Memorable Photos of a Wild Turkey Named Cool Whip

Have You Ever Named a Spring Gobbler You've Hunted?

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Skull CapSkull CapSkull CapSkull CapSkull Cap

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1 | Skull Cap

In April 2007, a hen entered the field with a long-spurred strutting gobbler in tow. The first thing that stood out about the bird was its droopy skull cap that reminded me of a huge melting dollop of Cool Whip. The bird nicknamed Cool Whip dominated the area for the remainder of spring presenting many photo opportunities.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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2 | Swollen Crown

Cool Whip returned to the area in 2008 and dominated the flock once again. It was nearly impossible to photograph a glint in the bird’s eyes when he was strutting because of the swollen overhanging crown.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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3 | Challengers

Early-breeding-season challengers in March were met with feathered fury. Cool Whip didn’t take kindly to intruders into his kingdom. This fight was vicious and painful to observe. The attacks included beak stabs, pinching and what I call beak-gagging, a strategy where birds jam their beak down the rival’s throat in an effort to shove or twist their opponent off-balance, similar to a throwdown.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

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Fight Injury?Fight Injury?Fight Injury?Fight Injury?Fight Injury?

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4 | Fight Injury?

Cool Whip was victorious in battle but a couple of days later, on March 19, 2008, his head looked different. Zooming the camera lens in, it was apparent the head and neck were slightly swollen. I wondered if an injury from the fight might be the cause.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

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5 | Unphased

Over the next couple of days Cool Whip seemed unphased by his condition and didn’t exhibit any change in behavior though his gobbles weren’t as robust.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

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ComicalComicalComicalComicalComical

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6 | Comical

On March 21, Cool Whip entered the field and even from a distance increased swelling was visible making the bird’s profile almost comical.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

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Closer LookCloser LookCloser LookCloser LookCloser Look

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7 | Closer Look

I offered some soft clucks and purrs, hoping to draw the bird closer for a good look at his head. Cool Whip’s head and neck were extremely fluid-filled making him nearly unrecognizable. No outward wound or drainage was visible.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

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8 | Intense Swelling

The bird went about his afternoon routine, strutting, feeding and preening. The intense swelling limited Cool Whip’s ability to tend his oil gland and preen feathers effectively.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

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9 | Afternoon Rituals

Despite a ballooned head and neck, Cool Whip continued afternoon rituals, hanging out in the field, strutting where nesting hens made short, late-afternoon feeding forays.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

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Deadly Infection?Deadly Infection?Deadly Infection?Deadly Infection?Deadly Infection?

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10 | Deadly Infection?

For more than a week following March 21, Cool Whip failed to visit the field. I was concerned a deadly infection may have overcome him. Then, on March 31, to my relief, a haggard looking Cool Whip entered his old haunt. The swelling had subsided considerably, leaving him with a saggy, deflated balloon look. His visits to the field were sporadic for the remainder of spring.

A series of photos of the bird were sent to an NWTF biologist for comment. Without a direct physical examination, it was speculated that the swelling was fluid retention in the neck and head due to drainage failure of vessels and tissues. It’s possible that bruising or internal injury to the head and neck area without visible outward signs was the cause. Over time, the condition corrected and the swelling subsided.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

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Boss StatusBoss StatusBoss StatusBoss StatusBoss Status

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11 | Boss Status

Spring of 2009 arrived. I watched hopefully for the familiar massive white head as turkeys gathered for the breeding season. None the worse for wear, Cool Whip returned in March, crown glowing, ready to battle and display his boss status for the local hen flock.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

 

 

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Reign EndedReign EndedReign EndedReign EndedReign Ended

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12 | Reign Ended

Cool Whip’s reign ended in 2010. A group of tough young longbeards teamed up against all comers in the area. Occasionally Cool Whip would enter the field and strut when the gobblers were elsewhere. The last time I photographed my old feathered friend was on April 26 when the gobbler gang banished Cool Whip for good.

(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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13 | Cool Whip

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(© Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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As hunters we sometimes encounter wildlife with notable physical characteristics or behaviors that beg for a nickname. Wild turkeys are no exception. Lover Boy, Squints, Selleck and Curly were some of my favorite photography subjects who earned a special moniker that set them apart. Turkeys I’ve hunted that shame my hunting skills often earn a saltier version. The gobbler featured in this gallery had such a distinct skull cap, or crown, that his name choice was a no-brainer — Cool Whip.

Click through the gallery to learn more about the life of a wild turkey gobbler named after a dessert topping.

Editor's note: Though "Cool Whip" was first photographed by award-winning photographer Tes Randle Jolly over a decade ago in 2007 and in the years after — she last saw him in April 2010 — it's memorable gobblers like this one that are timeless. If you're a wild turkey hunter, you know what we mean.

 

 

 

 

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