I don't know if it's good or bad luck to publish a book just as America was a month away from "lockdown" as a means of slowing the infection rate from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but for many turkey hunters it probably didn't matter. Most turkey hunters are experts at "social distancing” and largely unflappable when it comes to having any worries about hanging out in crowds.
The requests for self-isolation do seem to lend themselves to catching up on some reading. For turkey hunters who may feel a little trapped this spring, one good book you can escape with is “Memories of Spring,” written by my friend Ron Jolly and illustrated by his wife Tes Randle Jolly, one of America’s most accomplished wildlife photographers.
Jolly has hunted wild turkey for more than 50 years. He has been his own triggerman on many hunts, but for nearly a decade he was a cameraman, carrying 25 pounds of gear for miles each day while filming hunts around the country for Will Primos, one of the innovators in game calls and outdoors gear. In 1996, his last year of filming for Primos, he walked more than 8,000 miles in 26 days, recording 11 gobbler kills in 26 days across multiple states. It was a grind. He later produced, along with Tes, videos for a variety of production companies, before ending up as the producer of the Outdoor Alabama television show. His work in presenting the story of the wild turkey and hunting earned him 2020 induction in the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Grand National Hall of Fame.
Jolly will tell you up front that this isn’t a book on how and where to tell bigger and more turkeys, The book does have a section that covers some “Tricks” and other things that helped fool gobblers– one in particular is a bit hilarious. If you read it, you can learn from some of the successes and, importantly, the foibles that were part of memorable hunts.
Jolly grew up in northeast Louisiana but today he and Tes have a farm in Alabama that’s loaded with deer and turkey and some problematic wild hogs. He begins his stories with earliest recollections of tagging along on hunts with his father, including the one where he got to wield the single-shot, 20-gauge shotgun. As you read it, you are that boy lying there next to his father as the gobbler slowly approaches.
The book transitions to recollections and lessons from a wide variety of hunts. One section is called “Grudge Gobblers,” for those next-to-impossible to kill toms that frustrate the crap out of you. This is contrasted by birds he calls “Volunteers.” They’re the often-younger toms that haven’t gained experience and come running to the call, making you feel like you are a turkey hunting master. Then you have “Character Turkeys,” the ones we all like to name due to some unique behavior they exhibit or frustration they generate.
As he wraps things up, Jolly notes “Memories of Spring” is likely the first and only book he’ll write, adding, “In today’s world, there doesn’t seem to be much demand anymore for warm, fuzzy stories told by sappy old men. Today, it’s all about where, when and how. I regret that because the true lore of turkey hunting involves the emotions and experiences of the hunt, the nature and characteristics of the bird and not the kill.”
Sadly, I worry he is right. If you want to lose yourself in some artfully told stories about “memories of Spring,” buy the book. It’s a good one. Find it here on Amazon or send check or money order for $30 to: Jolly’s Outdoor Visions, 204 Fast Lane, Tuskegee, AL 36083. If you order directly, include a note if you’d like it inscribed.