AN UNFORGETTABLE STORY ABOUT THE FASCINATING BEHAVIOR OF THE MOST ELUSIVE OF WILD GAME BIRDS
* Includes fifty pencil illustrations by the author and 17 color photos. *
* Now a PBS film: see the NATURE documentary “My Life as a Turkey.” *
In the spirit of the great animal behaviorist, Konrad Lorenz, Joe Hutto embarks on an experiment in imprinting, the phenomenon by which a newborn identifies its parent. Though he doesn’t know it at the time, the experience will change his life.
When Hutto finds himself in possession of two dozen orphaned wild turkey eggs, he incubates them with the intention of raising the hatchlings in the remote Florida flatwoods, so that they will be able to reenter their natural world as fully-developed adults. As the first poult hatches, hears his voice, stumbles toward him with unwavering eye contact, and then falls asleep nestled against his cheek, Hutto is smitten. “Occasionally in life,” he writes, “as we flow along, we are presented with ideas or opportunities that alter our lives immediately and dramatically—the resumption of an academic career, a sudden change in occupation, the pursuit of some lurking artistic interest, or a consuming love affair. . . . It is an instant priority that superimposes itself over all other things. This is one of these times in my life.”
What the following year brings is something that far exceeds his wildest expectations. The relationship that develops between the author and the wild turkeys so profoundly affects him, the communication that occurs between him and these noble birds is so unmistakable, that he wonders, appropriately, who has imprinted whom. When the wild turkeys have grown into mature adults, and the last one leaves the safety of Hutto’s farm to mate and fulfill its destiny as a truly wild turkey, he is elated and heartbroken, deeply rewarded and bereft.
Hutto’s is an unforgettable story, lovingly told, filled with astonishing discovery and wonder. Written with skill and humor, rich in the details of the Florida flatwoods and the fascinating behavior of the most elusive and mysterious of the wild game birds, ILLUMINATION IN THE FLATWOODS will amaze and delight all who share this season with the wild turkey.
“This book is all about turkeys, and yet you will come away from it thinking not about poults and jakes but about the overlap of art and science, the difference between love and sentiment, and what fine creatures humans can be when they are at their best.”
“Touching, amusing, illuminating... If you are a turkey hunter, and therefore a passionate admirer of the wild turkey, read this book. If you revel in the keen observations of a fine naturalist, read this book. If you neither hunt turkeys nor care about the natural world, read this book anyway. It well might elevate you from your miserable lot in life."
—LIONEL ATWILL, contributing editor, Field & Stream
“Hutto beautifully chronicles an audacious, inventive experiment in ethology. It is an extraordinary tale of man-animal interaction related with bemusement, wonder, and ultimately, reverence for the complexity of nature.”
“Joe Hutto has with empathy and patience entered the wild turkey’s world like no one before. His insight is a revelation and his writing a delight.”
—GEORGE B. SCHALLER
“Spellbinding! An amazing story of natural history and grace in the world. Beautifully written and observed, ILLUMINATION IN THE FLATWOODS is a work of art worthy of its subjects. This book takes us to a place we might never have even dreamed, and gives our minds courage to believe things our hearts have always known.”
“Purely and simply a delight. Joe Hutto has taken us into a strange and wondrous world and we are richer for the experience.”
—Tom KELLY, author of “The Tenth Legion, and Better on a Rising Tide”
“This book articulates Joe Hutto’s rare blend of knowledge, sensitivity, and understanding of Nature that will be appreciated by those who know and admire wild turkeys and nature in general.”
—LOVETT E. WILLIAMS, JR.
“Like a shaman Joe Hutto has penetrated the mysterious world of the wild turkey and recorded the experience with the literacy of a brilliant scientist. I will return to this wellspring of a book for nourishment again and again.”
—HOPE RYDEN, naturalist and author of “God’s Dog: A Celebration of the North American Coyote”