Talkin' Outdoors

When I receive a book from an author for my review, I usually scan the book, read portions of it to see if it’s a work I want to promote. Afterwards, I let my readers know what I think of the book. I received one recently that I couldn’t put down until I read every single word.

My reason for sitting and absorbing all 207 pages of “Turkey Men” is that I’m a turkey hunter and the stories I read in this fascinating work by Thomas R. Pero, is the amazing story of six individuals from across the country who have done the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest barefoot. Or swam the English Channel with one hand tied behind a back. Or run the 100 yard dash in seven seconds.

In this book, Pero sits down and talks with each of these turkey hunters — the dialogue between Pero and the hunters is as if you’re sitting there listening in — about accomplishing the impossible. Each of the six has completed the U. S. Super Slam of wild turkeys.

I’m blessed and feel really fortunate to have completed a wild turkey Grand Slam and have taken gobblers in five states. These guys have taken gobblers in all 49 states where wild turkeys roam. From Connecticut to California; from North Carolina to North Dakota; from Florida to Hawaii gobblers have fallen to these fanatical turkey hunters.

One thing that interested me is that two of the six have Louisiana roots. Clyde Neely who now lives in Texas grew up around Eunice in southern Louisiana while Randy Stafford lives in Franklinton in Washington Parish. These two are joined on the Super Slam list by Jeff Budz, David Ellis, Tony Hudak and Rob Keck.

Jeff Budz, a turkey busting machine, hails from Okeechobee, Florida, shot his first gobbler in 1989 in Illinois and completed his U.S. Super Slam in 2014 in Arizona. While I’m proud of the plaque and four gobbler fans on my wall validating my Grand Slam, Budz has done it 94 times. In an article in Field and Stream magazine, Bill Heavey entitles his article “The Slam Man: A Road Trip With the Greatest Turkey Hunter Alive.”

David Ellis, Crestview, Florida resident, got his first wild turkey gobbler in 1988 in Georgia and completed his Slam in 2016 in Hawaii. Ellis works for a company that makes medical devices and his job requires that he fly all over the world, allowing him to collect an abundance of frequent flier points that reduces his expenses in traveling around the country in quest of gobbling birds.

At age 33, Ellis became the youngest hunter ever to register his 49th state bird with the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Tony Hudak calls Noxen, Pennsylvania home. He works as a carpenter and masonry contractor and claimed his first gobbler in his home state in 1986, completing his U.S. Grand Slam in Hawaii in 2016.

Rob Keck is well known to members of the National Wild Turkey Federation serving as C.E.O. of the organization for a number of years. Today, he lives in South Carolina and works as Director of Conservation for Bass Pro Shops. Keck downed his first gobbler in Pennsylvania in 1963, completing his U.S. Super Slam in 1997 in South Dakota.

Clyde Neely lives in Kingwood, Texas and is a consultant for the oil and gas industry. He shot his first gobbler in 1978 in his home state and completed the Super Slam in West Virginia in 2012.

Franklinton’s Randy Stafford, a retired pharmacist, got his first gobbler in Alabama in 1966, completing the U.S. Super Slam in 2010 in Pennsylvania. While some of the other five hunters featured in the book had wives and girl friends - and former wives and girlfriends, who didn’t understand their passion for chasing gobblers, Stafford’s wife, Debbie, is right there with him and has collected gobblers herself in 31states.

“Turkey Men” is not for everyone because the hard-cover, brilliantly illustrated work sells for $49.95. However, it’s a bargain if you’re a turkey hunting junkie like me. Order copies on-line at www.turkeymen.com or call Wild River Press at 425.486.3638.