Tom "Doc" Weddle is a turkey hunter. He may be as pure a turkey hunter as I've met. Don't misinterpret that to mean he doesn't hunt other game because he certainly does but when it comes to hunting turkeys, he pursues them with a vigor that few I've met equal.
Spend a little time with Doc, that's the name he prefers, and you'll soon learn that he's a very modest man who does not try to let you know what an expert he is on all things turkey. He can regale you with tales of his hunts pretty much all over the U.S. but you never feel that he's trying to impress you with his skill or knowledge.
It's very refreshing in this day of self-promotion to meet a man who just loves to hunt and is willing to share his experiences with you, if you'd like to listen but is not trying to impress anyone with either those experiences or his expertise.
Doris and I had the distinct privilege of spending 3 days in a vendor booth with Doc at the 2014 NWTF Convention & Sport Show in Nashville, TN. You get to know a man when you spend 8-10 hours a day in pretty close quarters. We saw the folks who came by just to meet him and the obvious respect that they accorded him. Doris and I came to have that same respect and admiration for Doc.
Recently, I was able to have a more in-depth conversation with him and to explore his true passion for the sport of turkey hunting.
CB: Doc, it's truly a pleasure to be able to visit with you and take some time to talk with you about turkey hunting and your book "Turkey Tails and Tales from Across the USA". I've spent some time with your book and enjoyed reading some of your adventures. Thank you for taking the time to record your adventures for the rest of us to enjoy.
For those who have not read your book, would you tell us just a bit about where you're from and what you do besides hunting turkeys?
Doc: Well, I've lived just about my whole life in Bloomington, Indiana. It's the hometown of Indiana University, where I graduated with a degree in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. I've never worked a day in my field of study, though; I started swinging a hammer during college, and I'm still an historical restoration/remodeling carpenter...when I'm not out hunting or fishing!
For the last two years nearly all my spare time has been spent fixing up a house I bought mainly because it's surrounded on all sides by vast tracts of State Forest land which holds a healthy wild turkey population. It's been a challenge to turn this place around, and sometimes when I'd rather be out playing in the woods I have trouble keeping focus on "the dream," but I have faith that it will eventually be well worth all my hard work. I'm real proud of how the house is coming along, yet I know all progress will grind to a screeching halt in March, when it's time to once again hit the road turkey hunting!
I also do an awful lot of duck hunting, which is my second-favorite outdoor passion...followed closely by squirrel hunting. Otherwise, I shoot enough deer to keep the freezer stocked, try to make it out to South Dakota for pheasant hunting most years, and wet a line fishing every chance I get. Basically, if it walks, crawls, swims, or flies, I enjoy pursuing it with a vengeance. In between hunting seasons, I build a few box calls out of woods salvaged from the civil war-era houses we work on, and I also collect old books, artwork, stamps, and other stuff featuring the wild turkey.
My other weakness in life is golf. You'd think after nearly 50 years of doing something, a guy would get pretty good at it. I want to be good, and think I should be good, but let's face it....I stink. I can't really afford the money or time investment needed in order to be worth a hoot, so I'm stuck occasionally playing a game that I love, but which plumb evades me.
CB: Would you tell us about your early life and how you became interested in the outdoors and in hunting?
Doc: I was basically born into it. My Dad was the DNR Property Manager of Lake Monroe and a consummate outdoorsman. One of my earliest memories is of he and I building a deadfall for rabbits...I must've been only 4 or 5 years old.
Other fond recollections are of me and a pack of beagles stomping brush piles for rabbits, wading the creeks around home catching crawdads, stalking squirrels with a .22, shivering right alongside our Chesapeake Bay Retrievers in various duck blinds or struggling to keep up with the English Pointers while chasing quail, gathering Hickory nuts, Walnuts, and Hazelnuts every fall with the family, catching bass and bluegills back behind the house, etc., etc., etc.
I can still recall every crisp detail of Dad and I setting my first muskrat trap, and the thrill that came from catching one the very first night. Life was just a continuous wild adventure for me, and I had a really amazing childhood in a beautiful part of the world. It's easy to see how my upbringing had such a profound impact on my core values and love of nature and the outdoors!
