM ALONE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I THINK MAYBE THEY JUST VIEW THEM AS A SNAKE IN A BOX.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I NOW KNOW EACH OF THE BIRDS BY THEIR CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY AS MUCH AS BY THEIR APPEARANCE.

TURKEY BOY IS STILL UP TO HIS OLD TRICKS -- HE IS ALWAYS PUSHING HIS BROTHERS AND SISTERS AROUND, BUT NO ONE SEEMS TO MIND TOO MUCH.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST SWEET PEA STILL HAS THIS NEED FOR CLOSENESS.

SHE STARES MOTIONLESS AT ME FOR WHAT SEEMS LIKE A VERY LONG TIME, AND IT'S OBVIOUSLY A CONSCIOUS BEHAVIOR.

IT'S AS THOUGH SHE'S TRYING TO ABSORB SOMETHING.

BEING THE OBJECT OF SUCH INTENSE SCRUTINY BY SUCH A LITTLE THING IS A VERY STRANGE SENSATION.

I'D HAVE TO STAY WITH THE BIRDS ALL DAY, EVERY DAY UNTIL SUNSET.

THEN, IN THE CAGE, THE BIRDS WOULD ALL FLY UP AND ROOST WITH ME -- AND ON ME.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND IF I TRIED TO LEAVE THE ROOST THEY WOULD TRY TO FOLLOW ME, SO I HAD TO STAY IN THE PEN UNTIL IT WAS COMPLETELY DARK.

THEN THEY WOULD FALL SOUND ASLEEP.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST BUT I HAD TO BE THERE FROM DAWN UNTIL AFTER DARK EVERY DAY, AND THERE WERE NO EXCEPTIONS TO THAT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST ♪ WELL, I FEEL LIKE AN OLD HOBO ♪ ♪ I'M SAD, LONESOME AND BLUE ♪ ♪ I WAS FAIR AS A SUMMER DAY ♪ ♪ NOW, THE SUMMER DAYS ARE THROUGH ♪ ♪ YOU PASS THROUGH PLACES ♪ ♪ THE PLACES YOU PASS THROUGH, YOU CARRY THEM WITH YOU ♪ ♪ ON THE SOLES OF YOUR TRAVELLING SHOES ♪ THEY HAVE THE BASIC BLUEPRINT ABOUT ALL THE PLANTS AND ALL THE ANIMALS.

IT'S INCREDIBLY COMPLETE.

BUT WHAT THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND IS THE LAY OF THE LAND, AND THAT WAS WHAT I KNEW.

♪ I WAKE YOU UP IN THE MORNING ♪ I KNEW WHERE THE WATER WAS.

I KNEW WHERE THE DANGERS WERE TO SOME EXTENT.

♪ I GOT THE WANDERING BLUES ♪ ♪ AND I'M GOING TO QUIT ♪ WE DIDN'T GO IN THE DIRECTION OF THE ROAD OR TO FARMER RODENBERRY'S HOUSE.

I TRIED TO TEACH THEM THAT AUTOMOBILES WERE A DANGEROUS THING.

THAT WAS VERY HARD TO DO.

WILD TURKEYS ARE A 20 MILLION YEAR OLD BIRD AND THEY DON'T HAVE A BLUEPRINT FOR AN AUTOMOBILE OR A PICK-UP.

[ BIRD CALLING ] EACH DAY AS I LEAVE THE CONFINES OF MY LANGUAGE AND CULTURE, THESE CREATURES SEEM TO BECOME IN EVERY WAY MY SUPERIORS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THEY ARE MORE ALERT, SENSITIVE AND AWARE.

THEY'RE IN MANY WAYS, IN FACT, MORE INTELLIGENT.

THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF THE FOREST IS BEYOND MY ABILITY TO COMPREHEND.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST TURKEYS DISPLAYED A TYPE OF OBSESSION OVER THE SIGHT OF A DEAD ANIMAL, AND THEY WOULD REVISIT THOSE SITES VERY CAUTIOUSLY, AND THEY WOULD EXAMINE VERY CLOSELY, AND OCCASIONALLY, THEY WOULD ACTUALLY PICK UP A BONE -- NOT IN A PLAYFUL WAY, BUT IN A CURIOUS WAY, AND DROP IT.

