Nov. 3—Think of the person you know better than to sit next to at church or across from at a board meeting, then picture them telling the kind of honest, engaging, top-notch tales best served around the fire at hunting camp. Jim Spencer's new book will transport you to that scenario from the first page on.
"Bad Birds 3: Yet another collection of mostly true stories starring the gobblers we all love to hate," is a masterly and magisterial telling of 32 adventures from the life experience of a committed woodsman and thoroughly-addicted spring turkey hunter. Each essay recounts chess matches played with and against the wiliest and wariest birds Spencer has had the infuriating pleasure to find.
Ordered by mail, "Bad Birds 3" is $25. Spencer's three other turkey hunting books, "Turkey Hunter's Digest: Words of Wisdom on a Grand Spring Sport," "Bad Birds" and "Bad Birds 2" are available for $12 each. There is a blanket shipping charge of $6 that applies one time, no matter how many or how few books you buy. The total shipping charge is $6 whether you're ordering one book or a dozen. Checks or money orders may be sent to Treble Hook Unlimited, P.O. Box 758, Calico Rock, AR 72519. For more information, email Spencer directly at email@example.com.
Spencer's stories are curated with a careful hand and presented in an order that offers the reader an inside look at a true outdoorsman.
Spencer is the sort of storyteller who appreciates the value of an honest assessment of a good plan gone wrong, a shot gone awry and patience gone amiss. When it comes to turkey hunting, the only indispensable honesty is adherence to the rules by which it is played. Turkey hunting done correctly is about the strategy and tactics of the hunt. The occasional gunshot at the end is only punctuation.
A lifetime of stories
Telling stories of the outdoors has been a lifelong pursuit for Spencer. His grandmother taught him to read by the age of 3, then gave him a subscription to Outdoor Life for his fifth Christmas.
"Jack O'Connor and Elmer Keith became my heroes," he said, "and as I grew up reading stories written about the kinds of things I most liked to do, I just always believed I could do that."
Spencer sold his first magazine feature to Fur, Fish & Game when he was 14 and has created many miles more copy in the decades since.
"That first one was a terrible little story for a terrible little magazine, but I believe I've improved a good bit since then," Spencer said. "At least, I certainly hope so."
Spencer has been a writer much longer than he's been a turkey hunter. Though his formative years were rich in fish and game, both turkeys and deer were scarce on the ground.
"Back then, turkeys were as rare as pterodactyls and if you saw a deer track, you took pictures of it," he said. "I grew up as a small game hunter. When the deer started coming back, I tried deer hunting and thought it was a big bore. Hunting small game or ducks, there was always something going on, but deer hunting was just a lot of sitting there. Then when turkey hunting started becoming common, I assumed it would be the same thing and just ignored it."
Eventually a friend convinced him to come along on some hunts east of Natchez.
"That was the spring of '77," he said. "A guy I worked with in Louisiana had a lease east of Natchez and invited me and basically bullied me into going. I went and we stood on a ridgeline 20 miles east of Natchez. A barn owl hooted and we heard seven turkeys gobble and, in that instant, I became a turkey hunter.
"When I did start hunting, it took me five years to kill one, but once I had the proof in my head it could be done, I knew right then what I'd be doing every spring for the rest of my life."
Pursued honestly, spring turkey hunting is very tough, which is what keeps the passion it stokes so alive.
"It's supposed to be tough," Spencer said. "That's the point."
For more information or to order Spencer's books, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin is the weekend edition editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at email@example.com.