Nov 082011
Authors: Kate Winkle

Most people consider turkeys a delectable Thanksgiving main course, but for naturalist Joe Hutto, turkeys aren’t a meal: they are his children.

Hutto’s experiences raising wild turkeys from a clutch of eggs is featured in a PBS Nature series documentary entitled “My Life As A Turkey,” which will be screened at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Behavioral Sciences Building theatre. A question and answer session with Nature’s executive producer, Fred Kaufman, will follow the screening.

Kaufman first heard of Hutto and his turkey children when a producer sent him an article about Hutto from The New Yorker, he said in an email to the Collegian.

“It was unlike anything I have ever seen or read, and I knew instantly it needed to be told and recreated for Nature and PBS,” said Kaufman, who utilized Hutto’s book, “Illuminations in the Flatwoods,” as a basis for the film. “I’ve never seen a story told with such beauty and sensitivity.”

The documentary is a recreation of Hutto’s experience raising turkeys using an actor, Jeff Palmer, to portray Hutto. Under the supervision of a wildlife biologist, a new batch of turkey chicks imprinted on Palmer, and he looked after the young turkeys every day for six months while the documentary was being filmed, according to Kaufman. Hutto provides narration for the story.

“Everything in the film has been set-up to duplicate the events Joe witnessed when he raised these turkeys and, over time, became something of a wild turkey himself,” Kaufman said.

The documentary recently won an award for Best Writing by Joe Hutto and David Allen at the 2011 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

CSU was chosen to preview the documentary by the PBS station in Denver, according to Kaufman.

“CSU has been a program sponsor of Nature in 2011,” said Michele Hogan, the account executive on underwriting team for the Rocky Mountain PBS in an email to the Collegian. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to present the film on campus that would be of interest to both students and the Fort Collins community.”

The university is also looking forward to hosting the event.

“It’s exciting any time you get a world premiere. It’s fun, it’s informative and (CSU) is happy to do it,” said Kyle Henley, a CSU spokesperson.

“My Life As A Turkey” will officially air on Rocky Mountain PBS at 7 p.m. on Nov. 16.

“It’s really an honor to host this premiere,” Henley said. “Nature is one of the most respected shows on TV; it’s won awards. It speaks for itself.”

Collegian writer Kate Winkle can be reached at

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