Q&A with Realtree's Phillip Culpepper

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

On Killing Turkeys and Snoring Lab Pups

Phillip Culpepper is Realtree's video producer. Often he's behind the scenes, shooting and producing filmed hunts. Sometimes too, he's in front of the camera, especially in spring. The man's a turkey hunting machine. As humble as he is talented, he's put a lot of people into birds over the years and killed plenty himself. We caught up with him and asked about his recent spring turkey season – and, yeah, some other subjects.

Steve Hickoff: Tell us a bit about your work at Realtree.

Phillip Culpepper: As video producer, I film fall deer hunts. In spring, I'll film as well. That time of the year I'm taking some of our Realtree licensees and partners out on turkey hunts; NASCAR guys too, and others. Daniel [Thomas] and I work a lot together.

Phillip Culpepper (left) and Realtree cameraman Daniel Thomas, with a south Alabama longbeard taken this past season. (Phillip Culpepper courtesy photo)

SH: How long have you been working at Realtree?

PC: Since I was 16. I started back in 2002. My dad came on with Realtree a year after I did. 

SH: How long have you been turkey hunting?

PC: I've turkey hunted since I was five years old. My dad would tell me stories about spring gobbler hunting and it got me all excited for it. I love to deer hunt, everything really, and I really love to turkey hunt. I'm always trying to learn something new about it, and still do each season. I eventually called my first turkey in, all by myself, at age 15. 

SH: Tell us a little about that first one you called up alone.

PC: I was over in Alabama, at a hunt club. Before then, I'd read everything I could get my hands on about turkey hunting; magazine articles, books, you name it. I practiced on my mouth diaphragm all the time and about drove my dad crazy. On that hunt, I saw a bunch of turkey scratchings. It was 11 a.m. I sat down, yelped, and a gobbler fired up maybe 300 yards through the hardwoods. Then the bird shut up. I didn't call again, and eventually fell asleep. The bird gobbled again, but right on top of me, waking me up. He came strutting up over the hill and I killed him.

SH: How many states did you turkey hunt and film in this past season?

PC: Let's see, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. If we could get a turkey to gobble, we usually got him in . . . but we couldn't always get 'em to gobble, haha.

SH: How many kills were you part of this past spring?

PC: Including the people I took out and the turkeys I killed myself, we got 47 total.

SH: What are the challenges of filming turkeys?

PC: The biggest challenge is knowing how the person you're fiming will hunt. Over the years, Michael [Waddell] and I have done pretty well together. It's because I know what he'll do in a turkey hunting situation. I've learned a lot from him over the years and we hunt alike. When filming somebody you know pretty well, you don't have to be reassured. You know what they'll do. Everybody's clicking on all cylinders. Of course you still have to be concealed really well. You have to know when to move the camera. You have to be on the same page with somebody. And the turkeys have to cooperate.

SH: Tell us about your first turkey bowkill this year.

PC: I had no idea going for broke would end up that cool on film. That turkey was hung up, maybe 15 yards from us for about 20 minutes. I went over a little knob. By the time I could see the bird he was coming in. I thought if I could get drawn, I'd shoot as soon as he cleared cover. I was about as fired up on that gobbler as the pistol kill in Florida.

SH: What's the best thing about turkey hunting?

PC: When you know a turkey is convinced and coming, and he thinks you're a hen. That’s the biggest accomplishment you can get as a turkey hunter.

SH: What haven't you done in the turkey woods that you'd like to do some day?

PC: My goal is to catch a turkey. Waddell and I have talked about it and he's trying to do that, too. I have no idea what would happen after you grabbed one ! Seriously though, I'd also love to hunt for Gould's and Ocellated turkeys some day.

SH: So you recently got a Lab pup. Shed finder, duck retriever or both?

PC: I'm training him to dove and duck hunt. I had a Lab in high school. This pup is his great grandson. He's 11-weeks-old and laid back. Perfect for me.

The only funny thing about him is he snores.

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