CB: Most of us have had a mentor who has guided us and helped us in some phase of our lives. Is there one person, or more than one, who inspired you in your hunting?
Doc: As I said, my Dad was number one in my life. He was a serious duck hunter, a very skilled dog trainer, and a well-respected charter boat captain. In short, he lived and breathed the outdoor lifestyle, yet he also had interests outside of that...he was a musician and a storyteller, as well as a tremendous athlete. I couldn't even begin to count the number of whiffle ball games we played in the back yard, and he schooled me regularly on the basketball court. I suppose that I've tried to bring his enthusiasm and zeal into the various endeavors of my own life, as well.
Then, there were my Grandfathers...both of them colorful characters in their own right! My Dad's Dad, "Shine" was a man of many talents and interests. He trained "Trotter" racing horses and owned a Pool Hall in Franklin, so we always had a Pool or Snooker table in our home while I was growing up. With him and my Dad as fine examples, I became a pretty decent "shark" myself, and probably paid for most of my college expenses by hanging out in pool rooms and bars! My other Grandpa "Red" was a fisherman who grew his own bait...golden grubs and crickets. No man ever lived who cared more for his time on the water, so I spent an inordinate number of days on the lake with him.
Yet another major figure in my life was a man named Bill Madden, whom I mentioned in my first book. Bill was part American Indian (not sure which tribe), and a veritable walking encyclopedia of animal lore. He was a Wildlife Biologist for the DNR, and a good friend of my Dad who was a really, really fascinating man! He had this apparently innate knowledge of the natural world and critter behavior which appealed to my curious mind and love of the woods, so I soaked up whatever he said like a sponge. Although I never got to hunt with Bill because of the distance he lived from our home, it was his stories of turkeys that got me inspired in the beginning. If Bill Madden was a turkey hunter, then I dang-sure wanted to be a turkey hunter, too!
CB: When did you realize the value of documenting your early hunts?
Doc: English was my favorite subject throughout school, and I always envisioned myself as a writer of some sort. Putting things down on paper was where I just felt more comfortable communicating my truest innermost thoughts. It was far easier for me to write, as opposed to sticking my foot in my mouth by blurting out the first thing that popped into my head...a practice which always seemed to get me in trouble! And, I was always reading.
The school library "back in the day" had a subscription to Fur-Fish-Game magazine, so I devoured every copy as soon as it arrived. Besides that, I was always checking out any and every book they had about hunting, and since we subscribed to "Outdoor Life," "Field & Stream," and "Sports Afield" magazines at home, I knew early-on what kind of stories I liked to read....the action-packed ones detailing hunts to far-off lands, or for game that I could only dream about pursuing.
Then, when I first started turkey hunting, I began jotting down facts and figures about what had just happened in order to help myself become a better hunter. You know how it is; once these birds get under your skin, you find yourself using every trick imaginable to figure out exactly what makes them tick. I wanted to keep track of things I felt were important, such as; the exact time of morning when toms started gobbling, and when they were most likely to fly down. I also recorded each specific place where I had found either these ghosts of the forest, or the physical sign of their presence.
When I managed to kill my first tom on only the fourth day of hunting turkeys, it was an incredible event that I never wanted to forget, so I wrote the whole story down soon afterwards. "Outdoor Life" magazine eventually published this piece, and that certainly strengthened my resolve to keep written records. While they were still fresh in my mind, I even wrote down everything that had happened during the other three days of my newfound turkey hunting career. That way, as I waited-out the interminably-long lag time until the next spring season, I could go back whenever I wanted and relive those hunts. Reading these entries allowed me to once again connect with the magic that I had found in the turkey woods, and after that, it just became automatic to always carry a journal in my hunting vest. I've continued this practice for the last 32 years, and try to write something down in it every day.
CB: For the hunter who wants to start documenting his hunts, what information would you recommend he record that might be helpful or interesting for future reference?
Doc: The sky's the limit! Anything you are curious about, write it down. Anything that you find interesting, write it down. Turkey hunting is an ongoing and never-ending quest for knowledge that you might be able to use in future encounters with these fascinating birds. What you learn from one hunt may very well come back to help you on another, or vice-versa (i.e.: what you fail to realize today may haunt you again when next facing a similar situation).
