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Illumination in the Flatwoods

4.45  ·  Rating Details ·  282 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
The acclaimed account of an astonishing human-turkey relationship.
Paperback, 248 pages
Published August 1st 1998 by Lyons Press (first published November 1st 1995)
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Author is walking out every day with all his young turkeys, foraging and discovering their home environment. Hutto then questions the “difference” between human and turkey “consciousness”
From page 128-129
“………..They seemed more interested in exploration and observation than in hunting for food. Wild turkeys often seem to be profoundly motivated by wonder.
It is impossible to ignore the extraordinary state of awareness in these wild birds. As I watch them contemplate and scrutinize, it is difficul
Nov 27, 2012 Caren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This is an unexpectedly beautiful book. I noticed that a show based on the book was to be aired on PBS the day before Thanksgiving and decided to read the book before watching. (Here is something about the PBS show: ) The book began as a sort of journal or field notes of the author's experience in raising wild turkeys as their 'mother' , from imprinting on them as they hatched, through their first year or so until they moved on into their adult lives. One ...more
Feb 20, 2009 Emilene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love to read nonfiction books about wild animals more than any other kind of book. Usually I choose books about dramatic or charismatic animals like wolves, snow leopards, or caribou, but I'd have to call this book about wild turkeys my favorite book I've ever encountered up to this point in my life.
Illumination in the Flatwoods is the journal of a sensitive and patient man who pursued a lengthy experiment involving imprinting a flock of wild turkeys. After collecting two batches of wild tur
Sep 06, 2016 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: PBS
Shelves: non-fiction
I felt this book really personally and so I am at a bit of a loss for how to talk about it.

I could say some things to deter you from reading Illumination in the Flatwoods (like you really need to be interested in wild turkeys, and not mind a lot of repetition in routine and, therefore, the writing. Or that at one point I was starting to think the book should be titled "50 Things That Will Kill a Turkey") but that would be doing you a serious disservice - this book is stunning.

Hutto's skill as
Mark Hainds
May 11, 2012 Mark Hainds rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My friends highly recommended this book. Now I highly recommend it to you. Mr. Hutto is a first-rate naturalist with an extraordinary grasp of Southeastern biota. He tells a beautiful story, and he reminds me of times past when I grew too attached to pets and wildlife, only to see them die or disappear. I have always respected the wild turkey, but I view this species with a newfound admiration of their intelligence and curiosity.
Alfredo Alcala
Mar 03, 2014 Alfredo Alcala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think that this book is an extraordinary story for people who who are interested in nature.This is one of the most spectacular story that I have ever read.And if interested in watching the movie go to and the title is called MY LIFE AS A TURKEY.Three pros about this book is when Joe Hutto raises a poultry of turkeys,then When he decides to become their turkey mother and stays with them the whole time instead of just leaving them in a cage or on there own.And the last thing is ...more
Jan 02, 2014 Carrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals, own-ebook, birds
I've read so many books about people who have had the opportunity to raise wild animals, and I think this is my favorite of all of them.

Instead of bringing baby animals into his home, Hutto chooses to live in theirs. He abandons much of his human life to spend long days exploring the woods with the young turkeys who see him as their mother hen. His careful daily observations of their behavior are wonderful, but so is his willingness to share the deep emotional impact this experience has on him.
Amy J
Nov 13, 2014 Amy J rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I am stumped at how to review this book except to say it was outstanding. I was riveted. Joe Hutto spent everyday, for the better part of two years, with his turkey family. He was their mother. While everyday was basically the same thing, eating and exploring, he saw something new everyday. And because he was a member of this wildlife clutch he was able to interact with other wildlife in a way he had never experiencd before. He was basically ignored or treated as if he were a turkey himself. He ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Jo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Would give it 3.5 stars if I could. I enjoyed how the author didn't just stick to science; he talked about what he felt the turkeys' perspectives were and how he felt when he was with them. It was refreshing to hear someone respected as a naturalist talk about what many people won't accept, that humans aren't the top dog that are meant to rule the Earth. Also, the illustrations were beautiful! The main con for this book was that it could a bit repetitive and mundane because after he started taki ...more
I have to admit that I did see the PBS special, "My Life as a Turkey," before reading the book, but both are excellent. Hutto's season as a turkey parent is fascinating, heartbreaking, and inspiring. What the book does just a bit better is give readers a solid context for the experience.

