If you are planning a turkey hunting trip to Florida, it could be one of the most memorable hunts of your life or one of the most miserable adventures you could imagine. The following are some tips that will help keep it from becoming the latter.

Hunting long beards in Florida can be one of the most difficult turkey hunts you will ever set out on. It will most likely be wet and you can expect it to be hot. There may be frost on the ground in the morning and in the upper 80’s by noon time. You will probably come close to stepping on a moccasin before its all over and the mosquitoes can be so bad they’ll eat your eyeballs out! The ticks and chiggers can be rough also. Did I mention the mosquitoes!

Osceola River Swamp Gobbler!

Just locating a place to hunt can be very difficult for someone that wants to go it on his own. Unless you have some contacts, friends or family with land or access, you will probably be looking for a Guide or hunting public land. As you might guess this adds another level of difficulty. If you find a good outfitter and are willing to cough up some cash you can get in on some great hunting in some of the best turkey woods around but it is not mandatory for having a great hunt. Most all of the public management areas have limited entry and many have some down right excellent turkey hunting.

If your hunting public land, research what permits will be required.

The State of Florida has a quota hunt permit for each WMA that is a lottery drawing process. Along with this you will need a State hunting license, Turkey Permit and Management area permit, all of which can be purchased online. Go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s web site and review their permit drawing system. Be sure to mark on you calendar when the quota hunt permit application period begins so you don’t miss out on applying for your permit or you’ll be out of luck until the next year.

Plan your trip carefully!

If you intend to accept the challenge of traveling to another state to hunt you had better do your homework! There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into a successful and enjoyable hunt.. There are many different ways to accomplish your goals and some of the things to consider are: where to hunt, lodging, drive vs. fly, will I be hunting somewhere that is wet, what gear do I need, what kind of access to the hunting area is available, etc.

A bug tamer, permethrin and knee high rubber boots are mandatory!

A bug tamer suite and rubber boots are one of the most valuable pieces of equipment you can bring on you Osceola hunt but a can of Permethrin based repellent runs a close second. If your boots are snake proof that’s a plus. Most Osceola hunting takes place in flooded swamps and low wet hammocks. Other creatures call these places home as well and one you hope you don’t run into in the dark is a moccasin. Pay particular attention when you are wading through some arrowhead lilies trying to get to a roosted gobbler, Usually a moccasin will be lying on a fall down log or coiled up on a rotting stump and the first thing you’ll see is a slight movement and a white spot appear as he opens his mouth wide in warning. The bad part is when your standing in 8-12” of mud and water and the snake is on a log, that can put him almost , thigh high!

Prime Osceola Habitat!

The Florida Osceola is arguably the most prized of the turkey sub-species!

The Osceola is not a large turkey weight wise but they tend to have longer beards and spurs than most other species. A typical bird will weigh about 18lbs or so. Anything that tops 20 lbs is a real heavy weight. The spurs of a mature Osceola are typically long, hooked and very sharp. Their beards do tend to be thinner than most of their cousins but 11“+ beards are not uncommon where pressure is low. The Osceola covers a small geographic area compared to some of the other sub-species, particularly the Eastern. Typically, they are less vocal and can be difficult to hunt due to the type of habitat they call home. If you are lucky enough to harvest one of these dark, long legged toms you will count him among your most treasured trophies.

Good luck & hunt safe,

Larry Stephens

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