I start out each entry by recording the date, exact location, and with whom I am hunting (if anyone). Then, I write a brief paragraph detailing the weather. After that, I've developed sort of a shorthand section for listing things I think are vital to know about every hunt. These include: whether I heard birds fly to roost the night before, and if so, the time of flyup, along with whether I heard any roost gobbling, and likewise, the time it occurred; hours hunted during he day; whether I owl hooted at dawn in order to make the turkeys gobble, and if so, the results; number of birds heard at sunup, and throughout the day, along with my general impressions of how good or poor the gobbling was; time of first gobble and what made him do it (if known); whether I got set up before fly down, and if so, how close; whether or not I called to the tom while he was still tree bound, and if so, the results; time of fly down; number of different gobbling birds I got set up on during the day, and the results; whether or not a bird answered my calls, and if so, how many different ones; types of calls used and their results; how many toms, hens, jakes, and unidentified turkeys I saw throughout the day; how many toms I called "into camp" (inside 40 yards) during the hunt; whether I thought there were any "close encounters" that would've resulted in a dead tom, if only I had done something different; hunter interference episodes and details of each one; whether there were any turkeys missed, and if so, by whom, the time of day, the paced-off yardage, and weapon/load; whether there were any turkeys killed, and if so, by whom, the time of day, the paced-off yardage, and weapon/load; statistics of any turkeys killed (weight, beard length, and spur size); craw contents of the turkeys killed; hours hunted in the afternoon (where allowable), or if I only tried to roost turkeys, the results. All this data can offer valuable clues for future success, so I try to complete this section as accurately as possible.
Next, I write a rather detailed account of the day's events and whatever else I found to be noteworthy. These entries don't always pertain solely to the hunt...they might encompass nearly anything that was interesting or memorable. Sometimes this part of the journal is only a page long, and sometimes it might stretch to 10 pages...that just depends on what transpired during the day, and how much time I can devote to writing about it. Sometimes I might not feel much like writing, but I always try to jot at least a few things down. In turkey hunting, there is usually a certain amount of "slow" time during the day when I'm able to sit and contemplate what has occurred, and these are good times to pull out the journal. I might do this sporadically throughout the course of a morning's hunt, or I might wait until the afternoon or evening hours back at camp and try to complete everything all at once, but I do try to finish the entries while they're still fairly fresh in my head.
This free-wheeling portion of the journal is likely to contain random thoughts that ran through my brain at the time, and months or years later when I reread the details, it's always shocking to realize just how easily those same thoughts return. It's like time-traveling right back to what was happening at that particular moment in my history! Believe me, this makes for some very interesting reading, and some of these pages are quite humorous. For some reason, it seems like there's a lot of cussing involved; probably because things so often go wrong on a turkey hunt....
CB: When you look back on some of those early days of turkey hunting, what do you see as some of the major differences in how folks looked at hunting then and how they look at it now?
Doc: Times have certainly changed a bunch! I can vividly remember the first time I ever heard a turkey gobble; it was on my third day of hunting. My buddy Ron and I had hiked a couple miles back into the Hoosier National Forest, and we found this turkey just rippin' it late in the morning. However, we sat on a ridge opposite of his position and never made the first attempt to go after that bird, simply because we knew there were a couple fellow turkey hunters camped back at the trailhead and we didn't want to risk boogering them up.
There was absolutely zero evidence of these guys working the bird, or even being within earshot of him, but we sat there unmoving...just listening. The tom must've finally found a real hen and quit gobbling, so we wandered away too. But, do you want to know the most incredible part of this story? We were absolutely thrilled with just being able to hear the gobble of a wild turkey, and felt like the whole season was now a complete success! Can you imagine that? Today, if a morning goes by without any gobbling heard, most hunters are ready to proclaim the season a total disaster, with all toms "henned-up" and unkillable.
I'm certainly thankful that turkey populations have exploded like they have during my lifetime, yet there is a bit of negativity to go along with all the positives these changes have brought. Manners and common courtesy seem to have gone by the wayside these days.
We used to drive a minimum of a mile past anyone else's parked vehicle before starting a hunt. Today, I have actually seen folks follow me to a spot and park right beside my van. I guess they figure there must be turkeys in the area if I'm hunting in it, but man, how rude can you be?
