Osceola Gobbler just off the Roost stretching. This was a little early for pictures, hand held and hard overcast but still a pretty cool shot!
Mid December is a little early for me to be getting started fooling with turkeys but I recently upgraded my zoom lens to a Nikon 200-500mm which is actually 300-750mm on my camera body. I’ve had to get out and see if I could find some birds to try this thing on!
I pushed some birds down the road last night just before fly-up. They eased off into some tall mature pines so I gave them a little time to get roosted thinking I’d come back in the morning and get some pics on the limb. I get there this morning and slip up to where I left them last night. I’m looking and looking and can’t spot one. I Finally flush one hen off. I get back out in the road and they are already on the ground and assembled up in the road…. 350yds distant! I guess I had pushed them off from where they really wanted to be that night so they just looped around me thru the woods and back up the block 350yds, even though it was well past fly-up and really dark in the mature canopy. There are no rules when it comes to turkeys…..
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!
THE DEVIL OF THE DIKE!
I cannot now remember how many days I have been hunting this gobbler,
but it has been many!
I should have walked away from this bird in favor of something more cooperative,
but I could not.
I have killed believing it was him, but only to find I was mistaken!
I have come close to shooting him, but only once.
I have scoured the woods only to find him strutting in the road within 100yds of my truck,
parked in plain sight.
More than once I have stood exactly where he had stood,
but 15 minutes ahead of me.
I have given up the hunt only to return the next day and find he showed himself 30 minutes after I departed.
I have sat patiently in a blind for 7 hours straight, only to have him strut to within 90yds of me and fade back down the road., offering no shot.
This game will be played no more!
I have shot the devil down!,
but only to watch him rise again,
Yes, I am sure of it, this was the devil!
Larry Stephens, 2:15 pm, April 19, 2014,
The Dike road, Quigley Bay.
I actually wrote that sitting in a blind waiting on this bird. All other options expended, I was reduced to just waiting him out on a grade that I knew, sometime that day, he would appear. I could hardly believe my eyes when I finally shot him and he jumps up and runs off, crippled for sure. A friend suggested I take a bird dog back and look for him. I had to recover this bird! Well, didn’t have a bird dog but I do have a bluetick named Lacy. I was incredible to watch. I put her on the track and in about 15 minutes she found him tucked in some sweet gum suckers, still alive!! I grabbed him by one foot and the final battle ensued. I finally choked him down and the day was mine! Guess he wasn’t a devil after all, just one wary old tom!
We had a tremendous hunt here in Florida and Brian took a really nice Osceola with me that sported an 1 ¼” spur.
After spending 3 days hunting with Brian it became evident that we were cut from the same camo cloth when it comes to hunting and the woods. Our style of hunting is the same, We are both meticulous about the equipment, and we both have a deep appreciation for the new adventure, sights and knowledge that each hunt brings.
Brian and I hit it off right from the start and I expect will have many hunts together in the future.
After the our turkey season was over here in Florida Brian invited me to come up for a hunt on a tract he owns in Georgia.
Luckily Brian is only located about 3 ½ hours north of me and I stopped at his office on the way up to make our plan for the next morning.
Brian had already located a bird and from his sign knew he was using a few hundred yard stretch of black jack oak ridge that bordered a narrow creek drain. The drainage was predominately thick and impassible with a very small opening in the creek bottom.
The first morning we moved to a spot where Brian figured we would be in easy hearing of the roosted tom. As the light began to break to the east, Brian Owled and the Tom thundered a booming Gobbled in response.
We moved towards him owling periodically to course and distance him. He was in the tight creek bottom just as Brian had figured. There was a terrible thick cut over adjoining the back side of the creek and the turkeys had to come to the hill on our side.
We set up on the sand hill to the gobblers right on a little harrowed food plot strip. We had cut numerous hen tracks crossing the road in the dark and we surmised that they were roosting in the creek then moving up onto the hill to spend the day feeding and loafing.
I only gave the bird a few tree calls until it was time for a turkey to be on the ground. He never answered a single call! Brian was set up behind me about 30yds. After more than an hour of silence and no birds showing up, I moved over to Brian to discuss a new plan.
It was obvious the bird was not going to come to this spot. We were very close to the roost and he surly had moved away by now. Brian suggested we relocate a little and give the bird an hour to start up.
We gave him some time but it was getting late and he had not gobbled so we decided to slip into the creek bottom and have a look at where he was roosted.
It was going to take woodsman ship to kill this bird, calling alone would not get the job done.
Brian and I went back to hunt that creek bottom bird the next morning. We now knew his roost spot was a hole in the creek where the only option for him was to move from there onto the hill. We located a small game trail that we believed the turkeys were using to enter and exit the bottom and marked it for our return in the dark.
