The Florida Osceola can be one of the most difficult of the turkey sub-species to harvest consistently. He is noticeably more wary and typically does less calling than his northern cousins. Besides these facts, he prefers to live in an environment that is thicker and very wet compared to other turkeys. There are some important tip you need to know when setting up on these “swamp toms” if your plans include harvesting one.

Location, location, location!

Your setup can be one of the most important keys to bagging a trophy tom. I am sure you have heard the old realtor,s saying, “location, location, location as being the key to real estate sales. Well, if you want to close the deal on a wary old Osceola, you need to apply this same principal to where you set up on these birds next spring.

Roosted turkeys always have a plan for where they are headed when they fly down! This is a very important point to understand and you have to develop a plan to deal with this.

During the early season both the gobblers and hens will be roosting deeper in the swamps and usually over some flooded real estate. Sometimes it can be difficult to find something dry, above the water line, to actually keep your butt from getting wet. Usually, you are going to have to sit on a small tussock. I have even been reduced to sitting on my heels up against the swell butt of a big cypress or gum tree when no dry land could be found. This can be really uncomfortable and is a poor choice but if that’s all you have to work with, you bare with it and make the most of it.

Typically, the turkeys will move to the edge of the flooded ground just before fly-up and mill around picking until its just the right time to fly out over the flood water to roost. They will usually fly out a hundred yards or so and lite high up in the leafy canopy. The next morning they will fly right back to this same spot . If you have some historical knowledge of a preferred roost spot like this you can be there that evening and listen for the turkey to fly up then move to the edge of the flood water to see where you need to be the next morning. You probably will not even need to call! This is hunting through sheer skill and woodsmanship!

Don’t try to get so close that you get over flown at fly down!

Occasionally, the turkeys will wade out into the water if it is a broad flat of ankle depth before they take wing. In this case, they sometimes will pitch down into the water the next morning. You can still wait at the edge of the flood but if you prefer maximum excitement, then move in as close as you dare keeping in mind not to get so close that the turkeys over fly you when they pitch down. If that happens you are all but out of the game as they will already have a destination in mind and they will not back track to you. They will call to you trying to get you to assemble with the flock but within 20-30 minutes they will be moving on. You have to place yourself in between the turkeys and where they are going when they are flocked up at this time of year.

Use the flood water to your advantage for a silent approach!

Some of my most memorable hunts took place when the situation dictated an awkward and uncomfortable setup with mosquitoes eating me alive and my body in utter pain from being pinned down by a tom that was just out of shotgun range for an extended time and me unable to move. I don’t know if you have ever had your hand go numb under the weight of an 8lb autoloader bearing down on it while propped on your knee, but It’s coming and the throbbing will have you praying for that tom to move behind his fan or step behind a tree so you can move and gain some relief! When you have endured and over come such a situation and managed to take a tough tom like this you will feel like you have been in a battle of wills and I promise you, the success will be sweet.

If you are lucky enough to harvest one of these dark, long legged toms you will count him among your most treasured trophies.

My hope here is that you will gain a better sense of the importance of roosting and can incorporate this information into your own hunting methods.

Best of Hunts,

Larry Stephens


P.S.  If you have any turkey hunting questions or comments, take a few moments to jot them down and I’ll be glad to respond with any help I can provide, L.S.

5 Responses to Florida Turkey Hunting, Tips for Setting up on Osceolas!

  • kyle napier says:

    hello i have been hunting turkeys for 3 years now on central florida wma’s. i have had good luck finding birds on the roost but after they fly down i come up empty. any insight?

    thanks kyle

  • Leonard P says:

    I hunt oceola birds only . I’m a local Hunter . Mostly hunt on public land. I have had difficulty figuring out where to hunt in a given area if it is flooded just about everywhere . I know where the turkeys traditionally are roosting and are, but when they aren’t gobbling ,or I can’t find sign , where would they be? Do they keep walking in the water in their traditional areas? Do they breed when its flooded ? Some places have less water than others but none dry ? It’s really hard hunting when it’s a wet spring! Please help. Thank you

  • Leonard P says:

    Where do our birds go when we’re up to our knees in water? Do they walk in it? Do they still breed? Do they leave their regular areas in search for a dry patch somewhere? I’m a Florida native and I have only hunted oceolas on public lands. Please help.

    • Hey Leonard, good question! turkeys are where the food is. Find the food and you found the turkeys. They will roost over water, fly over water and cross shallow water but have to be on dry land to carry out their daily routine. during February, most birds will still be roosting in the swamps but as it gets closer to nesting, the hens will roost closer and closer to those locations and less in the creek swamps, etc. Best way to locate turkeys is by tracking roads for turkey sign, tracks and strut sign.

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