Back in 1983 (my first year) there were only 93 turkeys killed in the entire state. Now, we kill upwards of 15,000. There are obviously many more thousands of hunters, yet very little additional land to hunt, so crowding is inevitable. Still, there's no excuse for horning in on someone who gets there first! You're bound to either mess up the other guy's hunt, or he's gonna mess up yours. It's better for everyone involved if you just go find another bird, or barring that, get there earlier the next day.
These new hunters seem to expect success as a foregone conclusion. After all, the "pro's" on TV make it look so easy! Quality of the hunting experience doesn't appear to be the driving force that it once was. Rather, doing whatever it takes to get a dead turkey into the cooler is what it's all about. Take, for instance, these current ads for "long range" turkey ammo...can you believe that otherwise reputable companies are actually bragging about being able to kill birds at 60+ yards?
As far as I'm concerned, you haven't even won the battle if that's the closest you can get a tom to come in, so you sure as heck don't deserve to kill him! My goal is to have turkeys right up close and personal; preferably under 25 yards, but certainly no further than 40. I don't want to run the risk of crippling a tom, but even more importantly than that are the intangibles you gain by calling turkeys right up into your lap. In short, turkey hunting needs to be about the adventure and experiences; the ends should never justify the means!
Now that I'm a bit "longer of tooth," I find it comforting (yet, at the same time somewhat disheartening) to sit back and think about those simpler times behind us, when there was less saturation and pressure from all the media, and when companies vying for the hunter's hard-earned buck didn't pound it down our throats so hard. Take your typical turkey hunter today; he looks like he just walked off the pages of a Cabelas catalog, with all-new camo everything, and he carries more gear than a special-ops soldier equipped with the latest and greatest high tech gadgetry and gimmickry imaginable. All this, just to help fool a bird with a brain the size of a pecan!
Am I starting to sound like an old curmudgeon, dreaming about the "good old days?" The truth is, we are living in the good old days right now, so I better step down off my soapbox; I'm getting dizzy up here on this lofty perch......
CB: Would you tell us about a typical year of turkey hunting for you these days? When you start and how you decide where you'll go, for example?
Doc: Well, except for a couple seasons when I went to Hawaii first, I always start in Florida. I've done that for 25 years, and absolutely love hunting those swamp-roaming Osceolas. I guide a handful of hunters down there every year on private property, then hunt on public land for my own birds but that's nothing unusual for me...I actually prefer to hunt on public land everywhere I go.
Once the Sunshine State is behind me it's basically a roll of the dice on where I'll be headed to next, although I will have had my destinations tentatively mapped-out for months in advance. I try to arrange the season in a way that makes the most logistical sense, because I camp either in a tent or my van, and drive everywhere I go. That means if I'm headed out west, I'll try to encompass as many western states on the schedule as possible, and in a particular order which minimizes the driving time in between each one. However, even on a western swing, I always come back and finish up the season in the northeast. New York is another of my favorite destinations (I've hunted there 20 times), and the states in that region generally have seasons which don't end until the very last week of May, or later.
In between the start of Florida's season and the first week of June, I try to hit as many states as I can without limiting my time in any one place. I really don't like to zip in and hunt for just 2 or 3 days, unless I happen to fill my bag limit in that time-frame. I'd much rather stay at least a week in each state, so that I can get a better "feel" for the environment and acquire a taste of the local flavor for that region.
I also try to vary my destinations hunted each year, so as not to get in too much of a rut. Part of the challenge and thrill for me is to see new places and chase gobblers on ground that I've never walked, and that means I usually hunt somewhere between 9-12 different states every spring. Planning and scheming to make all this happen is a full-time, year-round endeavor, and I'm always thinking about three years in advance in trying to organize the trips ahead.
CB: Tell us a little bit more about your guiding. How do you decide when, where, and who you'll guide each year?
Doc: I've been guiding in Florida since 2001. Most of the money I charge for the hunts goes to the landowner, but that's ok; it keeps him happy, and I'm satisfied just to help folks get an Osceola and fulfill their dream of completing a Grand Slam.