The next morning he was exactly where he was supposed to be. It was another Masters move! Brian stayed up on the hill and kept the bird gobbling so I could course him without calling and move in silently for the kill.
I sat quietly on the bank of the little stained, sand bottom creek, a mere 60 yds from the roosted tom, watching intently for his departure from his limb. By 8:30 AM I had not seen him pitch off the limb and Brian could only hunt until about 9:45 so I slipped out to discuss a new plan. Though I never actually saw the gobbler this was a great hunt. I was within a long shotgun shot of him for over and hour and a half, tight as a string the whole time. I just knew I was about to deal the death blow any second! Wow, that was a hunt!
In true turkey form that old tom made the only play possible, short of migrating out of there that could have kept him from getting shot……He sat right there on the roost until we just had to leave him due to our limited time to hunt that morning.
The 6 minute Turkey hunt!
Brian had heard another tom hammering that morning so with only 45 minutes left to hunt, we charged off after him. We pulled the truck down the road and Brian got out to try to strike the bird with his wing bone call. It took him several calls but he finally gobbled. He was not far either. We raced to the truck to grab our gear and took off.
We were on a sugar sand hill with scattered black jack oak, some scattered pine etc. with a ridge paralleling our movement. We stopped to call and course the bird after about 100yds and he responded immediately, just on the other side of the ridge. We barely had time to get set up.
I picked a group of 8-10” oaks and Brian dropped back to call. In just a few moments the bird topped the ridge in front of me within gun range. He turned slightly to follow the ridge and I immediately recognized that it was time. A quick shift of the camera and a load of #6 was on its way down range. Big gobbler down! I jumped up and ran to the flopping tom. Brian was standing where I had shot from when I came walking back up with the bird and a big smile. He looked at his watch…..”you know it’s only been 6 minutes since we struck this bird! That’s got to be a record!”
The big Georgia Eastern had a 11” beard and 1 1/8” spurs.
We are already planning some new hunting adventures for next year and to say that I am looking forward to it is quite an understatement.
Best of hunts,
Here is another great turkey hunting story my friend Chris Coffey shared with me from his Nebraska hunt this year. Along with the Osceola I guided him for, this completed a 1 year grand slam, great work Chris!
(Story by Chris Coffey)
For those that have been following along for my quest to try and get a North American Grand Slam of Wild Turkey in a single season, I am happy to inform you that I did it! I am very proud and very humble. I have such a respect for the great wild turkey and to be able to travel around the country making new friends and seeing new places really drives home a very important point………I LOVE THIS STUFF!
Nebraska – Merriam’s
With 3/4 of the Grand Slam complete, I began to make last minute arrangements to try and get a Merriam’s hunt lined up. I was able to find a place to hunt and made room in the schedule for a weekend trip. After driving 6 hours on Friday, I found myself in Nebraska and ready for the next morning’s hunt.
My hunt took place on Saturday, May 3, 2014. With a very early alarm clock wake up, I looked outside to see nothing but stars, light wind, and cool temps. A perfect turkey morning.
I made the 20 minute drive to the hunting area and parked the truck in a secluded spot on top of a big ridge. Hurrying to get my gear together, I heard the first gobble and it was coming right from where my ground blind was situated. I made my way down to the blind and set out my Dave Smith Hen Decoy. As daylight began to creep over the landscape, the gobbles began to get more intense and more frequent!
After fly down, I began to call in hopes of drawing in one of the many gobbling birds I had heard. With each call, I began to hear the hens getting more aggressive. I stepped up the calling and before long, I had a whole group of hens coming right towards me. Final count had 12 very upset hens surrounding my decoy only 20 yards away.
It is amazing how well concealed you are in a Double Bull Ground Blind.
The hens began to fighting purr and flog the decoy at will. Having spent a lot of time in the turkey woods, I thought I was getting close to seeing it all……I was wrong. As the hens continued their assault of the decoy, one of the hens began to strut! I had never seen a hen reach full strut before, but she put on a show. And then, I heard it, the same hen that was strutting, let out a gobble!! If the hunt had ended there, I would have went home a happy hunter for that experience.
As you can imagine, with all the commotion, the gobbling birds finally made their way into the picture. As more and more red heads came into view, I got more and more excited. I then began to realize that all the birds that were now 20 yards and surrounding the decoy, were all jakes! Yes, 8 of them!! At one time, I had 20 turkeys within 30 yards of me and not a long beard in the bunch.
After things settled down and the birds finally started to move off, I happened to look to my right and noticed a full strut bird with a full fan coming my way! He was only 30 yards away and locked on to the DSD decoy. As you can imagine, I only let him walk into the first opening and took the 20 yard shot to anchor my first Merriam of the trip! He was an old bird, had good spurs and a double bird. What a start!
