From the Editor in Chief: The Truth

Friends Old, New, and Soon to Be, 

Here in North Carolina, April passes as if some divine force has a finger on the fast-forward button. For thirty days I feel like I am back in Marine Corps training with an angry man in a campaign cover screaming at me, counting down the time I have left to accomplish some virtually impossible task.


Decades later, April’s pressure is self-imposed, the outcome important only to me, but still altogether maddening. I am a man with a relatively substantial amount of book learning and lived experience who is regularly defeated by a bird that is essentially twenty pounds of feathers and sympathetic nervous system. Perhaps I should listen to Robert Ruark who grew up hunting turkeys in the same woods in which I now seek them, “I never trust a turkey. He’s smarter than you are most of the time.” I’ve heard many times that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Few turkey hunters would deny there is an aspect of madness associated with what its most venerated elder, Colonel Tom Kelly, called a “deviant subculture.”  

But there are truths to be found in the turkey woods and I find myself seeking them as some sort of consolation prize. Perhaps that is an outcome only suitable to a writer who lives inside his head too much, but I find joy in learning and passing on the lessons that nature teaches me through success and failure alike. Such was the opportunity I had recently to take my young cousin Noah on his first hunt. 

With several hundred miles between us, we met in Hartsville, South Carolina. It’s not the first time I’ve imposed upon the good nature and generosity of farmer and sportsman David Segars, a gentleman of the old school. I knew my cousin would learn more than techniques by hunting David’s farm, not least the criticality of graciousness and appreciativeness, particularly in the Southeast where so much land is in private hands. 

Not long after our arrival, David put us on the edge of a field in which a hen wandered. Hoping she would attract a Tom, we watched her for two hours as she ignored my every attempt to bring her closer. Noah sat, applying a discipline and focus for which 14-year-old boys are not renowned. He didn’t shift or slap bugs or stare at his phone. He just watched that hen, learning what she had to teach. 

The next morning, we had not even arrived at the point from which we intended to begin our hunt when a Tom cut loose with that ululation that makes turkey hunters giddy. He was within thirty yards of us, so I calmed myself enough to keep us from rushing to failure. Certain the Tom was on the ground, we slowly moved uphill where I hoped to call him into a powerline cut. I got Noah situated in some brush, as well placed to kill a turkey on his first hunt as any young hunter has ever been. Then I sat down to call the bird out of the woods and heard those massive wings beating as he fled the tree from which he was watching us get ready to ambush him. Crushed at the ruination of Noah’s perfect first hunt, I thought, “The truth is, sometimes you do everything right and it still goes wrong.” We hunted a few more hours, working our way through a succession of David Segars’ fields and forest edges before I felt compelled to admit that Tom wasn’t coming back. But on review, it occurred to me that Noah did have the perfect first hunt. 

On my own first turkey hunt decades ago, a bird drummed so close to me I could feel the force of his wings, though he remained invisible in a palmetto jungle. Chasing the feeling that unseen bird gave me sustained my hopes through years of disappointment and taught me how to find joy in the pursuit, in watching the woods wake up around me, and yes, in getting bested by a bird with a pea-sized brain more times than not. 

I have two more weeks as I write this, but whatever happens (or doesn’t), it’s been a great turkey season. I hope yours is better.


Russell Worth Parker
Editor-in-Chief, Tom Beckbe Field Journal