I only take 4 or 5 people each year, and we're running 100% success at getting a shot. Those results are guaranteed, too...no shot, no pay. I don't think anyone else offers a deal like this, but from my perspective, it just seems the only fair way to go about it. I figure if I can't get a tom in front of a client's gun barrel, then I haven't really earned their trust, or their money. All my guiding work has been drummed up either through word of mouth, or from Internet turkey hunting talk forums that I visit, and I can honestly say that every single client has been a pleasure to hunt with. I've made some great friends this way, whom will always remain just that!
Other than Florida, the only "guiding" I do is for free. I prefer to hunt alone, but once my tags are filled, helping friends get their bird is a great way to prolong my own time in the field. I really love to take women and kids into the woods, because they both have such interesting perspectives on being out there. Also, helping anyone get their first turkey is a thrill beyond comparison!
For instance, a couple years ago I took a buddy's 10-year-old daughter here in Indiana. Both her parents had been trying to help her get a bird all season, but they'd not done very good. Time after time they would have birds in range, but Susie couldn't seem to pull the trigger. I suspected that it was because the parents had been too anxious, and were putting too much pressure on her to perform like a seasoned veteran.
The first morning with me, we had a big tom rapidly approaching our blind that was set up in the middle of a disked field, when all of a sudden Susie got a case of the nervous giggles...and when I say giggles, I really mean she started laughing out loud and couldn't stop! I was sure this would scare off the tom, but what could I do? I didn't want to add any more pressure to the situation, but things were rapidly coming to a head as the old tom marched towards us.
Fortunately, the tom did his part to perfection and stalked angrily up to my DSD Strutter decoy without ever acknowledging the laughing little girl in the blind, and once he was face to face with his feaux nemesis 12 yards in front of us, I told Susie that she needed to take a deep breath, stop laughing, and kill that tom before he tore my pretty new decoy to shreds! Susie promptly got herself calmed down and focused, took careful aim, and smote the gobbler dead in his tracks. Later on, she told me that her parents made her too nervous and she only wanted to hunt with me from now on. That sure warmed my crusty old heart, and it's just these kinds of moments which will forever keep me bringing kids into the sport.
I've also done some guiding for handicapped folks, and these have been inspirationally pride-swelling experiences unlike anything else I've ever known! Me and my hunters have laughed, talked about everything under the sun, missed and killed turkeys, and even cried together during these hunts...and every single day stands out in my memory banks like a highlight reel. If you ever get the chance to participate in one of these events, I would STRONGLY recommend it! Just helping someone to get out there in the turkey woods and do the things we all so easily take for granted will give you a whole new appreciation for what you've got!
CB: When you look back over the hunters that you've guided over the years, what skills did you see most lacking? Maybe a better question would be, what skills would you recommend that hunters work on to improve their success?
Doc: I don't know about lacking skills, as most folks I take are accomplished hunters of some sort before trying their hand at turkeys. In the case of my Florida clients, many of these guys and gals simply don't have access to private property, and don't want to fight the masses on crowded public land.
As for many of the others for whom I've called in turkeys, a great majority are lacking only the practical experience and confidence that comes from having spent thousands of hours in close proximity to wild turkeys.
Experience and confidence are both vitally important when trying to speak the wild turkey's language in an effective way. They can also help alleviate any fear of messing up and scaring the birds off, because you'll know that if things don't come together within good killing range, it's ok to let the tom walk away. You can always come back and hunt this bird later, or on another day, but if you take a risky shot which cripples him, only the coyotes will dine on his delicious, tender flesh! Spending lots of time around turkeys is crucial in learning what to do and when to do it, such as making any necessary moves without hesitation or second guessing.
You also need to pay attention to what's going on around you. Be alert, keep your eyes open, and be aware of other animals in the forest...they can clue you in to the presence of turkeys sneaking towards your setup! Learn to sit still, or if that's impossible to do, use a blind to cover up your movements.
Many people don't comprehend how much they move and fidget around, and they don't fully realize how good a turkey's vision is. These birds can see the slightest head turning or finger pointing, and they don't have much sense of curiosity about such things! You can get away with a lot of movement around turkeys, but it takes hours and hours of studying and observation to know exactly what you can do and when you can do it. '
It's better for a newbie to sit still and shift only their eyes, then take the decisive action needed (at the proper time) to make the shot. Again, experience is crucial in being able to determine all this.
