For 40 years, Ernie Brown, Jr., aka the Turtleman, has been pond diving all over Kentucky and beyond in search of snapping turtles. Born and raised in Washington County, Ky., he whiled away many an hour becoming one with nature – and the wildlife that lived in the woods he explored. Brown knows their ways and he brings that expertise to each episode of Animal Planet’s “Call of the Wildman,” beginning its second season on Sunday, June 2.
“You got to make a magic hand. Wave your hand like a wand. Distract [the animal] with your hand and count you seconds,” said Brown, noting he’s always calculating how many seconds it will take for the animal to grab him.
“I’m working on time. You got to time it just right and you’ll never miss your grab.”
A celebrity sensation in his hometown of Lebanon, Ky., and around the world, the Turtleman estimates he catches about 300 turtles a year. But he also snares countless nuisance pests – many of them during18-hour days filming the episodes for “Call of the Wildman.”
What makes the Turtleman tick? Read on. . .
Favorite home-cooked meal
Squirrel. Ernie Brown, Jr., aka the Turtleman loves nothing better than a dish of squirrel and dumplings or blackberries and dumplings. And he can cook it up himself.
Easiest meal to put together from the land
“If you can catch frogs or fish, that’d be easy. You can always make a line and hook from wire and hook you a fish. You can eat crawdads, blackberries and raspberries in the summer time, cattail root, dandelions, wild mustard greens – gotta watch for parasites. If you get water, make sure it’s out of a spring. Boil it before you drink.”
Skunks. “Their spray can blind you for two or three days and it burns like fire, and then there’s the issue of skunk odor. I would rather tackle 100 raccoons than one skunk any day. True story.”
“Dogs and cats are my favorites and I love pet squirrels. They’re the best little rascals. They’ll cuddle up on you. They’ll go in a litter box. They’re clean animals. If someone breaks into your house and you got a pet squirrel, they’ll attack. They’re vicious with strangers, very territorial.”
Best skin care tip
Mud. “It may stink a bit, but it’s a natural sunscreen. Also, wallow in clear creek water. People say I look 30- to 35-years-old; I guess the mud keeps the sun off me and keeps me young.”
The critter Turtleman won’t take on
I can’t take on a lion or tiger, a cheetah or rhino, a hippo or elephant or anything like that. And I won’t take on a monkey. “I’m not gonna tackle one of those critters. They’re strong and mean and will rip your face off.”
How to impress the ladies
Dance and show your stuff – and show it without fear. Have fun in your life. If you don’t have fun in your life, you can’t live proud. And you gotta live proud. Living fun and living proud – that’s the message I want to get out to people.”