It's a combination of sights, smells, expectations, anxieties, highs, lows, laughs and memories that make this addictive pursuit such an important part of who I am. It's an annual ritual that consumes me.
Some days, I'll dispatch gobblers and shoot cover photos no matter how many calling and stalking mistakes I make. Other times, the birds kick my butt despite my best effort. Not every hunt or photo shoot is a success, but each one is memorable for one reason or another. And that's what keeps me coming back.
I shot my first spring gobbler at age 17, near my hometown in Pennsylvania. Though this spring marks the 20th anniversary of my first longbeard, I remember every detail of that day like it was yesterday. Since my spring gobbler baptism, I've been blessed to chase turkeys in lots of places. From the wary, tight lipped longbeards of the Northeast to their loudmouth cousins out West, I've enjoyed 2 decades of encounters with all kinds of birds in all sorts of places, and I've developed an incurable case of turkey fever. Along the way, I've been fortunate to photograph and hunt with many of my mentors, guys whose stories I grew up reading,many of which frequently grace the pages of this magazine. I've shared camp with friends who've forgotten more about turkey hunting than I'll ever know. What I've learned from them has made me a better hunter, and a better photographer.
My first photo subjects were the abundant "backyard birds" of western Montana. I chased those willing photo subjects for a couple of years, while also earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Montana. In fact, I wrote my master's thesis on the Treasure State's non-native, sometimes intrusive game bird. To say I owe my higher education—and my career— to wild turkeys is no exaggeration.
The photos on these pages tell the stories of a series of hunts for all four North American wild turkey subspecies. These pics are more than just snapshots: They're a mixed bag of moments and memories I've been fortunate to capture and share with family, friends and photo clients. My goal with my camera is to always tell a story. Sure, "hero shots" of hunters and their birds are what everyone wants, but that shot is just the final chapter in a much bigger story. I work hard to capture the emotion of the pursuit—to convey the unique experience that turkey hunting offers.
It 's my hope that these photos will take you back to your favorite hunts. As you, too, greet this spring with open arms, remember hunts gone by and eagerly anticipate those to come.