THEY WOULD OBSERVE THE SKELETON VERY INTENSELY.

AND IT SEEMED THAT THEY NEVER TIRED OF EXAMINING THIS DEAD ANIMAL AND TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE IMPLICATION OF THAT WAS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THAT BEHAVIOR DOES NOT FACILITATE SURVIVAL DIRECTLY.

IT'S NOT ABOUT PREDATION, IT'S NOT ABOUT FOOD, IT'S ABOUT UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THEY HAD A PERFECT MEMORY OF WHAT THAT ENTIRE FOREST WAS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE.

IF ANY OBJECT WAS OUT OF ORDER, IF A NEW LIMB HAD FALLEN OUT OF A TREE, THEY WOULD FIND THAT LIMB VERY DISTURBING.

THEY WOULD APPROACH A STUMP OF A FALLEN TREE OR A ROTTED TREE, AND THAT WAS A FASCINATING THING, AS MOST THINGS ARE TO WILD TURKEYS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST BUT, INTERESTINGLY, WHEN WE APPROACHED A VERY OLD STUMP, OF A TREE THAT HAD BEEN SAWN DOWN BY LOGGERS, SOMETHING ABOUT THAT WAS VERY DISTURBING TO A WILD TURKEY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I THOUGHT IT WAS A FABULOUS AND INTERESTING RESPONSE, BUT I DON'T KNOW WHY.

BUT HERE WAS A STUMP THAT HAD BEEN CUT 10, 15, 20 YEARS BEFORE, AND YET THERE WAS SOMETHING NOT RIGHT ABOUT THAT, AND THE TURKEYS WOULD FIND IT VERY INTERESTING AND ACTUALLY DISTURBING.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I WAS ALWAYS A VERY ANXIOUS MOTHER HEN, AND, OF COURSE, HAVING NOT DONE THIS BEFORE, I NEVER KNEW THE RIGHT TIME FOR THINGS.

ONE NIGHT WE CAME IN FROM OUR USUAL DAILY WALK AND I EXPECTED THEM TO ENTER THE PEN LIKE THEY HAD SO MANY TIMES BEFORE, AND SUDDENLY THEIR BEHAVIOR CHANGED.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND THEY STARTED EYEING THE TREES AND MAKING SOUNDS.

AND SUDDENLY, A TURKEY FLEW UP INTO A TREE.

AND ANOTHER TURKEY FLEW UP, AND THEY ALL BEGAN FLYING UP.

AND I REALIZED THAT THEY HAD MADE THIS DECISION THAT IT WAS TIME TO START ROOSTING IN THE TREES LIKE TURKEYS.

AND THEY WERE MAKING CONTENTED VOCALIZATIONS LIKE TURKEYS DO WHEN THEY GO ON THE ROOST -- LITTLE COMMUNICATION NOISES, 'HERE I AM, WHERE ARE YOU?' 'OKAY, THERE YOU ARE.'

AND I WAS FEELING A LITTLE BIT LET DOWN AND A LITTLE BIT LIKE I HAD BEEN EXCLUDED.

THIS WAS ONE TURKEY ACTIVITY THAT I COULDN'T PARTICIPATE IN, AND I FELT LIKE I HAD BEEN LEFT OUT.

AND I WENT OUT FEELING INSECURE, AND I MADE A LITTLE TURKEY NOISE -- A LITTLE MOTHER HEN NOISE.

[ GOBBLES ] AND SUDDENLY EVERYBODY CHATTERED, 'HERE WE ARE, EVERYTHING IS OKAY.'

[ TURKEYS SQUAWKING ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST [ SUSTAINED SQUAWK ] TURKEYS IN GENERAL HAVE THIS MISPLACED REPUTATION FOR STUPIDITY.

