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Thinking Green

Posted by Jake Edson, F+W Outdoors EditorDSC_9421.jpg

If you’re a turkey hunter, the off-season is full of anticipation for the coming spring. But sometimes it seems like hunting season will never arrive. For those of us in northern states, the wait can seem endless -- hence the temptation to travel.
This year, I dusted off my luggage and kicked off turkey season a month earlier than the rest of my Wisconsin brethren. As they shuffled through snowbanks and subzero (I’m serious) temperatures, I traveled to Florida to find hues of palmetto green and Mossy Oak Obsession. Not only was it my first chance to harvest an Osceola (the third leg in my first slam), but it offered an escape from dirty snow and dead limbs.
Florida offers one of the earliest turkey seasons available, and it’s the only state to offer a chance for an Osceola, making it a top spot for serious gobbler geeks.
On March 15, I joined a group of outdoor writers for the central Florida opener at Frasier Family Farms north of Polk City. I can’t think of a better place to start the year. The 6,000 acre cattle and sand mine operation nestled in the heart of Florida’s massive (and aptly named) Green Swamp is paradise for any hunter, let alone a northerner suffering from a severe case of cabin fever. The property was once owned by Gen. James Van Fleet, a distinguished Korean War general and good friend of President Eisenhower, and the pair hunted there every year until Eisenhower’s death in 1969. Today, the land is owned by Donnie Frasier, who manages the ranch for cattle and wildlife. Frasier, along with his neighbor Curtis Clark and friend Wayne Shelby host a limited number of hunts each spring, and I was lucky enough to be invited to try to tag my first Osceola.
DSC_92666.jpgOn opening morning, I was suffering a bit of shock as my system adjusted from daytime temperatures below freezing to the humid 80s of the swamp. However, when Clark -- who offered to guide me on the first morning -- stopped mid-stride and dove to the cover of nearby cypress tree, I quickly remembered why I flew more than 1,300 miles. With just a little bit of calling, Clark masterfully pulled a trio of Osceola longbeards away from a flock of hens and gave me a chance to try Winchester’s new Super X3 turkey combo. Then, for the next few days, I tagged along as several other writers “suffered” through 80-degree highs in their quest for a longbeard -- all the while thinking back to the snowbanks that still crowded my driveway.
Since I’ve been back, all I’ve been doing is thinking of green and waiting. But I recently realized something: In Florida, the season will be over just as we’re getting going up here in the frozen north. I guess the waiting isn’t so bad after all, as long as you have a few frequent flyer miles.

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