14 Memorable Photos of a Wild Turkey Named Lover Boy

Gobblers Worthy of a Name

By
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1 | Meet Lover Boy

One stands out above the rest, a special gobbler named Lover Boy. 

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

[Editor's note: Please click through Tes Randle Jolly's photo gallery to learn more about the memorable relationship she had with one gobbler worthy of a name.]

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Gobbler FightGobbler FightGobbler FightGobbler FightGobbler Fight

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2 | Gobbler Fight

One early March afternoon in 2002, a longbeard appeared at a chufa field edge where I was photographing three bull jakes earnestly strutting for several unimpressed hens. The new arrival announced his presence in a unique, thunderous, rolling gobble with extra “obble” notes at the end. The jakes attacked the intruder with a vengeance, but the tom held firm, flogging and spur-jabbing the unruly gang. Within a minute, the jakes relented to the new boss, retreating to the sidelines as the newcomer began a courtship display.

The hens and I were impressed.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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3 | Huge Tom

Photos of the tom revealed sharp spurs with a slight hook, an indication of at least a three-year-old bird. Like his gobble, the beard set him apart, more like a bib: wide, thick and long. I confess, the first year I photographed the huge tom as if I were hunting, constantly visualizing the Nikon camera as my trusty shotgun and the camera’s shutter button as the trigger.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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4 | Tough Warrior

The following spring, 2003, and to my delight, the gobbler returned as winter flocks gathered and the pecking order was settled. Again, the tough warrior fought valiantly, won dominance and summoned his ladies.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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One Bold JakeOne Bold JakeOne Bold JakeOne Bold JakeOne Bold Jake

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5 | One Bold Jake

In 2004, the tom battled jakes regularly. If he gobbled, they would storm him in short order. However, he tolerated one bold jake who sported a thick stubby beard. I wondered if they shared similar DNA! 

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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Amazing BirdAmazing BirdAmazing BirdAmazing BirdAmazing Bird

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6 | Amazing Bird

After three spring seasons with the gobbler, photographing on a nearly daily basis, a growing respect and admiration for the bird displaced my killer instinct. Instead, I prayed for his survival and more opportunities to photograph the amazing bird.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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Close EncountersClose EncountersClose EncountersClose EncountersClose Encounters

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7 | Close Encounters

I was going soft and that was a bit scary. Truthfully, I was selfish. The regular thrill of close encounters was intoxicating. I roosted the bird many evenings just to hear one more gobble. Each day my husband, Ron, endured a long-winded report of my time with the gobbler. He teased that I spent more time with the turkey than with him. Ron was correct. We laughed and from that moment my gobbler had a name: Lover Boy.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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8 | Gobbler Group

In 2005, Lover Boy spent most of the spring with two subordinate longbeards. The jake gangs were no match.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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Fear StruckFear StruckFear StruckFear StruckFear Struck

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9 | Fear Struck

In 2006, Lover Boy was a wily old warrior, a survivor, miraculously avoiding being tagged by a turkey hunter on neighboring properties. On April 30th, Alabama’s final turkey hunting day, I heard Lover Boy’s thunderous gobble on an adjacent property. I prayed he’d shut up.

Seconds later, a shotgun blasted from the same direction. My heart sank. Another shot rang out. My stomach knotted. With just a few hours left in the season, fear struck that Lover Boy’s luck had finally run out.

I sat in the blind sobbing over a wild turkey as if I’d just lost an old friend.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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Goodbye, Old FriendGoodbye, Old FriendGoodbye, Old FriendGoodbye, Old FriendGoodbye, Old Friend

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10 | Goodbye, Old Friend

Later, Ron consoled me and urged me to remain optimistic.

“You should go back at roost time where you always put him to bed and listen, just in case,” he said.

At 7:18 p.m. I was leaning against my usual tree. I turned and looked out over the empty field behind me. Bathed in the the sun’s last golden rays was Lover Boy’s domain, knee deep in clover, blue toadflax and yellow wild mustard flowers. My chest ached.

I whispered, “Goodbye, old friend.”

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

[Editor's note: Please click through to see what happened next.]

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11 | Lover Boy Lives

A few seconds passed. A barred owl hooted. Suddenly my mourning was shattered by a resounding garrrroboobble-obble-obble. It was Lover Boy! [On the roost.] Never had a gobble meant so much.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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12 | Bird Battle

In 2007, Lover Boy returned. So did a younger, stronger group of longbeards that battled him for his territory, overwhelming the old bird. 

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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LonerLonerLonerLonerLoner

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13 | Loner

Sadly, an aging Lover Boy became a loner, hanging on the flock fringe, usually along a field edge.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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Old FriendsOld FriendsOld FriendsOld FriendsOld Friends

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14 | Old Friends

This is the last photograph of Lover Boy, made March 22, 2007. As my old feathered friend turned to leave the field that afternoon, I prayed a familiar prayer for him to return. He didn’t. Throughout the five incredible years I shared the spring woods with Lover Boy, friends would ask why I didn’t go ahead and hunt the bird before another hunter tagged him. Truth was, I knew him too well.

Like old friends, we had a memorable history. I preferred to let nature take its course, and thanked the Lord for blessing me with Lover Boy.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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As turkey hunters, we’re known for nicknaming gobblers, especially the Houdini-like, nearly unkillable ones that taunt hunting skills and haunt dreams. From late-February through mid-May, I enter the wild turkey’s world regularly. Patience, a thick bun cushion and the good Lord have rewarded me with opportunities to capture several nameworthy old toms, some over several seasons . . .

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