THIS EXPERIMENT OF MINE HAS PROVEN QUITE THE OPPOSITE.

THERE ARE MANY THINGS THAT SUGGEST THAT WILD TURKEYS ARE INTELLIGENT.

BUT MY EXPERIENCE WITH LEARNING THEIR VOCABULARY HAS TAUGHT ME HOW PROFOUND THIS INTELLIGENCE ACTUALLY IS.

YOU HAVE TO BE THIS CLOSE TO A CREATURE TO UNDERSTAND HOW IT COMMUNICATES.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND, IN FACT, THEY HAVE SPECIFIC VOCALIZATIONS FOR INDIVIDUAL ANIMALS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND I ACTUALLY LEARNED THESE VOCALIZATIONS, AND WHEN I WOULD HEAR A CERTAIN VOCALIZATION, I WOULD KNOW WITHOUT QUESTION THEY HAD FOUND A RATTLESNAKE, AND NOT A GRAY RAT SNAKE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I HAVE IDENTIFIED OVER 30 SPECIFIC CALLS, AND MY VOCABULARY IS GROWING EVERY DAY.

I AM LEARNING TO TALK TURKEY.

[ MAKING TURKEY CALLS ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST INTERESTINGLY, I LEARNED THAT, WITHIN EACH ONE OF THOSE CALLS THERE ARE INFLECTIONS THAT HAVE VERY DIFFERENT MEANINGS.

FOR EXAMPLE, ONE WOULD BE WHAT IS KNOWN AS A PURR.

[ COOING ] [ CONTINUES CALL ] MANY DIFFERENT MEANINGS DEPENDING ON THE INFLECTION, FROM SIMPLY, 'HERE I AM, WHERE ARE YOU?'

TO, 'CATASTROPHE IS ON THE WAY.'

[ CALLING ] A SIMPLE PLAIN YELP -- [ YELPING ] THAT WOULD MEAN YOU ARE OUT OF SIGHT NOW, AND YOU NEED TO COME CLOSER.

WHEN TURKEYS SEE A HAWK SOARING IN THE DISTANCE, AND THEY'RE NOT REALLY DISTURBED BY THE HAWK'S SOARING, BUT THEY WANT EVERYBODY TO KNOW IT'S THERE, AND SO THEY EMIT WHAT I CALLED A LOW NASAL WHINE, AND IT'S -- [ IMITATING CALL ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND IT CAUSES EVERYONE TO BE STILL AND VERY QUIET.

[ WHISTLING ] I DIDN'T HAVE THE CAPACITY TO UNDERSTAND EVERY VOCALIZATION, BUT SOMEHOW I HAD THE CAPACITY TO UNDERSTAND THEIR MEANING, AND THAT WAS AN ALMOST MAGICAL THING THAT OCCURRED WITH THESE YOUNG BIRDS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THEIR LANGUAGE AND THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF THE ECOLOGY SHOWS A REMARKABLE INTELLIGENCE.

BUT THEIR ABILITY TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD GOES MUCH FURTHER THAN JUST COMMUNICATION.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I CAME TO REALIZE THAT THESE YOUNG TURKEYS IN MANY WAYS WERE MORE CONSCIOUS THAN I WAS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I ACTUALLY FELT A SORT OF EMBARRASSMENT WHEN I WAS IN THEIR PRESENCE.

THEY WERE SO IN THE MOMENT.

AND, ULTIMATELY, THEIR EXPERIENCE OF THAT MANIFESTED IN A KIND OF JOY THAT I DON'T EXPERIENCE.

AND I WAS VERY ENVIOUS OF THAT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST IN SEARCH OF A GRASSHOPPER -- IT'S A CALLING AS STRONG AS ANY I'VE EVER KNOWN.

THEY ARE ALMOST THREE MONTHS OLD, AND I FIND MYSELF A FULLY FLEDGED MEMBER OF A TURKEY GANG.

