Editor’s note: “The Turkey Hunters” is a blog that profiles notable folks in the turkey hunting industry. In this installment, we chat with turkey photographer extraordinaire Tes Randle Jolly.
Tes Randle Jolly is an outdoors and wildlife photographer and writer, and a frequent contributor to Turkey & Turkey Hunting.
T&TH: Tes, how long have you turkey hunted, and how did you get started?
Jolly: I’ve been hunting turkeys since 1989. A good friend and deer hunting buddy, Johnny Johnson, is also an avid turkey hunter. In 1989, he invited me to hunt turkeys deep in a central Alabama swamp where we deer hunted. The very first hunt, we set up in foggy bottom under moss-draped oaks. My heart leaped at the nearby sound of two thunderous gobbles in the damp gloom. Johnny invited the gobblers to fly down our way with almost inaudible clucks. The sight of those two strutters, beards swinging, trot/waddling in full strut toward us nearly took my breath away. Johnny whispered, “You better shoot one before they run over us!” I tagged one, a true limbhanger, at close range, and from that day I was hooked. Turkey photography is my specialty, and turkey hunting remains a passion.
T&TH: How do you continue to capture such unique, vibrant turkey images year after year?
Jolly: If you read the book Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto, you’ll know why. Simply, it’s an intense passion and attraction to this unique and beautiful bird specie. Communication with both hens and gobblers is addicting. Turkeys are never boring. Each year, new birds appear, though I’ve been lucky enough to photograph some gobblers for several consecutive years. Photographing turkeys and their behavior in their environment is a never-ending challenge. Countless hours often within mere yards are spent learning the habits of a flock or gobbler. Placing blinds where I can capture them throughout their natural world, not in a back yard, is the ultimate reward. Sharing the uncommon beauty and unique behavior of wild turkeys with Turkey & Turkey Hunting’s readers and turkey enthusiasts is my goal. Top-quality Nikon gear produces the outstanding image quality worthy of publication.
T&TH: What are some things you’ve learned from photographing turkeys that most hunters might not know?
Jolly: I keep a journal, and here are a few non-scientific observations of turkeys being turkeys —at least the ones I’ve been near.
During the egg-laying period, some gobblers will squat and nap in the shade during midday, often on a field edge where they will resume strutting for hens that return to the area to feed in the afternoon. Comically, every few minutes, the gobbler’s head will periscope up out of the weeds checking it’s surroundings and then disappear back into the grassy sea. Busy spring gobblers often rest and feed during midday hours when hunters are napping or at lunch.