CB: When you look at the skills that you value for turkey hunting, which one or which ones do you believe to be the most important?
Doc: Well, perseverance is certainly one necessary skill. Patience is important too, but perseverance even more so. I think a lot of people give up too easily when the going gets tough. However, it's those marathon hunts which last 7, 8, 10, or even 12 hours with one particular bird that are the ones I most remember and fondly recall. A lot of turkey hunters simply run off to the next gobbling bird if/when things go south, but I'm more inclined to stay the course and keep with the targeted tom as long as possible. It might even take multiple days to best him, but I'm like a Jack Russell Terrier in never knowing when to give up.
Also, as I just said, having a high degree of confidence in the decisions you make during a hunt is paramount. Turkey hunting is a constant game of decision making, and you've got to have the confidence to "sell" yourself to that tom in order to take away any worry or concern that he might have. Make him believe that you are the real deal, and tell him things that sexy hens have promised him in glory days past. This includes knowing what to say, when to say it, and putting "feelings" into your calling, instead of just mimicking generic turkey sounds that you hear on the Outdoor Channel. You'll kill some birds with indiscriminate and random turkey noises, but the more you understand their language and how to make your calls sound like an actual dialog between turkeys, the better and more often you will get the desired results.
Of course, general "woodsmanship" skills also go a long way towards tipping the scales in your favor. This is a hard term to define, and one that takes years of study, trial, and error in the woods to hone, but being comfortable in the woods and "at one" with nature is what it's mostly all about. So many people are just visitors to the forest, but if you can immerse yourself and actually blend in to what is going on around you, you'll see things in a much clearer, calmer way and be able to react accordingly. These skills can't be learned solely from books....you'll only become a good woodsman by living the life and being "out there in it." Yet again, there is no substitution for experience and practice.
CB: Let's talk a little more about your book. I often hear folks say, "I should write a book." I've also read that folks who say that probably never will. What was your real inspiration for writing "Turkey Tails and Tales from Across the USA"?
Doc: I mentioned earlier that I always envisioned myself as a better writer than an oral communicator, so writing down my tales was the easy part. The question of "why" I wrote the book is more difficult to answer. I suppose there was a recognition that I have indeed led a rather unique turkey hunting lifestyle, which fellow hunters might enjoy reading about it.
Maybe there was also a bit of wanting to put my stories down for posterity sake...leaving something of myself behind to let future hunters know who I was, what I was about, and what was important to me. As I meet people along my travels, there seems to be a great interest in hearing where I've been and how I've managed to do the things I do, so I also wanted to give them a vision of what is possible, and help them take the first step in going out on their own fantasy trips to faraway lands.
Something I hadn't envisioned at the time, but which I now realize is pretty darned cool, is that my writing this book has inspired others to do the same thing. There have been at least four people who've told me that if I can do it, then they surely can (on second thought, is this sort of a "backwards compliment?"), and then went on to finish books themselves.
With today's self-publishing industry being what it is, there really are no excuses any more for not writing that book you've always wanted to write. We ALL have interesting stories, which many other people would love to read, so I encourage EVERYONE to write their own book!
If you don't feel like you have the English skills to do this yourself, then by all means ask someone to "ghost author" your stories. You can dictate into a microphone, and they can then transcribe your words onto paper. In today's world, getting a book published is a fairly cheap thing to do, and I cannot even come close to adequately describing the positive feelings that come over you when you're standing there holding the first copy of a book with YOUR name printed on it as the author....it is an absolutely priceless experience!
CB: There's a sentence in your book that I kept coming back to time and time again and I'd really like for you to discuss it just a bit. "...I do know for a fact that I am a better person because of turkey hunting..." Would you expand upon that just a bit?
Doc: Sure. Turkey hunting is a great teacher...of so many things in life! You learn patience, and problem solving. You learn about humility, accepting defeat, and how to deal with heartbreak. You learn what it takes to be successful, and how to handle that.
You learn about wilderness and wild things, the rhythms of nature, and how important these are to living a good, well-balanced life. You come to realize how disjointed the modern world really is, and as a society, how removed we've become from the natural world.