After gaining my composure and trying to take some solo pictures, I moved on in pursuit of my 2nd bird. Only traveling about 100 yards, I sat up and made some calls only to be cut off by an explosive gobble. I moved quickly to a cedar tree and began to call aggressively. Soon I seen 4 red heads headed my direction once again. As the birds got closer, I realized that they were again all jakes!
So, after some close interaction, I let them pass and moved on to my 3rd location. As I was slipping into position, I heard another gobble directly above me and not 100 yards away. Once again, I began to call and had an immediate response. There were hens with the birds and we began a cutting match that would have impressed any contest calling judge. That’s when I heard more gobbles from my right. With each call, they were cutting the distance in half. I moved my gun in that direction just soon enough to see 3 red heads heading right toward me. My eyes strained to make out the beards, but once again, I had called in 3 more jakes. After calling in 15 jakes in the first 3 set ups, I was beginning to think that I needed to try a new mouth call! LOL A quick look at the watch told me that it was 11:30 am and I then made my way back up to the truck for some lunch.
After a short bite to eat, I headed to the other side of the ranch in hopes that I could get away from the jakes and locate an older bird. Walking for what seemed like a mile, I finally found a set up that looked too good to be true. The large cotton wood tree was just off the edge of a picked cornfield with a dirt two-track lane right down the edge only 25 yards away. So, I set up my DSD hen decoy right in the road and settled in for the afternoon hunt. I made some calls and then looked at my watch to see that the time read 1:57 pm.
With all the excitement of the morning, traversing of the hilly terrain, and the long drive to get out west, my eyes began to weigh heavy and eventually closed shut for a quick siesta. Drifting off to turkey dreamland, I was woken by the sound of a spit-n-drum. I opened my eyes to see a turkey in full strut, 40 yards away, walking right down the road to my decoy. That’s when I saw the long beard hanging from his chest and knew that I was going to get my chance at another fully mature tom. “Just let him walk to the decoy”…I told myself. He is in love, so just let him come. You know, it is so hard to let a turkey walk by the first good opening. LOL You guessed it, the Benelli moved into position, the crosshairs were settle on the Nikon scope and the Nitro shells hit the turkey’s head hard. After a short walk to the bird and a glance at the watch, which read 2:15 pm, I had taken my 2nd Nebraska Merriam’s!
Taking solo pics is much harder than I anticipated. I will definitely have to practice a little more. Times like that sure do make me wish my Dad could have been there to help with the picture taking and to experience the joy of chasing Merriam’s gobblers out west!
The 2014 Spring Gobbler season has come to a close and it was one outstanding year!
We closed the year with a 93% success rate! Only one of our hunters did not kill/miss or have an opportunity to shoot a gobbler. I am confident that had that gentleman been able to hunt more than one morning, we would have gotten him killed also. We did work a bird that morning and I actually called him across the ocklawaha River, if you can believe that but the tom would not come closer than 90 yds. He was able to harvest a Super trophy of a bar hog however and had a great hunt.
Besides the success rate, the other impressive stat was the spurs on some of these birds!Most of the birds had outstanding spurs that were 1 1/4″ or better!
One of the best was this 1 1/2″ monster killed near the Ocklawaha River.
This next bird was a pasture bird that we have hunted for at least 4 years. At 1 3/8″ he was a super trophy and it was an outstanding hunt for this Mature Tom.
Many of the birds we harvested this year had 1 1/4″ spurs. That is a really great Osceola and a tough mark to beat. Here’s just a few……
Here are a few of the other exception spurs taken this year including a 1 15/16″ Freak! Following courtesy of my friend Roy Huff.
We also harvested a large tom with a very unique deformed foot…..incredible, even the spur was deformed with an unusual hook to it? The normal spur was 1 1/4″!
Now that’s one ugly turkey!
I pulled my camera cards at Bull Creek this morning and had a pile of pictures to review. Though there were some really good shots, strutting long beards, etc…..this one turkey really stood out from the rest. He’s a Jake and has the wartiest head I have ever seen on a turkey. I feel kinda sorry for him!
Pretty unusual though. Here’s some pic’s of him.
The following photographs were taken with a Bushnell Model 119335C trail camera at a prospective stand site at the new tract. I am amazed at the size and condition of the Hogs on this tract. For eating I would prefer some smaller, 75lb kind of hogs. This tract has some incredible hogs.
Only (2) bucks visited this spot with the larger of the two still in velvet.
I was also excited to find (2) more gobblers that are not associated with the other birds I have found. I believe I have located a total of (8) gobblers on this tract so far and that is only from (3) locations. There is another group of birds using a spot that I have not set up any cameras in yet.
Looks like it’s going to be a good year!