WE RAID THE FIELD LIKE ANCIENT MARAUDING BARBARIANS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST INSECTS CAN HOP OR RUN AWAY, BUT THEY ARE LIKELY TO LAND AT THE FEET OF ANOTHER -- THIS IS A STRATEGY THAT MUST OCCUR WITH TURKEYS EVERYWHERE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THIS IS INNATE COMMUNICATION UNLIKE ANY I'VE EVER KNOWN.

I FEEL A LITTLE LIKE AN ANTHROPOLOGIST WHO, AFTER IMMERSING HIMSELF IN AN EXOTIC TRIBE, IS BECOMING CONFUSED ABOUT HIS OWN SOCIAL IDENTITY.

I HAVEN'T STARTED EATING GRASSHOPPERS YET, BUT THE SMOOTH GREEN ONES ARE BEGINNING TO LOOK PRETTY TASTY!

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST [ COOING ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AFFECTION IS A VERY ABSTRACT CONCEPT, ANYWAY, AND VERY HARD TO TALK ABOUT.

AND YET I WAS OBSERVING THIS EVERYDAY, THIS NEED FOR THESE TURKEYS TO BE TOUCHED, AND FOR CLOSENESS.

AND SO, IN THAT SENSE, WILD TURKEYS ARE VERY AFFECTIONATE AND THEY ARE VERY TACTILE.

I SAW IT MOST PROFOUNDLY IN SWEET PEA.

FROM VERY EARLY ON, SWEET PEA HAD THIS OVERWHELMING DESIRE TO BE CLOSE AND TO BE TOUCHING, AT ALL TIMES.

AND THERE WAS NEVER A TIME WHEN I WAS SITTING ON THE GROUND WHEN SWEET PEA WASN'T IN MY LAP.

AND IF I SAT THERE, SWEET PEA WOULD GO TO SLEEP, AND SHE EXPECTED TO BE STROKED AND CODDLED.

AND IT WAS A VERY INTERESTING RELATIONSHIP.

AND, OF COURSE, I FELL FOR IT HOOK, LINE AND SINKER, AND JUST FELL HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE WITH SWEET PEA.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AFFECTION IS SOMETHING YOU WOULD NEVER ANTICIPATE OR EXPECT FROM WILD TURKEYS, AND YET, IT WAS VERY APPARENT THAT THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF THEIR SOCIAL LIFE.

[ CAWING ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST TODAY I LOST TWO BIRDS TO SOME UNKNOWN ILLNESS.

AND I FEEL HEARTBROKEN.

THERE IS NO QUESTION ABOUT MY CONNECTION TO THIS FAMILY.

AND THERE IS NO QUESTION WE ALL FEEL SOME DEEP SADNESS.

THE EFFECT ON THE GROUP IS PALPABLE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST EMOTIONS ARE CERTAINLY NOT PECULIAR TO THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE.

IN THEIR OBSERVATION OF DEATH, THE DEATH OF ANOTHER TURKEY THAT IS A MEMBER OF THEIR GROUP, IT'S A VERY CONSCIOUS BEHAVIOR, AS IF THEY ARE TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE MEANING OF THIS IS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST SHELTER FROM THE RAIN ON MY PORCH OF MY HUT IS ONE OF THE FEW PERKS THESE BIRDS HAVE GOTTEN FROM HAVING SUCH AN ODD PARENT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST IT SEEMS A LONG TIME HAS PAST SINCE I TENDED THESE BIRDS FROM THE EGG.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I'VE WALKED THESE OAK HAMMOCKS FOR OVER 20 YEARS AND I HAD NO IDEA HOW MANY RATTLESNAKES THERE WERE HERE.

I'D SEE MAYBE TWO IN A YEAR.

NOW, WITH THESE TURKEYS, WE'RE FINDING TWO OR THREE EVERY DAY.

TODAY WE CAME ACROSS A SIX-FOOT DIAMONDBACK.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I USED TO FEAR FOR THEM TERRIBLY, BUT NOW THERE'S NO QUESTION WHO'S IN CHARGE.

