As a lover of all things wild turkey and wild turkey hunting, I often find myself a bit taken back by the sheer number of hunters taking up the sport of turkey hunting. In my younger years, I often found the spring woods less crowded. When I would talk with folks about turkey hunting, it would usually end with something to the extent that the reward wasn't worth the effort or "it was just too tough."
I have always been a loner, so the idea that many didn't want any part of 3 a.m. alarms, thunderstorms that shook you to your boot soles, and mosquitoes the size of an A10 didn't bother me in the slightest. But, sometime around the first five years or so of the 21st century, I began to see a change in that thinking. Turkey numbers had peaked, and the hunting was good. Many began to take to the spring woods, and the popularity of chasing turkeys exploded. During this time, I saw a change in what drove hunters to withstand some of the discomforts that many of us had been enduring for some time. It seemed many were searching for a title of sorts instead of an experience. Unfortunately, it's something that has continued to grow and fester as the years have rolled by.
Published in 2003, during that time, came a book that tackles the subject much better than I could ever do justice. I'm a bit opinionated on things I hold dear, and sometimes my words tend to ruffle feathers. The Fire Tower, by Bob Henderson, Jr., takes on the subject of the cheapening of our sport in a very thoughtful and well-written way. His approach is to tell how three significant works of turkey hunting literature shaped him as a turkey hunter. Through these three books, “The Old Pro Turkey Hunter,” by Gene Nunnery, “The Wild Turkey and Its Hunting,” by Edward A Mcllhenny, and “Tenth Legion” by Tom Kelly, Henderson tells the story of how we as hunters should respect the bird and the hunt.
These works of written art are very profound for the author. Henderson begins his book with, "If you are serious about turkey hunting, and I mean truly serious, then I would like to recommend for you several pieces of literature that I feel best illuminate the true essence of a hunt with so much aura, wonder, emotion, mystique, and excitement." Henderson goes on to say, "I hope you can laugh with me as I intend for you to do. But I may offend some of you and your tactics of pursuit. Please do not take these criticisms personally, for I do so in an effort to bring turkey hunting back to what it should be - or at least what I think it should be. You might find that somewhere hidden deep inside your soul, you agree too." These words grabbed my attention as I’m guessing they will do for many other turkey hunters.
Through 14 chapters, each beginning with a quote from one of the three books, Henderson tells of the making of a real turkey hunter. It's a stroll down a dim woods road with what feels like an old friend as you recount the ways of the true turkey hunter. His approach is in no way arrogant or off-putting, though. It's in a manner that will make you want to seek out the three pieces of turkey hunting literature and rethink what it is that drives you into the spring woods. With an endorsement from the great Colonel Tom Kelly that ends with the statement, "Sip these stories slowly. They taste too good to gulp," you will be glad you picked this one up.
Thankfully, this book is easily found and affordable. I hope you can read it. It can be found on Amazon at The Fire Tower: Alabama Turkey Hunting: Henderson Jr., Bob: 9781410789310: Amazon.com: Books.