I went to Kentucky close to the end of that state’s season. I was really surprised that the terrain and the turkeys were much like the terrain and turkeys I hunted in New York State. I was primarily hunting rolling hardwoods with an occasional field.
Because I'm a member of the Mossy Oak Turkey T.H.U.G.S. TV team, I usually hunt 10-different states on an average each season for the show. I'm often asked, “Is there any difference in hunting turkeys by yourself and hunting turkeys for a TV show?” I explain, “Yes, there is a huge difference.” When we’re filming a TV show, we've got to make a lot of things happen to make a good turkey-hunting TV show. For instance, if I have a turkey coming in, and he gets close, I easily can pull the trigger and harvest that bird. However, if the cameraman hasn’t got the right angle and can’t see the turkey in his view finder, I can’t take the shot. When I'm hunting by myself or with a buddy, I can decide when to shoot. But when I have a cameraman with me, the cameraman calls the shot. If we can’t get the turkey and the shot on camera, I have to let a perfectly-good gobbler that I may have called to an awful lot walk off.
Another thing that can be aggravating sometimes, if a turkey hangs up - he may be 50–100 yards away - and won’t come in, I can’t get up right quick, move to another calling position and try to pull that gobbler into gun range. Every time I move, the cameraman has to move. So, we may have to sit much longer on a slow-walking, slow-talking gobbler than usual.
One of the situations that we face almost every season is that we’ll get a bird within gun range, and because the cameraman can’t get the turkey in his view finder, we have to let that turkey walk off. At that point, I’ll try to call the turkey back into the same spot he's already been and hasn’t seen a hen. But if I can’t, we have to leave that turkey and hope to find another turkey to call.
One of the big advantages of hunting with a Mossy Oak field producer is they're all turkey hunters. So, they know how much movement we can get away with without spooking a turkey. One of the secrets of getting a great turkey show or a great video on your camcorder is having a turkey hunter behind the camera rather than just having someone who knows how to run a video camera. Many times a cameraman may have to set up 2-3 yards away from me, causing him not to be able to see the gobbler when I can see him. But most of the time, our field producers know how to set-up their cameras and get the hunter and the turkey in their view finders before they give the okay to take the shot. Usually, we’re close enough, so we can whisper to each other and determine when and where to take the shot.
When you hunt turkeys as much as I do for the “Mossy Oak Turkey T.H.U.G.S.” TV show, you often have some strange things happen. Eight days before I did this interview in May, 2016, I had a turkey within 8 steps of where I was sitting, leaned up against a tree. I had my shotgun on my knee, my cheek against the stock, my safety off and my finger on the trigger. I was aiming at the wattles of the turkey, and I knew this was a surefire dead bird. When the turkey came in, he kept a tree between me and him, and the cameraman was sitting a few feet from me. That turkey walked straight up almost to my gun barrel. The way we were positioned, the cameraman couldn’t see him, so we had to let that turkey walk off. One thing the viewer doesn’t see on outdoor TV shows is the ones that got away.
Another time this season I was hunting a turkey in the field. This gobbler walked within 20 yards. I didn’t get the okay to take the shot, and I heard the turkey putt and walk back into the woods. We just weren’t set-up right to get the turkey on camera. Everyone has some type of frustration with their job. When I work really, really hard to get a turkey in close enough to take, and then I can’t pull the trigger, that’s frustrating to me. But that’s all part of doing television. If I wasn’t doing the TV show, I probably wouldn’t get to hunt as many states as I do and go on as many turkey hunts as I do.
Day 1: Calling and Taking Late Season Gobblers in New York State with Paul Butski
Tomorrow: The Silent Gobbler and the TV Show with Paul Butski