When Jami Linder saw the turkey heads pop out of the grass, she knew she had to shoot them.
She had actually started the process of hunting these three birds the week before. After scouting out where they were, she’d set up a blind, and finally, after having to wait a week because of work, she had her opportunity.
Her finger tensed as she aimed, she squeezed.
She’d done it. Though she didn’t know it at the time, Linder had taken a photo that would compete at the National Wild Turkey Foundation’s annual photography contest. She had already captured another photo of a tom that would go on to win second place overall in the contest, and another that would win the people’s choice award.
The photo of the three turkey poults — very young birds —sticking their heads out above the brush, was one Linder had wanted to get for a long time. While she has a turkey blind set up on her own property and is able to photograph them there, the birds she sees are all mature. Linder was driving through an area where she regularly photographs when she saw the opportunity.
“There is a food plot that I drive through to get there,” she said. “When I came into there one morning real early, there were two hens and I could see the little poults, barely with their heads across the grass. I had never had an opportunity to take picture of poults; they don’t nest here on my place. About the time turkey season starts, they leave and don’t come back until fall.”
Since she works seven days on, seven days off as a nurse, Linder set up a blind and some seed to keep the birds nearby while she was gone.
“They were spending time there pretty regularly,” she said. “I got pictures of them on three different occasions, and I was so excited because I’d never had a chance to photograph poults.”
The picture that won second place in the contest came from a photo on her property.
“I have been taking pictures since 2016, and the blind is manicured, it is trimmed,” she said. “I have cut a little tree or bush here or there. It is like an outdoor photo studio for turkeys at this point.”
This isn’t the first time that Linder’s photography has highlighted Ashley County to a wider audience. Last year, she made statewide news when she documented the first recorded Roseate Spoonbill and White-Faced Ibis nesting pairs in the state. Her turkey poult photo was actually taken on the same property that placed her in the Audubon Society’s record book.
Linder has been working with a camera since 2016, when she first started taking photos of elk in the Ponca area. Her focus to this day remains elk and turkey.
The secret to a good wildlife photo? A lot of skill and a lot of luck.
“It was definitely a combination of both,” she said. “You’ve got to know how to take a decent picture, and then you have to have a lot of luck to be at just the right spot.”