SWEET PEA AND ROSITA WERE INSISTENT -- THEY WANTED TO ESCORT THIS RATTLESNAKE OUT OF THE AREA.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THE NON-VENOMOUS INDIGO SNAKE GOT AN EVEN CLOSER INSPECTION FROM TURKEY BOY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THIS KIND OF INTENSE INTERACTION IS BORN FROM A DESIRE TO REMAIN IN TOUCH WITH A POSSIBLE PREDATOR... ALTHOUGH SOMETIMES IT DOES FEEL LIKE IT'S BECOME A BIT OF A GAME FOR THEM.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I HAD NEVER CONSIDERED THAT THE WILD TURKEY WAS A PLAYFUL BIRD, BUT, IN FACT, THEY ARE PLAYFUL.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THEY'RE CURIOUS ABOUT THINGS THAT DON'T BENEFIT THEIR SURVIVAL DIRECTLY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST ♪♪ Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THE WHITE-TAILED DEER HAS FAWNED LATE THIS YEAR, AND, AS ALWAYS, TURKEY BOY IS VYING FOR SOME REACTION.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST BUT THIS TIME HE HAS BITTEN OFF MORE THAN HE CAN CHEW.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THE YOUNG DEER CAN GIVE AS GOOD AS SHE GETS!

[ MUSIC PLAYING OVER ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST ♪ WHOO! WHOO! ♪ ♪ WHOO! WHOO! ♪ Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST SWEET PEA'S FAVORITE IS FAR MORE AMIABLE.

THE FOX SQUIRREL SEEMS TO WANT TO PLAY AS MUCH AS SHE DOES.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THERE'S NO QUESTION IN MY MIND THAT THESE BIRDS EXPERIENCE JOY IN THEIR LIVES.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I WAS LEARNING NEW THINGS ABOUT TURKEYS EVERY DAY, BUT THIS WAS NOT JUST ABOUT HOW THEY LIVED THEIR LIFE -- THESE ANIMALS WERE SHOWING ME HOW TO LIVE MY LIFE, ALSO.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST WE DO NOT HAVE A PRIVILEGED ACCESS TO REALITY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST SO MANY OF US LIVE EITHER IN THE PAST OR IN THE FUTURE, AND BETRAY THE MOMENT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND IN SOME SENSE, WE FORGET TO LIVE OUR LIVES.

AND THE WILD TURKEYS WERE ALWAYS REMINDING ME TO LIVE MY LIFE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I THINK AS HUMANS WE HAVE THIS PECULIAR PREDISPOSITION TO BE ALWAYS THINKING AHEAD AND LIVING A LITTLE BIT IN THE FUTURE, ANTICIPATING THE NEXT MINUTE, THE NEXT HOUR, THE NEXT DAY, AND WILD TURKEYS DON'T DO THAT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THEY ARE CONVINCED THAT EVERYTHING THAT THEY NEED, ALL THEIR NEEDS WILL BE MET ONLY IN THE PRESENT MOMENT AND IN THIS SPACE.

AND THE WORLD IS NOT BETTER A HALF A MILE THROUGH THE WOODS, IT'S NOT BETTER AN HOUR FROM NOW, AND ITS NOT BETTER TOMORROW -- THAT THIS IS AS GOOD AS IT GETS.

AND, SO, THEY CONSTANTLY REMINDED ME TO DO BETTER, AND TO NOT LIVE IN THIS ABSTRACTION OF THE FUTURE -- WHICH, BY DEFINITION, WILL NEVER EXIST.

AND, SO, WE SORT OF BETRAY OUR LIVES IN THE MOMENT.

AND THE WILD TURKEYS REMINDED ME TO BE PRESENT, TO BE HERE.

[ CALLING ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST FOR OVER A YEAR, DAY AFTER DAY WE NEVER SAW ANOTHER HUMAN BEING... WHICH WAS PERFECT.

BUT AS THE YEAR WORE ON I COULD FEEL ONE DAY SOON I WOULD WALK HOME ALONE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST IT WAS LATE AFTERNOON, I WAS SITTING IN THE THICK FOREST WITH SWEET PEA.

