USA: Florida Opening Day Osceola

Daktari

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It's the opening day of Florida’s turkey hunting season and I’m on a quest for an Osceola turkey! Turkeys hold a special place in my heart because they are the first animal that I have ever hunted. Back home the turkey that I hunted were Eastern turkeys and being down in Florida for a few years has motivated me to pursue an Osceola. When I decided to hunt Osceola turkeys I did a ton of research and wanted a genetically pure bird. One of my criteria for the hunt was finding a location well away from the border zone between the Easterns and Osceolas in North Florida. I’ve attached the distribution map for the turkey subspecies in Florida as well indicating where this hunt took place.

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I talked to many outfitters and after the recommendation from @firehuntfish decided on Chappy’s Outfitter in Glades County on the western shores of Lake Okeechobee. My accommodations were at the Lakeport Motel where I arrived the evening before the hunt.
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Now let's get to the good part! My guide Adrian picked me up at 5:45 am and we headed to the property we would be hunting for the next three days. The property was close by and as we got across the gate it was still dark.
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Adrian and I grabbed our gear and headed to the field we would be setting up in. As we nestled ourselves in the cover of saw palmetto I noticed the silhouette of a deer moving across the field slowly. It was too dark to tell if it was a buck or doe but I took it as a good omen for the day. Unfortunately, as we began cutting branches and assembling a makeshift blind of saw palmetto the deer spooked and left. With the blind finished we got comfortable, put on our face masks, and set out the decoy waiting for the sun to come up. About 20 minutes later a bird flew by us and landed on the edge of the field shielded by a thick overhanging tree. Adrian asked me if I thought it was a turkey and I answered yes. I got a good look at it as it was flying and knew it was. Shortly after a crow began to caw and we heard the sound of a gobble! My heart started to race as I couldn’t believe we got action this early. Adrian and I both confirmed we heard it and Adrian began to call back.
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The Tom answered Adrian’s calls with a gobble. I was holding my gun ready and moving my head on a swivel trying to locate the bird. We narrowed the bird’s location to our left behind the overhanging tree and it wasn’t possible to see him. For about half an hour we would call and the turkey would answer but we still couldn’t put eyes on him. Eventually, I saw the turkey move around the tree and into our line of sight revealing it was a Tom! He looked majestic off in the morning twilight strutting and gobbled in our direction. We continued to call and coax him closer. However, the Tom kept his distance, strutting about 40 yards away. He did not like the look of the decoy and began walking by our line of view. Adrian told me to take him once he put his head up due to the fact that this was our only opportunity and the Tom was not coming closer. I took the shotgun, a 12 gauge semi-auto off safety and raised it up waiting for the turkey to give me a shot. Moments later a shot presented itself and I squeezed the trigger. BOOM! The Tom buckled but had not gone down. My heart was thumping at this point and I saw the turkey begin to run. What happened next was an example of my inexperience and the “fight or flight” sensation going through my body. I jumped out from the cover and chased after the Tom to take a second shot and missed at a frantically running bird. I walked back to Adrian devastated that the bird got away and told him I saw the bird head into thick cover in the direction we entered the field. We picked up our things and mentally prepared ourselves to begin a search party for my bird. Not moments later I heard footsteps, thinking it was a wild hog I asked Adrian “Whats that”? And what can only be attributed as a gift from God, it was my turkey making its way only 15 feet from us. A second shot was taken and the bird was down. It was revealed that my first shot winged the Tom which explained why he hadn’t flown away. The amount of happiness I felt was incredible and quickly overtook the misery I was feeling minutes ago. I thanked Adrian very much for all his help and we walked over to the bird. He was a mature Osceola Gobbler, aged by Adrian to be approximately 3 years old and I couldn’t be happier.
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What distinguishes the Osceola gobbler from all the other tom turkeys is the white bands in their wings. If you look at an eastern gobbler’s wings, the white bands are solid white. If you stretch out an Osceola’s wings, those bands will be broken or nonexistent, causing the Osceola to be much darker with not much white in his wings. Attached below is my Osceola turkey:
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The hunt was an amazing experience and unlike anything I could do back home in New England. Hunting in South Florida is a completely different world with the saw palmettos, palm trees, high temperatures (It was in the 80’s when we were hunting) and packs of mosquitoes. I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to hunt turkeys in a new environment with an experienced guide who has completed multiple Turkey Slams. Adrian who has hunted all across the country for turkeys commented how the Osceola were the hardest of all subspecies to hunt given the fact that they are more solitary compared to the other subspecies, are reluctant to gobble, and the wariness that comes from having bears, bobcats, coyotes, wild hogs, and even Florida panthers as predators. These birds have to make a living in a very inhospitable place which makes them all the more difficult to hunt. To be able to harvest a 3 year old Tom who overcame all the aforementioned predators is a blessing.
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Thanks for sharing your turkey hunt with us. You were in the right place at the right time. Congrats
Bruce
 
@Daktari congrats on the Osceola. Hunting gobblers my whole life I have been fortunate to have many hunts across the US. I live in Florida, so the Osceola is my king. Central Florida opens on the 18th and hope they are singing. I love being able to call to a gobbler or a bull elk in September and hearing their reply. Congrats
 
Congrats and thank you for sharing
 
Thanks for sharing and congrats. I need the Osceola to complete my slam and looking for an outfitter.
 
Congratulations on your Osceola gobbler. Hunting in southern Florida is always fun and beautiful. Best of luck, TheGrayRider.
 
Very nice bird, congrats!
 
Congratulations, I wish I was hunting an Osceola this year but just going to have to remember last year's hunt for them.
 
Congrats and thanks for sharing!
 

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