Meridian Star

April 4, 2014

The old pro turkey hunter — Gene Nunnery

By Mike Giles
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — After spending a couple of year’s turkey hunting under the tutelage of Billy Russell of Lexington, Miss., I had the good fortune to meet the Old Pro himself, Mr. Gene Nunnery. Mr. Gene’s no longer with us, but he’s left a big impression on many of the folks who had the good fortune to meet him.

    My chance to meet Mr. Gene came at Bill Sander’s Gun shop one afternoon approximately 32 years ago. Mr. Nunnery had come to “talk turkey” to anyone who would listen. Fortunately for me I was able to call a little, and listen a lot, with this wise man.

    Perhaps more importantly, I obtained an autographed copy of his book, “The Old Pro Turkey Hunter.” The lessons learned from that book were invaluable in my pursuit of becoming a “master turkey hunter” as he called them.

    Every year I pick up this treasured old turkey book and it speaks volumes to me. It seems I always learn something new, or see something I missed.

    If you have a chance to read the book, now 30 some years from the original printing, you will come to know quite a bit about the Old Pro himself. You’ll also get a lifetime’s worth of instruction on how to locate, set up, and call a wary old gobbler. The stories in the book will make you a better turkey hunter, as they cover just about every aspect of turkey hunting.

    Now a thing or two about Gene Nunnery. He believed in hunting the wild turkey on its own terms, in its own backyard, and by a fair set of rules. Some of those rules we’ll touch on here. Mr. Gene learned to turkey hunt when birds were scarce. However, he learned from the best hunters of his time. These hunters also hunted by their own set of rules. And those rules were much more stringent than our laws today. They not only hunted by strict rules, they relished the chance to beat the old gobblers in their own backyard!

    Mr. Nunnery believed that if you took on the wise old birds in a fair chase rules situation, you would be far better off for it. And in time you might become a “master turkey hunter”. That might also mean you might kill fewer turkeys. Quoting from his book he had this to say: “These old master turkey hunters hunted wild turkeys without having to abide by hunting seasons, bag limits, game wardens, or any other restrictions. They found that the real reward for successful turkey hunting lay in winning the battle, not necessarily exterminating the foe.”

    At the time his book went to press Mr. Gene was sixty-eight years old and had taken 248 wild turkey gobblers in fifty-three years of hunting. Needless to say, that total alone puts him far above 99 % of our hunting population and would qualify him to be an “Old Pro”, or master turkey hunter.” Now this wise old gentleman didn’t live to see what has now happened to many of our hunters in this modern age of “I’ve got to have it now at any cost” mentality. He was from the old school and proud of it.

    If everyone abided by the rules Mr. Gene learned and talked about in his fantastic book, all turkey hunters would be much better off. Mr. Nunnery believed in taking on the turkey one on one without the help of many modern day aids that we now have. Some of which are legal, while others are illegal, but accepted by many. He believed in the challenge and thrill of calling that old gobbler up into shotgun range, a feat that is still quite an accomplishment today.

    A few of Mr. Gene’s rules that will make it more challenging and rewarding in harvesting that gobbler are listed as follows:

    1. Don’t shoot a gobbler from a fixed blind, or shoot house.

    2. Don’t use a rifle. Use shotguns only, or maybe a bow if you’re really good but not from a blind.

    3. Don’t hunt over bait or grain, there’s just no challenge in that.

    4. Shoot them on the ground, not in a tree, or flying.

    5. Don’t use decoys. If you get them close enough in the woods it won’t matter. If you use them in a field situation, it’s almost like cheating.

    6. Never shoot a turkey from a vehicle.

    If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one of Mr. Gene Nunnery’s books, you will truly be treated to some down home turkey hunting wisdom from a collection of master turkey hunters and the Old Pro himself. And there just might be a surprise or two thrown in for good measure!

    Contact Mike Giles at

601-917-3898 or e-mail him at