WE SUDDENLY REALIZED THAT THERE WERE NO TURKEYS AROUND US.

THEN WE STARTED LOOKING, AND WE REALIZED THAT THERE WERE NO TURKEYS IN THE AREA.

[ CALLING ] SWEET PEA BECAME VERY CONCERNED.

AND SHE ACTUALLY STARTED LOST-CALLING.

[ CALLING ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND SO WE WALKED MAYBE A QUARTER OF A MILE, AND FINALLY WE SAW TURKEYS UP IN THE DISTANCE.

AND I THOUGHT THIS WAS REALLY STRANGE.

AND I DECIDED, OKAY, WE'RE GOING TO HEAD BACK TOWARDS HOME, AND I TURNED TO LEAVE.

NO ONE FOLLOWED ME.

AND, IN FACT, THEY STARTED HEADING OUT IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION.

IN FACT, THERE WAS A FARM IN THAT DIRECTION, THAT HAD YARD DOGS AND ALL SORTS OF THINGS THAT WE DIDN'T WANT TO ENCOUNTER.

AND I COULD NOT GET THE BIRDS TO LISTEN TO ME, THEY WOULD NOT FOLLOW FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

AND I BECAME VERY DISTURBED.

AND I LOST-CALLED AND ALL THE VOCALIZATIONS I NEED TO EMPLOY, AND THEY WOULD NOT -- THEY WOULD CHATTER ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, BUT THEY WOULDN'T FOLLOW ME.

AND BY THIS TIME I WAS JUST A NERVOUS WRECK, I WAS EXHAUSTED, I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON, AND I THOUGHT, I'VE LOST THESE BIRDS, I'M NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO GET THEM BACK.

AND I DID NOT WANT THIS TO END LIKE THIS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST EVENTUALLY I TRIED THE SAME TECHNIQUE -- GOT OUT IN FRONT, AND FINALLY THEY START VEERING OFF.

AND IT TOOK HOURS TO GET THE TURKEYS TURNED IN THE DIRECTION OF HOME.

BUT I REALIZED THAT EVERYTHING WAS DIFFERENT NOW.

THE LIFE THAT WE HAD KNOWN FOR THE LAST SIX OR NINE MONTHS HAD CHANGED, AND THEY WERE, FROM THAT POINT ON, FULLY WILD TURKEYS THAT CAME AND WENT AS THEY PLEASED.

THEY ALLOWED ME TO ACCOMPANY THEM, BUT I WAS NO LONGER THE PARENT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I WAS JUST ANOTHER BIRD.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST [ MUSIC PLAYING OVER ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST WILD TURKEYS GROW UP FAST, AND I KNEW MY DAYS WITH THEM WERE NUMBERED.

BUT THESE TURKEYS HAD TAUGHT ME NOT TO BETRAY THE MOMENT FOR SOME ABSTRACTION UP AHEAD.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST ONCE AGAIN, I'M A MAN IN SEARCH OF A GRASSHOPPER.

IT'S A CALLING AS STRONG AS ANY I'VE EVER KNOWN.

THIS MAKES ME WONDER SOMETIMES IF I HAVE GOTTEN IN A LITTLE TOO DEEP.

♪ BUT I TAKE COMFORT ♪ ♪ IN MY HOME, IN MY HEART ♪ ♪ TO MAKE A KIND OF PEACE ♪ ♪ IT'S A KIND OF PEACE ♪ Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST ♪ AND ABOVE ME ♪ ♪ IF THERE IS NOTHING ♪ ♪ AND NO ONE KNEW ♪ ♪ I REALLY CARE ♪ ♪ IT'S JUST A NOW ♪ Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THE PEACE IS BEING BROKEN MORE AND MORE EACH DAY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST IT'S NOT JUST TURKEY BOY -- NOW ALL THE MALES PRACTICE DISPLAYING, GETTING READY TO DO BATTLE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST THE MALES WILL NEED TO FIGHT THEIR WAY TO THE NEXT STAGE OF THEIR LIVES.

