On his own


Editor's note: To accompany Deer Camp 2010, we've asked athletes, prominent figures and outdoorsmen to relate their first deer kill.

George C. Thornton is the CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation, a non-profit organization that works on conserving the wild turkey and preserving Americans' hunting heritage. Under the leadership of the Georgia native, the NWTF has emphasized funding on-the-ground projects to benefit wild turkey and other upland species.

The first story that comes to mind -- I was a young adult and I was in Brady, Texas, with some friends having a quail hunt and deer hunt. I had never stalked a deer before.

We were sitting around at lunch and everybody was taking a break. I just decided to go walking, and I came across a trail. I stalked the deer for an hour and a half. I could tell I was getting closer because the tracks were getting fresher.

I had no idea what I was doing. I just decided to sit there. I had no idea where I was. I had totally lost any sense of anything but being focused on the trail.

I finally came in. I went across a ravine, came up and there was an old buck. He had gotten tired and laid down. He jumped up right in front of me, and I had a 30-30 Marlin that I had for years, so I shot him from the hip.

I have no idea how many deer I've killed or how many deer hunts I've been on, but that was the most rewarding deer hunt for me because of just sticking with it. I think I learned more about tracking just being on my own. So, I'll share that with you for what it's worth.

I was a businessman who loved the land. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my life would be blessed being in the conservation world.

I've been with the Turkey Federation two years now. This has just opened up a whole world to me. I'm doing things that I've done on my own but on a much broader scale with people who were professionals. It's just a thrill to be involved in the NWTF.