Another great Florida Osceola hunt goes down in memory. Nancy Jo and Heather with Osceolas harvested their first day in Florida.” title=”Another great Florida Osceola hunt goes down in memory. Nancy Jo and Heather with Osceolas harvested their first day in Florida. ” width=”200″ height=”300″ class=”size-medium wp-image-4351″ />[/caption Another fantastic Florida hunt has come and gone and although the harvest was not as spectacular as last year’s triple in less than 2 hours of our first morning hunt; We did have double success on the first day.
Ladies in Camo Staff, Heather Lininger and her husband Clint met us in Montgomery and followed us through Troy to pick up Rusty Cockrell, LIC videographer/photographer. We had a two-truck caravan headed South and arrived at our hotel room with plenty of time to stop by to check-in and to go straight to Cracker’s Restaurant to enjoy a seafood dinner with our guide, Dave Mehlenbacher of Woodland Guides. After dinner, plans were made for the morning hunt with an early alarm for the one-hour trip to the property. When we returned to the hotel after dinner we quickly unloaded our gear and laid things out for the morning hunt.
When we stepped out of our room in the morning, the weather was very mild, warm and somewhat muggy with elevated humidity. We arrived at the hunting land with plenty of time to spare. Richard was carrying a blind, tripod and camera. Rusty had his hands full of camera and video paraphernalia. I had my gun, several turkey stools and a decoy. When I walked back to Dave’s Vehicle, I found practically the same thing….we looked like we were going to be hiking into the forest for a week. We quickly rounded everything up and headed into the pitch black fields without a single headlamp glowing. It was not as hard as it sounds until we were motioned to leave the main trail going into the fields. I followed Richard who was in the lead and Rusty who was hot on Richard’s heels; what seemed a deliberate stroll to them was nearly a jog to me. Richard was walking in his “On a Mission” mode and Rusty at 6’8″ was literally on a stroll; I got to our spot where we plan to set up about 80 yards behind them.
The blind was set up and we were in place within a short few minutes. I was in the blind with Rusty who was sitting behind his camera and tripod. Richard was sitting on the ground to the left of the blind in a turkey lounger covered in a ghilley suit with a tripod and camera in front of him. It seemed like forever before we started hearing a few tree yelps, then finally a gobble and shortly after, a fly-down cackle. We were unable to see any birds for a while, then I spotted a hen that flew down onto the field in front of us. Shortly after there were a few gobbles in the woods to our right; my heart started racing. Rusty was busy working with his camera filming the hen when I heard a faint “Psst…” from Richard. I looked at Richard as he motioned to the corner of the field to our right.
Walking through the weeds were two hens, followed by a jake. A tom in half-strut came into view as he floated across the ground, bobbing through the tall weeds as if the weeds tickled his belly. As soon as he stepped out onto the cut field, he popped his wings. instantly raised his tail, tucked his head to his chest and had every feather on his body raised as he floated methodically around the hens. Five more jakes, in a single file line, came through the tall grass at the edge of the field. The jakes quickly trotted up to the lone jake who was already in the field. The tom was skirting the edge of the field farthest from our setup, strutting and putting on a show. Unfortunately, that was over 60 yards from the barrel of my shotgun. The hens came in closer but the tom never committed to coming in any closer as he strutted and marched in place; never once gobbling.
The jakes spotted the Little Runt decoy we had set out and b-lined right to it. It was kind of comical the way they all grouped up together as they approached the decoy, all of them sticking their heads high up into the air to make them appear bigger than they actually were. One of the jakes actually pecked the decoy as it jumped sideways as if ready to high-tail it out of reach. I had to giggle under my breath. The tom, at this point, had worked its way around to my left and was now at about 50 yards. I would be comfortable with that shot from the certain shotgun, choke and shell combination that I was holding in my hands.
However, there was a hen at about 8 yards curiously bobbing her head and clucking at my outline ready to bust me the moment I raised my gun through the blind window. I just sat still and enjoyed the show knowing that this tom and the two hens he was trying to get the attention of were not going to come back to an area they just walked out of. That is about the time I heard Richard let out a rushed but quiet “Psst..” and nodded his head toward the woods where the other birds came from. I turned and saw a tom coming through the tall grass, followed by another tom and I told Rusty that there were more birds coming.
Rusty was able to pick the toms up with the camera quickly which was a good thing because these two toms made a straight line at a trot to the decoy. As the first tom reached the decoy I was already sizing up the two and raising my gun in the window. I was committed to take a shot because these were both mature toms. As the second one reached the decoy, Rusty asked me “Are you going to shoot?” I answered, “Yes.” Then he asked, “which one?” I said, “the one on the right.” I had to wait for the first bird to take a few steps to put the second bird in a place where I could shoot and not have to worry that the other bird got pelleted.
Two steps and a shuffle later, I took the shot. BOOOM!! A few feathers flew up in the air as the tom hopped up about 8 inches and then he hit the ground still. The other tom had jumped as well and ran about 5 yards and stopped looking back. Richard made some clucking sounds to calm the other tom and it seemed to work because he waited for a few seconds before walking off a few steps and then trotting toward the first group of turkeys that were now in the middle of the field.
I took my facemask off and we high-fived and talked for just a second about what just unfolded when we heard the putt from a hen, then another, and as I looked out of the side of the blind in Richard’s direction, he mouthed “They are coming back.” Two hens and all 6 of the jakes came back toward the decoy and the tom that I shot which was laying at the base of the decoy. We watched as they meticulously worked the scene trying to make sense of it. Eventually they did meander back out into the field.
This was obviously a great spot that the birds were comfortable with so we were unable to move for not wanting to bust this spot for the afternoon or morning hunt for any other hunters. After about a 45 minute wait we were finally able to walk out to the bird I shot. A good mature 2-year old bird with 1 inch spurs and an 8-8.5″ beard. As with my last year’s bird, this tom’s beard had beard rot on the tips and was broke off square but it had the most unique twist to it. I love unique beards.
We took some quick photos and we headed over to meet Dave, Heather and Clint at their blind. They did not have any birds at their blind that morning but Heather did get out of the blind and go after a tom that they heard from the blind. You will get the opportunity to read about her hunt in the Ladies in Camo field journal.
Thank you to Rusty Cockrell for some great photos and video footage. Some or part of the photos in this entry where contributed by Rusty and are unedited photos.