ONLY THE TOUGHEST WILL GET TO MATE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND AS THESE PRACTICE BOUTS SHOW, WHEN THE REAL FIGHTING STARTS IT'LL BE FEROCIOUS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AS I LOOKED ON, I HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING HOW I WAS GOING TO BE A PART OF THIS RITE OF PASSAGE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST [ TURKEY CALLING ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST IT'S OVER A YEAR INTO THE PROJECT, AND I AM STARTING TO SEE THE BIRDS LESS AND LESS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST IT'S NATURAL FOR THE YOUNG JAKES TO MOVE AWAY FROM THE GROUP, AND THE HENS, TOO, SHOULD BE DISAPPEARING SOON.

BUT I CAN'T HELP BUT FEEL A DEEP SADNESS -- DAY AFTER DAY THEY'VE BEEN MY ONLY COMPANY.

SWEET PEA, SHE STILL STAYS CLOSE BY, AND TURKEY BOY, HE REMAINS THE CLOSEST OF FRIENDS, BUT SOME OF THE OTHERS ARE DRIFTING AWAY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST [ CALLING ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND THEN SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL HAPPENED -- SWEET PEA STARTED NESTING NEARBY.

IF SHE HATCHES HER BROOD WITH ME HERE, IT COULD START A WHOLE NEW AVENUE OF RESEARCH -- A NEW ACCESS TO THE REALITY OF THE WILD TURKEY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I HAD NOTIONS OF POSSIBLY BEING ABLE TO DO A PARTIAL IMPRINTING THING ON HER BROOD WHERE THEY WOULD ACCEPT MY COMPANY WITHOUT BEING DISTURBED, AND I THOUGHT THAT WOULD BE A NEW AND INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST EVENTUALLY SWEET PEA DIDN'T SHOW UP ONE DAY, AND I THOUGHT, SHE'S HATCHED HER BABIES.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST EVENTUALLY, I THOUGHT, WELL, I'LL GO AND INSPECT HER NEST SITE.

AND I WENT THERE, AND IMMEDIATELY SAW FEATHERS.

AND I REALIZED THAT SWEET PEA HAD, IN FACT, BEEN KILLED ON THE NEST.

AND THE EGGS WERE CRUSHED AND DESTROYED AND PARTIALLY EATEN.

IT WAS A VERY DISTURBING MOMENT, HEARTBREAKING.

IT MADE ME REALIZE HOW DEEP MY INVOLVEMENT WAS WITH THESE BIRDS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST BUT WHEN EVERYONE LEFT, TURKEY BOY WAS THE ONE WHO EVENTUALLY CAME BACK.

AND ONCE HE DID, HE NEVER WANTED TO LEAVE.

AND SO WE DEVELOPED AN INCREDIBLE COMPANIONSHIP.

IT WAS CLEAR I WAS NO LONGER THIS WILD TURKEY'S PARENT.

WE HAD ACTUALLY BECOME BROTHERS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I'VE SPENT A LIFETIME STUDYING WILD ANIMALS -- BEARS, PRIMATES -- I DON'T THINK I'VE EVER HAD A CLOSE COMMUNICATION WITH AN ANIMAL LIKE I HAD WITH TURKEY BOY.

IT WAS TRULY PHENOMENAL.

AND I RECOGNIZED THIS, AND I SPENT EVERY AVAILABLE MINUTE I COULD WITH HIM BECAUSE I FELT LIKE IT WAS SUCH A RARE OPPORTUNITY.

THE DEPTH OF OUR RELATIONSHIP AND THE EXTRAORDINARY COMMUNICATION WE HAD, AND YET, TURKEY BOY HAD THE ABILITY TO CONVEY TO ME VERY SPECIFIC MEANINGS, ABOUT WHAT HE WANTED TO DO, WHAT HE EXPECTED FROM ME, WHERE HE WANTED TO GO, HOW HE WANTED TO SPEND HIS DAY.