Hutto explains not only what the turkeys are doing, but how the whole endeavor impacts him as well. As a naturalist, he is in a position to give readers much more detail about the region and the wildlife, present
Aug 04, 2012 Nan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I ever read! One indication of that is the way I shared so much of it with my husband, telling and discussing with him events in the narrative, reading parts to him, and having him read to himself, especially the end. Some might find parts of it repetitive and monotonous, but that's what accomplshed the hypnosis that took Joe (and us) into the world of turkeys. And then in spite of the sameness of many of the recorded days, the ending is a drama in which you cannot predict ...more
May 14, 2012 Mia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike any wildlife story I've read, Hutto's account of the year-plus spent raising a human-imprinted flock of wild turkeys is quietly wonderful. His days spent as a "parent" to the young turkeys, foraging through fields and woods, reads like both a meditation and a naturalist's report. Whether or not you are interested in turkeys (I never gave them a thought other than being happy to see them in the woods whenever I came across them) Illumination is worthwhile reading as an exploration of one m ...more
May 26, 2015 Loraine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joe Hutto is one special human being, and wild turkeys are amazing creatures! His artwork is lovely, his writing style--accessible. We are just another creature on the fabric of life, and he communicates that fact well.
Jan 04, 2014 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Robin by: Joan Bloomenshine
I watched the PBS hour long program based on this book, but the book was much better! It's absolutely amazing to read how Joe imprinted wild turkeys at hatching and stayed with them almost constantly for nearly a year. Part scientist. part naturalist, part artist, and part poet, Joe will enthrall you with the description of the northern Florida patch of ground which was home to these highly intelligent birds. He says the species is millions of years old. I don't often give 5 stars, but I am a su ...more
Jun 04, 2012 Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are times when you feel the author is recounting his story directly to you because you will understand exactly what he is talking about. This is such a story. To be allowed into the personal lives of wild animals is a wondrous event that few of us ever experience. Joe's story is especially touching because he does not make the animals live his life, but he lives theirs. Joe communicates with the chicks before they even hatch, becomes a turkey mother, and understands the brilliance and cons ...more
Jim McClellan
Jan 31, 2013 Jim McClellan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joe Hutto is half scientist and half poet. This book is a wonderful glimpse into the lives of wild turkeys through the eyes of an experienced woodsman and biologist. The thing I appreciate about Hutto is that he lets us in on his all-too-human feelings for the birds without ascribing to them human traits. His point of view is sweet but sober toward these wild animals. The result is that I felt like I was joining him on his daily jaunts, getting to know these birds just like he was.

Though his ill
Oct 18, 2015 Samuel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
an awesome book. he writes about mule deer as well. can't wait to read that as well
Mrs. Vande Kraats
This book is really good!
I wish I could give this 6 stars. It is that good. I read this when it was first published probably 10 years ago and loved it. I have purchased it for friends and family. I took it out recently and re-read portions after seeing the recent Nature episode, My Life as a Turkey. Which i also loved and purchased immediately from PBS. Turkeys are fascinating birds. What an experience to see them through Joe Hutto's eyes as he observes their growth and development on a daily basis from hatching to "ema ...more
Dec 12, 2007 Phaedrus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: outdoorsy types

I know, it looks lame. Picture of a redneck with a turkey on the cover. But this is a great, great read.

Joe Hutto imprints a number of Wild Turkeys, and spends two years raising them and learning from them, by grazing alongside them in the hardwood bottom forests of the south. An amazing experience, written about in a compelling and writerly way. It will make you think of wildlife differently, and respect animal intelligence.

I read this book, and then I read it again.
Marjorie Thelen
Nov 28, 2011 Marjorie Thelen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This man's amazing. He tells a wonderful true life story through his journal and superb drawings. Nature on PBS showed a one hour special recently called My Life as a Turkey with the real Joe Hutto. I read it last year but re-read parts this year after we got three white commercial turkeys to raise. I found turkeys friendly, personable and curious. Hutto writes about the life of the wild turkey in detail. It is a must read, especially if you like nature and wild things.
Jun 15, 2012 Sher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book 38 2012 Reading Challenge -- A wonderful book about a man who incubates and hatches two clutches of wild turkeys, and he spends a year with the birds teaching them how to be wild birds. The birds teach him much too. The writing is engaging, not overly sentimental, profound throughout. I's amazing what Hutto has done-- can you imagine spending every moment dawn to dusk for a year with a group of wild turkeys, because you are their mom!
Jun 05, 2012 Maryann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having seen the PBS documentary about Hutto's experience with wild turkeys, and after visiting the flatwood pine forests of Florida, I was intrigued to read the diary-like account. It's an absoutely fascinating telling of his interactions with and observations of these turkeys through their first year of life. It also celebrates the natural world through which they move. Highly recommend.
Dec 20, 2013 Paige rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a nature-lover, I really enjoyed reading about the author's experience. He is a naturalist, among other things, and his curiosity is understandable. The way he explains his experience with the wild turkeys is done in such a way that I was able to completely understand and, at times, put myself in his shoes.
This story is educational and enjoyable. I am so glad that I picked it up.
Aug 05, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I had this man along on every stroll through the woods I have ever taken. He is brilliant. And if a stroll through the woods isn't wonderful in itself, having someone along who is knowledgeable about every tree, plant, animal and insect would be a memorable, delightful experience. And that's exactly what reading this book was.
Sep 27, 2010 Brooke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. You don't have to adore animals like I do to find this fascinating, well-written, informative and surprisingly emotional. Yes, I cried a little. Amazing experience by the author does make you wonder what he gave up to be able to spend all day in the woods (time with his wife, friends, other interests?)!
Ruth Segal
Jul 10, 2011 Ruth Segal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Naturalist Joe Hutto raises two clutches of Wild Turkeys from eggs to adulthood. The book is his detailed journal of his relationships with these amazing birds who consider him their parent. He becomes as close to being a Wild Turkey as a human can! It is facinating and beautifully written. Set outside Tallahassee FL.
Cheryl Goveia
Jul 14, 2012 Cheryl Goveia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
What a beautiful read! I almost felt like I was in the woods, Hutto is a magical writer who places you as close to experience as possible. In the middle of the book I downloaded "My Life as a Turkey" and I'm glad that I finished reading...I knew the ending of the film couldn't have been what actually happened.
Mar 15, 2012 Randy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and researched but I needed more personal narrative about how the wild turkey effected the immediate lives of Joe and his wife...there was a little of that and it was very moving; however, he needed much more of a storyline and less of the professional science journal feel...
Nona Williams
Jan 15, 2014 Nona Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wildlife-pets
A lovely story of a biologist incubating clutch of wild turkey eggs and raising his charges to adulthood. The story teller shares a deep respect for his charges and provides profound insights about their behavior. A favorite book.
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