I opened the '08 season on a WMA that I have never hunted before. Fortunately, my girlfriend had hunted there, and she showed me an oak hammock where she's seen turkeys. I did some scouting and liked the terrain, and I especially liked the fact that the area was closed to vehicles and I could ride my 2 wheel, manually propelled turkey attack vehicle [;)] in. I roosted some hens there the afternoon before the opener, and knowing the place held gobblers and lots of hens, I planned to hunt there. The morning started slow, in fact I didn't even hear a gobble. But the place held birds so I chose to sit tight. I did all of my usual tactics, but got no responses to anything. The wind started picking up, so at 08:25 I broke out the box call. 5 minutes later, a hen came through at 15 yards. After she left, I called some more with the box call. This time I got 3 gobbles for an answer!! Immediately after the 3 gobbles, a ruckus ensued. I heard loud fighting purrs, wings whacking on turkeys, more gobbles, yelps, cackles and cutting. It was music to my ears. I floated out a few more yelps on my box call, which were immediately jumped on by the gobblers. Then more fighting ensued. For the next 10 minutes the birds slowly worked their way in, following the subtle yelps I sparingly offered. The last time they gobbled, they had drifted to my right, so I had to switch my gun to my left shoulder. I caught sight of a turkey, it was a hen. Then another, and another, and another. Hens followed each other single file spaced 10 feet apart. They all passed through a 3 foot opening 25 yards from me. I pointed my gun at the opening and watched for the gobblers. After 10 hens passed by, 3 gobblers followed close behind. They were all in half-strut, bumping into each other, trying to assert their dominance. I waited until they were 10 feet from the opening, and then peered into my scope, aiming at the opening. When the first tom stepped into the open, I put the crosshairs on his head and dropped the hammer on him!!! The hens scattered, but the two remaining toms came back to whip up on their fallen pal. I had to walk over and stop them. My slow morning had morphed into a very exciting hunt!!!!! My bird weighed 19 lb's, had a 9-1/2" beard with 1-1/4" & 1-3/8" spurs, for a score of 64.25!! Not a bad way to open the season!
The next weekend I guided an out of state friend. He missed a gobbler the first morning, but got one the 2nd day. The 3rd weekend I tagged out my 2nd Osceola today to finish up my Florida season. Since my girlfriend tagged out the first weekend, she hunted with me. We went to the place she killed both of her birds at this season. We had 3 gobblers hammering on the roost about 400 yards away from us. We tried to go them, but there was a deep and wide creek separating us. We finished that day's hunt without any more action. The next day we went back, but we brought our 2 wheel, manually propelled, turkey attack vehicles! We went down a closed road about 3 miles to get to the area on the other side of the creek. We walked down a dike road that was bordered by swamps and patches of hardwoods. As it got light I broke out my owl call. We were slippin' and owlin' as it got light, and the turkeys started shock gobbling to my owl call. Two of them were too far away, but one was within range to work. We slipped in to within 80 yards of his roost and set up. I started doing some soft tree talking with my slate call, and he hammered away at my calls. Finally, he flew down. After fly down, he only gobbled twice more, and then nothing............ 45 minutes of periodic soft calling went by with no sightings of him, and no sounds from him. I knew that he had to be strutting for hens. I slowly crawled out to the dike road and glassed up and down it. As I expected, nothing............ We packed up the decoy and were pondering our next move when he gave us a courtesy gobble. He had moved off, so we took off after him and closed the gap by half. We stopped at the edge of an open area to call. I started yelping on my diaphragm, and broke into some excited cutting. He responded with a hearty gobble! Just then a small plane buzzed overhead, so I held tight waiting for the plane to fly off so I could try to locate the gobbler. Finally the plane flew out of hearing range, and I started my calling anew. This time he gobbled within 100 yards! It seems that he had been coming to the call, but I did not know it. I spotted a fallen oak 10 yards in front of me, so I dashed to it, laid my barrel across the tree and knelt behind it. My girlfriend grabbed a seat next to a big oak. A couple of minutes went by, so I floated out a few soft yelps on my diaphragm. The gobbler hammered back an answer!! He was inside of 50 yards now. Later on my girlfriend would tell me that she had heard him spitting and drumming. I could not hear it due to my hearing loss. The birds have to be practically in my back pocket for me to hear that. I knew he was close though. Finally, he stepped out from behind a large tree. He was 30 yards away, in full strut. Two steps behind him was a hen - I knew it!!! He stepped behind another tree, and I took aim where he would come out on the other side. When he stepped out I clucked a couple times and he raised his head to look. That's when I dropped the hammer and he dropped to the ground!! Here's where it gets tricky. I almost missed my first turkey ever!! When I knelt behind the downed oak, I noted that there was a hardwood branch in the line of fire of my gun, and it was only 2 feet away from the end of my barrel. I made a mental note to raise the barrel above it before shooting. Of course though, when the turkey stepped out in full strut, I forgot all about the limb. So, when I took the shot, the wad - with the pellets still in it - hit the limb, and rotated, resulting in the impacting shot being well below where I had aimed. The shot hit low, and it blew off part of his beard. But, I was still very fortunate, and the bird dropped in it's tracks, and flopped very little. I had come close to getting my first miss............I was very lucky. But in the end, I got my bird, and he was a dandy!!! 19 lb's, a 9-1/2 inch beard (what was left of it), 1-1/8 & 1-1/4 inch spurs. And as it turned out, he had a crop full of corn from munching at a feeder after fly down on nearby private property. So I had called him off of the corn, and he had his hen in tow all the way to his demise. After having to "bobcat" on all of my turkeys except one the last couple of years, I was very happy to have called in both of my birds this season in the traditional fashion. This tom came in strutting and gobbling, a classic hunt!!!
Classic Osceola wing!! Check out the lack of barring and the nearly black feathers.
Next, my girlfriend and I went to Alabama to finish our season. But, the weather was awful, and we struck out. Still, we got to see some old friends and still had a great time. Here are some pics from the trip.