Jonathan Harling: Up Close and Personal

Harling_4 OL’s Strut Zone caught up with South Carolina turkey hunter, television personality, and outdoor industry public-relations man Jonathan Harling between recent spring hunts:


Steve Hickoff: When, where, how, and/or why did you first start turkey hunting?

Jonathan Harling: I owe it to my dad for getting me started in all types of hunting. He always made sure I was into sports or in the woods. I remember vividly the first time I heard a bird gobble. I was about 10 years old and my dad and I were hunting our property in Edgefield, S.C. He called the bird in, but for some reason I never saw him. The next thing I knew, the bird was walking off putting and I told my dad to call him back. He just laughed and said maybe next time.

SH: What's your most memorable turkey hunting experience?

JH: Each hunt is memorable in its own way . . . especially when I've either killed a bird or called one in for someone else, but the most memorable hunt will be one that I went on this year. I was able to take my 4-year-old son, Jackson, with me (his first turkey hunt). We had a great time. I let him run his box call and he actually sounds really good. We did hear a bird gobble and Jackson got excited, we set up and he got in the shooting position with his (plastic) gun. We didn't kill the bird, but it will definitely be a hunt I'll never forget.

SH: Where did you/will you hunt this spring?

JH: I hunted at Buck Run Hunting Lodge in Estill, S.C. The food, lodging, guide service and hunting property were excellent. Unfortunately, the birds just would NOT cooperate. They were definitely tough Easterns. However, I'd book another hunt with them in a heartbeat. Then Virginia with Jim and Sherry Crumley, and a few others within the outdoor industry, and Missouri with Ray Eye to film a Winchester Turkey Revolution show (airs on Versus).

SH: You can only use a box call, pot-and-peg, or mouth call. Which one do you choose and why?

JH: I actually sound better on my pot-and-peg (M.A.D. Super Aluminator/WoodHaven Striker), but I would prefer a mouth call. It's very versatile. You can make all of the necessary hen calls that you need to call in a gobbler. Plus, when you're set up on a bird or just sitting and calling, it cuts down on the amount of movement you make. You would be amazed at how many turkeys people have probably called in silently and scared away without ever knowing the bird was there because of reaching for a call.

SH: What three products do you insist on taking to the turkey woods each spring?

JH: In addition to my calls, shotgun and Winchester Xtended Range shells, the three items I insist on taking to the woods would have to be:

1. ThermaCELL (www.thermacell.com)
2. Nikon Binoculars—8x36 or 8x4 (www.nikonsportoptics.com)
3. Decoy

SH: What advice do you have for people who want to start turkey hunting?

JH: When getting started in turkey hunting, it's important to find someone that's experienced to go with, so they can help you with the basics, such as safety, how and when to call, setups, patterning your gun, etc. I'd also recommend joining the NWTF. You can get a ton of turkey hunting tips through their magazines, television shows and Web site (www.nwtf.org). Not to mention, if you get involved with an NWTF chapter, you place yourself among other turkey hunters. The main thing to remember is to have fun . . . they're just turkeys. Too many people take it personal (including myself at times) when they don't kill a bird, miss or just don't hear one gobble. Go out and enjoy your time in the woods.

—Steve Hickoff