You learn what is really important in life, and how to share it with others. Time in the turkey woods gives you the opportunity to ponder, and to focus on how you both relate to the world, and it relates to you. Turkey hunting helps you grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. It instills confidence in your beliefs, and strengthens your resolve and sense of self-worth and direction of focus.
How's that for a deep, philosophical answer?
CB: I recently saw in "Turkey Country" magazine, a picture that you'd taken of a couple of men with 2 beautiful gobblers. How long has a camera been a part of your hunting gear? What kind of camera do you usually carry?
Doc: Oh, I've kept a camera in my vest for as long as I've been a turkey hunter. I love to take pictures. Now that digital photography has basically replaced film, it makes picture taking even more enjoyable. I used to shoot roll after roll of film, then have to pay to get it all developed without any guarantee that the pictures taken were any good. Then, I might find only a handful worth saving. Today, you can shoot all the photos you want for nothing but the cost of the camera and a data card, both of which have gotten progressively cheaper and of higher quality every year. I now carry a Nikon Cool Pix AW-100 that is waterproof, shock resistant, and able to withstand freezing temperatures. It takes great photographs, too.
CB: For those turkey hunters who would like to start traveling to other states to hunt, what advice would you give them?
Doc: My advice would be to get started and, like the Nike ad says, "JUST DO IT!" Seriously, traveling to other states is a ton of fun, and it lets you get in so much more hunting than if you'd just stayed at home. Our season in Indiana runs only 19 days, but by traveling around the country I usually get somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 days in the turkey woods every spring. More woods time equals more knowledge and experience, so every spring is like taking advanced classes in "turkeyology." The time spent chasing after unheard gobbles from as-yet unseen lands is a powerful draw for me, and I know that many folks addicted to this disease share those feelings.
Research is the key to having an exciting, successful trip to someplace you've never been before. I used to write many letters every year in order to get the information sought, but now the Internet is so much faster as a source for finding out everything you'll need to know. These days, I spend lots more time at my desk poring over maps, charts, and data from all the state game departments, and only then do I send emails to their turkey biologists to inquire about specific details.
Not only has the Internet made information readily accessible to anyone who wants it, but today's technologies have allowed quality data to be recorded and easily made available with but the click of a button! A Google search can bring up everything from turkey population density maps, to public property boundary lines, and nearly everything else in between. Of course, finding enough information to assure yourself of a good place to hunt is only the beginning. Once you get there, turkeys are still turkeys... you'll still have to put in some woods time, and put down some boot leather, before wrapping your tag around a tom's scaly leg.
CB: I said earlier that you preferred to be called "Doc". Would you tell us how you got that name? Are there folks out there who'd struggle with your given name but readily recognize you as Doc?
Doc: Oh, there are lots of people who don't know my real name. I don't even think my girlfriend knew it for the first three years we dated!
I mentioned my Grandfather "Shine" earlier. He started calling me that when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and I was so crazy about that old man he could've called me "Petunia," or anything else, and I'd have been fine with it. I was proud to take on a nickname given to me by my beloved Grandfather, and the name just sorta stuck. Years later I came to realize that it wasn't anything particularly special that he'd dreamed up for me...it was just his way of talking. He called most everyone, "Doc."
CB: Thank you. I can't tell you how enjoyable it's been to be able to visit with you again. I wanted to be certain to do that before you get too busy planning the upcoming spring season.
For folks who'd be interested in getting a copy of your book or contacting you, how should they go about that?
Doc: Well, my books are available on Amazon.com, and I also have a website where you can order them on line turkeytalesusa.com), but I think the best way is to order direct from me. That way, I can sign and personalize each copy.
Paperbacks are $25 and hardcovers are $35, plus $5 for packaging and shipping. Personal checks or money orders can be made out to my real name (Tom Weddle), and sent to PO Box 7281, Bloomington, IN 47407.
I'm currently working on finishing Volume 2 of the book, but I can't really say when that will be available. I still have that house to finish remodeling, and lots of turkeys yet to either kill, miss, or booger clear into the next county!
I'd like to thank you also, Clark. It's always a distinct pleasure to spend time with you, and this has been fun! We're gonna have to plan a hunting trip sometime soon where we can sit around a campfire, telling each other stories and a few lies. After all, that's what turkey hunting is really about, ain't it?
Take care, my friend!