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The Old Pro Turkey Hunter: Bottomland Book Club

Provided by Jason Worley

It was sometime during the year 1985 when I ran across the book. Just a few months prior, an 11-year-old boy had squeezed the trigger on his first turkey and his very existence had changed. I was that youngster, and I became obsessed with learning all I could about this bird my father and I had been chasing for a handful of years.  It was amongst some old dime store novels at a small flea market in the town I had gone to school in. It was just by chance as I walked by the books that I glanced down to see the beautiful cover painting of an old gobbler. Standing erect, almost peering at me, I immediately reached down and snagged the book.  

The Old Pro Turkey Hunter book

The title immediately brought to mind visions of slinging a fine wild turkey over my shoulder. The Old Pro Turkey Hunter. Those five words summed up everything the 11-year-old me had aspired to become. I don't think I even opened the cover before beginning to beg my mother for the 3 dollars it carried as a price tag. She agreed to buy the book, but I would have to pay for it through the forced labor of dishwashing for the next two weeks. Since I was already no stranger to chores, I agreed with a smile and followed her to the cash register. Mothers are funny about justifying their giving to a wanting child and I would later find out just how impactful my mother’s giving would be.

Classic Turkey Literature: Home, At Last, Is the Turkey Hunter  

In 1980, The Old Pro Turkey Hunter, by Gene Nunnery, found its way into the hands of many eager turkey hunters.  The craze that we know today as turkey hunting was just beginning to gain steam and to say that it taught a generation of turkey hunters would be a serious understatement.  As a Mississippi turkey hunter who was considered expert in this pursuit, Gene Nunnery put into print the story of “The Old Pros” who taught him the art of turkey hunting.  These old hunters had learned the secrets of fooling wise old toms in days when the future of the bird was very uncertain. As Nunnery states in the preface, “These old master turkey hunters hunted wild turkeys without having to abide by hunting seasons, bag limits, game wardens, or any other restrictions. They found that the real reward for successful turkey hunting lay in winning the battle, not necessarily exterminating the foe.”   

Bear with me as I quote one more phrase from Nunnery’s preface that brings more meaning to the above statement and helps to summarize what it means to be an old pro: “This book may help you become a master turkey hunter. It may help you become sure enough of your ability as a turkey hunter so that you can, at times, call up a magnificent turkey gobbler and when his life is in your hands, let him live. When you let a gobbler walk away from you, don’t expect people to understand.” It’s a profound concept when you are involved in a pursuit that by all hopes will end in the death of a wise old gobbler.

Be assured, even with the above quotations, this book is not about calling up birds and letting them walk away. Fear not, this is a book that will teach you to be the turkey hunter you have always longed for. It will teach you through colorful stories and tales of worthy opponents how to become a true old pro. Through those teachings it will show that the true test of becoming an old pro is the ability to know that you could spare the life of that old tom and just how important his life is. It’s not something you will always do, but occasionally, it is the ultimate form of respect a hunter can give to that “worthy opponent.” Simply understanding the depth of that concept takes turkey hunting to a different level.  

As I sit here, 37 years after washing 3 dollars’ worth of dishes, I often wonder how a book written by the man who would become known as the old pro of modern-day turkey hunting, found its way onto the shelf of a small flea market in the Ozark hills of Missouri. However it came to be, I'm thankful it did. Through some of the most vivid storytelling you'll find in any book on turkey hunting, Nunnery will pass along the secrets of four old pros who taught him how to hunt and respect the wild turkey, and in turn how to view this grand thing called turkey hunting.  In today's world of declining wild turkey populations and a turkey hunting world often driven by social media, the internet, and a seemingly endless quest by many for one more tally mark to an already large score, The Old Pro Turkey Hunter is now more than ever, a need-to-read book for anyone new or old to chasing this amazing creature.

The book was originally published in 1980 and copies of that original edition can still be found on-line. The University of Mississippi press, however, did the turkey hunting world a favor by reprinting The Old Pro Turkey Hunter, in 2018.  If you're starting a new hunter, or are in need, yourself, of a book that will truly make you a better turkey hunter and steward of this great bird, look no further.  

You can find the book at The Old Pro Turkey Hunter by Gene Nunnery 2018 Edition | eBay or by emailing

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