I have been hunting Osceola turkeys for a pile of years now but I have never seen anything close to the Tom a good friend of mine Harvested with me on a recent hunt in central Florida.
I had been fortunate opening morning and had an awesome hunt but my good friend Steve had gotten his hunt fowled when he arrived at his chosen spot to find another hunter already there. That afternoon when I got to camp and asked Steve if he had something lined up for the mornings hunt he said “no, he was just going to strike out and see what he could scare up.” That was unacceptable! “Steve, we need to go scout and see if we can roost something for you man.” When you can only hunt on the weekends you better put in your time locating birds or you’re probably not going to be to successful!
I had to press him a little but Steve agreed to go. We loaded up and headed out to track some roads from the truck. This is the best way I have found to locate birds on larger tract as you can cover so much more ground in a short period of time. I’ll even do this at night if I have to and have killed a bunch of birds by cutting their sign after dark in the truck lights.
No Gobble at fly up!
We had tracked the better part of 4000 ac when we finally cut some sign that was just what we were looking for! A sugar sand road stomped down with fresh turkey tracks and more than a couple gobblers involved. We stayed till dark to try to hear them fly up or gobble but didn’t hear a peep. No problem, being right back there at gobble time in the morning would put us within hearing of both of the likely roosts, a rank creek bottom to the south and a hardwood strand at the back of a pine plantation to the north.
I Love it When They Gobble in the Dark!
Steve and I were slipping quietly down the sandy road in the dark when we heard the first distant gobble to the North and I do mean in the dark! That is always a great plus as it gives you a lot more time to get into position without being seen or spooking the birds.
We tried to take a dim spur road to go to the bird but it started angling off the wrong direction so we had to go back. Not very familiar with the area and with daylight approaching we decided to set up on a fence near all the sign we had found in the road just off a fence line. The fence went down to where the birds were roosted and we surmised that they would work back down that same fence, where we‘d be waiting.
By now there were several birds gobbling and hens were starting to call. We were set up in a small opening in the pines where we could shoot to the fence. It was game on!
Steve made the first call once it was about time for the birds to be on the ground, an assembly cluck followed with a yelp. It was immediately answered by the gobbler. From that point on any call we gave him was followed by a booming response and I knew it was just a matter of time before he would be standing in front of us.
A hen that was roosted in the planted pine near us flew down and started trying to call the tom up also with some 5-7 note yelps. Occasionally, I will see a hen roost in smallish planted pines that are 25 feet or so in height but don’t ever remember seeing a Tom do this.
I Just Heard Him Drum Steve!
The gobbling was approaching at a steady pace. There was a brief silence and then I heard that ever so faint rumble of a drumming Tom in full strut! Suddenly a bobbing white head appeared through the broomsedge. Of course the tom knew exactly where all the calling was coming from and he turned to come into the pines with us without pause, fully convinced a receptive hen awaited. A line of pines gave Steve just enough time to shoulder his gun and fire and Godzilla was dead!
Personally, I don’t recommend sitting with your gun in your lap but that is the way a lot of guys do it. I prefer to sit with my left knee up and my gun balanced on it…ready to shoot!
Well, knowing there were more birds involved we immediately started calling to help cover up the shot. A couple tense minutes passed and more turkey heads started to appear…several of the birds were toms. I hear Steve whisper “OH Boy!” but I couldn’t tell if they were mature with the fog and broomsedge. I held fire as three red/white heads and to hens passed through the small opening.
In a moment the heads reappeared….”I’m gona shoot Steve!” BOOM! Birds flush to the left and it appears I’ve missed? Steve barks “SHOOT THAT TURKEY STEPHENS!” and I swing for a shot on the fly….BOOM! The tom lands in the top of a distant pine just as Steve yells out….”SHOOT EM AGAIN!”….BOOM goes the 11-87.…Turkey flies away? I have no idea what happened? Very fortunate for Larry as just about that time Steve proclaims ”you didn’t miss, I hear something floppin!”
A FIVE Bearded Monster!
We get up to recovery our birds and sure enough, I’ve killed a bird but he’s just a jake? “You have got to be kiddin me!” Steve on the other hand, comes walking back with one of the best Gobbler I have ever seen! He was exceptional in all dimensions and pretty quickly I realize he’s got more than one beard! “STEVE…He’s got THREE BEARDS!!” I’m flipping through the beards, He’s got FOUR BEARDS! I count again and there’s another! NO, He’s got FIVE BEARDS STEVE! I couldn’t believe it! On top of that he’s over 20lbs which is huge for an Osceola and his spurs are 1 ¼” & 1 1/8”.
Beard dimensions: 11 1/8”, 8 3/8”, 6 ½”, 7 ¼”, 4 5/8”
Well, I didn’t get to pull the trigger on that trophy but felt fortunate to have been a party to it. Hey, I did get to shoot a double with one of my best huntin’ buddies! That’s a great day in my book!
Best of Hunts!