By Mike Giles
Tes Jolly peered intently as several bucks and does approached her stand right at dusk. She picked out the largest and drew back just as he walked by, offering a quartering away shot. As soon as Jolly reached full draw the Carbon Express arrow tipped with a Thunderhead broadhead exploded out of the bow. Thwack! The arrow found its mark and disappeared with a double lung shot that provided a swift, clean kill. Her trophy eight point, 190 pound buck made it a scant 70 yards before collapsing in a heap.
My how times have changed!
Born in Kansas to Ned and Ernestine Randle, young Jolly moved with her family to Ocala, Florida around the age of six. The rural Florida landscape fit Jolly to a T and she thrived in the outdoors. “I’ve been chasing bugs and picking up toads as far back as I can remember,” said Jolly. And it’s no wonder as Tes’ mother, Ernestine, was an avid hunter. In fact Mrs. Randle harvested her first buck, a nice trophy mule deer, on her honeymoon in Colorado. Ernestine Randle never looked back and was a trail blazer in her own right as very few women hunted in those days. She hunted right up until the end and harvested her last deer at the age of 80.
“After we moved to Ocala Dad joined a deer club and started deer hunting. Women were welcomed at the camp on Thanksgiving and Christmas days only.”
At the tender age of nine the aspiring young hunter decided she wanted to go deer hunting with her father and brother. As opening day approached, young Jolly was brimming with anticipation and preparing for the hunt. Opening morning came and Tes and her brother got up and got ready to go. “When dad got ready to go that morning, I wanted to go too,” said Jolly. “I never thought about not getting to go with him.”
Regretfully, Ned Randle told his daughter that he couldn’t take her hunting that morning because it was against the rules! “But I wanna go,” cried the youngster. “Dad saw that I was hurt and quickly told me that if I wanted to hunt that bad, he’d get me in there somehow!” He outfitted the aspiring young hunter with a floppy hat, loose clothes and told her to stay low and stay away from the others, and she did just that, for awhile.
“We’d sign in at the camp and I’d hide in the dog box until we got to our area,” Jolly said. “We’d hunt on our own and stay in an area by ourselves to avoid detection.”
“That worked until I got to be 12 years old and couldn’t hide my smile and big dimples when the boys rode by.”
One of the camp members, a doctor, finally confronted Ned Randle.
“Ned, I’m kind of worried about your son,” said Doc. “When the boys ride by he flashes that big smile and dimples.”
And the jig was up.
A hastily called meeting was held the next day because it was against the rules for girls to come to camp. During the meeting several men said they’d never thought about bringing their daughters before, it just didn’t occur to them that they’d want to go. They voted to change the rules right then and there.
“The next year there were about three other girls that hunted with us after they changed the rules,” Jolly said.
“It got to be really fun then,” she continued. “I’d ride around with Dad while we hunted hogs, and I could be his ears and wear earrings too!”
“They called me Harvey after that, because of the invisible rabbit named Harvey in the Jimmy Stewart movie,” said Jolly. After going through all that Jolly has nothing but good memories. “I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that I wasn’t welcome.”
Tes Randle Jolly is not only a very successful outdoorswoman, but one of the most successful outdoor personalities found anywhere. In addition to being an expert deer and turkey hunter, and turkey hunting guide, she is one of the foremost wildlife photographers in the country. She’s larger than life and never meets a stranger. True to her outdoors roots, she’ll make you feel like you’ve been friends with her all your life! And not everybody can do that.
Imagine the Possibilities
Some accomplishments that highlight Tes’ talents were winning a Pinnacle award for the best magazine story in the Professional Media Association’s excellence in craft awards, and multiple first place awards in the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association contests.
The consummate outdoorswoman spends much time in the outdoors photographing wildlife and teaching other ladies about the thrill of the outdoors. “I coordinate and help with a lot of outings with ladies in the Becoming an Outdoorswoman program,” said Jolly. “That program has broken down a lot of barriers for women getting into the outdoors. It’s not about killing, it’s about being out there, and we never make them feel like they have to kill something,” Jolly said. “These days I recycle deer and turkeys with my camera and manage the farm for turkeys.”
“Being in the outdoors and photographing wildlife and nature really lets me get close to wildlife and share it with others,” said Jolly. “I do it for my own enjoyment but being able to share what I experience out there in magazines, books and calendars is what is fulfilling to me, just sharing my knowledge and beauty of the outdoors.” Take it from Tes; carry someone hunting and introduce them to the outdoors and pass on our hunting heritage!
Contact Mike Giles at 601-917-3898 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org