THE COMMUNICATION WAS VERY COMPLETE, IT'S PRETTY REMARKABLE WHEN A MAN AND A BIRD... UNLIKE ANYTHING I'D EVER EXPERIENCED.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST OF COURSE, IT WAS INEVITABLE THAT ALL THIS WAS GOING TO END.

TURKEY BROTHERS STAY TOGETHER.

BUT AS A HUMAN, OF COURSE, I HAD TO RETURN TO MY OWN SPECIES.

BUT NOTHING COULD HAVE PREPARED ME FOR THE FEROCITY OF WHAT CAME NEXT.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I HAPPENED TO LOOK UP, AND TURKEY BOY'S FACE WAS RIGHT NEXT TO MY FACE.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND HE WAS JUST GLOWING WITH THESE VIVID COLORS OF PURPLE AND RED AND BLUE.

AND HE HAD A FIERCE LOOK IN HIS EYE, PREDATORY LOOK.

I THOUGHT THAT WAS STRANGE, AND I REACHED OUT MY HAND AND HE PECKED AT THE BACK OF MY HAND AND ACTUALLY DREW BLOOD.

AND I DIDN'T HIT AT HIM, I JUST PUSHED HIM BACK, WITH MY HAND ON HIS BREAST, GET BACK!

AND THAT WAS THE TRIGGER.

SUDDENLY HE UNDERSTOOD WHAT OUR RELATIONSHIP SHOULD TRULY BE AS BROTHERS.

AND HE IMMEDIATELY ATTACKED ME.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND HE JUMPED UP AND HE SPURRED ME IN THE BACK, AND GOUGED ME -- REALLY HURT ME.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST HE JUMPED UP AT MY FACE, WHICH IS REALLY DANGEROUS -- THEY CAN BLIND YOU WITH THEIR BIG POINTED SPURS.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST I WAS BLEEDING -- MY EAR WAS BLEEDING, THE BACK OF MY HANDS WERE BLEEDING, AND SO I JUMPED BACK UP AND I GRABBED THIS PINE BOUGH, AND I SWUNG AS HARD AS I COULD... Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST HITTING TURKEY BOY ON THE SIDE OF THE HEAD, WHICH LITERALLY KNOCKED HIM DOWN.

AND HE GOT UP, HE TURNED AROUND, AND HE RAN OUT OF SIGHT, AS FAST AS HE COULD RUN.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST AND THAT WAS THE LAST TIME I SAW TURKEY BOY.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST FOR WEEKS AND MONTHS, I WOULD GO OUT INTO OUR OLD AREA AND I WOULD GO THERE AND I WOULD SIT FOR HOURS SOMETIMES, FULLY EXPECTING FOR SOMEONE TO WALK IN, A FAMILIAR FACE.

AND NO ONE EVER CAME.

AND, IN FACT, THEIR ABSENCE SEEMED TO CHANGE THE ECOLOGY ENTIRELY.

AND THE RATTLESNAKES SEEMED TO DISAPPEAR.

AND I REALIZED THAT THE TURKEYS HAD AFFORDED ME THIS PRIVILEGED EXPERIENCE, THIS INSIGHT INTO THEIR WORLD THAT HAD FINALLY CLOSED ITS DOORS TO ME.

Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST [ MUSIC PLAYING OVER ] Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST ♪ DOES IT GET LONELY IN THE DAY ♪ ♪ ALL BY YOURSELF ♪ ♪ IN THIS BIG OLD PLACE ♪ ♪ DO YOU EVER COME OUT AND PLAY ♪ ♪ SCREAM OUT LOUD OR WALK THE STAGE ♪ ♪ AND MAYBE YOU ARE LOOKING DOWN TONIGHT ♪ ♪ MAYBE YOU CAN SEE ♪ ♪ BURNING LIKE AN OLD SPOTLIGHT ♪ ♪ SHINING DOWN ON ME ♪ Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST Narrator: IN 1991, WILDLIFE ARTIST AND NATURALIST

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