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March 24-26, 2017: As this Florida Osceola turkey hunt slowly approached on my calendar, the excitement was building up knowing this would be the official kick-off to my quest to complete a turkey grand slam in one season. I was meeting several friends in Dunnellon, Florida and we would spend the next three days hunting Osceola Turkey in 80 degree weather in the sandy, buggy woods of Central Florida with guide, Dave Mehlenbacher. This would be my third time hunting turkey with Dave and up to this trip, our past groups had been 100% with him–we were hoping for a continued record. It would be hard to top our triple in 2011 where within the first hour of our first morning’s hunt, but we were willing to fathom the thought.

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The majestic plantation oaks looked twice as eerie during our morning hikes in. Notice Mister walking on the path to get an idea of the size of these trees.

Our first morning we were out the door at 5:15 a.m. with strict instructions to be ready when we bail out of the truck because we would be parking within earshot of the resident turkey in the area. The walk in was on a dark two rut road because of the tall, eerie majestic plantation oaks that had limbs and branches that spanned over the entire trail. Several of us had to get in close and even hold on to the other to sneak through this section of woods to get to the backside of the property. Mister and two hunters, Raquel and Rebecca, stopped at a front field tucked away in the scrub oaks and heavy ground brush. Dave, myself and two others traveled on to the back portion of the property.

Once we reached our destination, I quickly set up with my back resting against an oak tree. Dave and the other hunter, Keith, were to my left and the decoys were also to my left in a sandy area about 18-20 yards. It was still really dark out and definitely too early for any gobbling. As I rested against the oak, my shins burning from the brisk walk in on sandy soil, I couldn’t help but feel the building excitement deep in my soul as to what the day would hold. We had two hunters, Keith and Rebecca, that were needing an Osceola to complete their turkey grand slam. One other hunter, Raquel, was working on shooting her first Osceola. I was working on my 5th Osceola and the first bird in my quest for a grand slam in one season. I have completed several turkey grand slams but never one in the same season….it was on my bucket list!

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My view during a long afternoon sit.

As the sky began to lighten up, the first gobble rang out. Then a second gobble a few minutes later. All of a sudden there was a strong gobble in the tree line in front of us followed by what sounded like a jake gobble, and it was like someone struck a nerve…chain gobbles came out of those trees for the next few minutes. At one point I wondered if they had time to catch their breath. It was music to my ears, making my hair stand up on the nap of my neck and my stomach felt as if fireflies were playing Quidditch in my gut and lungs.

I had already told Keith that if we had the opportunity at birds, he needed to take the first shot to finish his grand slam and if the opportunity was there for a double, I would follow-up. It was exciting to think that maybe a few of those toms gobbling on the roost would give us that opportunity. The birds eventually pitched down but in the other direction. We heard a single gobble a good distance off to the left of us. We waited as Dave made a few calls at varying times.

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My Pack Mule….er, I mean Sherpa!

We were well into the first hour and a half of our first hunt when I heard a hen putt somewhere behind and to the left of me. I strained to hear movement…nothing. Within a few minutes I saw something very dark and round to the extreme left of me. A TOM!! And he was coming in HOT! The bird stopped for a moment, pecked at the ground, reassessed the decoy scene, went into strut, and marched right into our set up blown up like an overstuffed pinata. I knew at this point that the bird was directly in front of Keith, but he had yet to shoot. The bird walked over to the decoy, bumped into it and the next thing I knew he was on top of the decoy knocking it to the ground, and pecking at the decoy’s head.

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Congratulations, Keith, on your Turkey Grand Slam!

I was thinking to myself, “shoot, shoot, shoot!” Then I thought, “Maybe Keith sees another bird coming into the set-up down the trail that I can’t see.” I heard my heart start pumping as I readied my shotgun. The live tom was doing all he could do to beat the decoy up and he paused for a moment when the shot rang out pelting his noggin with turkey shot and laying him out in the sand. Keith rushed out to retrieve the bird as Dave rushed out to upright the downed decoy. Well, the decoy needed a little work and wasn’t going to just easily get poked back into the sand. I dug my Buck Knife Bantam out of my turkey vest and handed it to Dave to work on the repairs. Dave was able to temporarily fix “Old Scar Face” and he ran out and stuck him up in the sand.

We sat on this spot another 45 mins to an hour but nothing else came into it. That was and exciting hunt and I was ecstatic for Keith in completing his Turkey Grand Slam. The other hunters had not seen a bird all morning.

Blue Gator

A good thing about hunting Florida…FRESH Seafood!

After a quick trip into town for lunch at The Blue Gator, we returned to the woods in search of toms. We all used strategy to get us to where we heard birds gobbling in the morning thinking we may have a chance at them coming back to the roost. No such luck! With all the chain gobbling that took place that morning, we estimated at least six other tom’s in that area, but we didn’t hear a single gobble.

On Saturday and Sunday we didn’t hear a single gobble and we hunted all day both days with a short lunch break. Keith had a failed archery opportunity at another tom that came running into the Deception Outdoors Decoy setup. With turkey hunting, it isn’t over until the sun starts to set so we held out until the last minute and made our retreat back to the trucks.

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And…Mister use to get onto me for being on my iPhone!!

I won’t lie, I was kind of bummed. Something that I set out to do was knocked down on the first turkey hunting trip. Was I giving in too easily? Was there still a chance? Would I have the time to come back this season and hunt again? All of this was running through my head on my walk back to the truck and on our drive home. After discussing it with Mister and bringing up the idea to Rebecca, much pondering and schedule changing, and the heart of gold of an awesome guide, WE ARE HEADED BACK TO FLORIDA! WoooHooo! The weekend of April 8 & 9th we will be back in those woods working hard toward achieving Rebecca’s first grand slam and for me, pulling off a grand slam off in one season. Wish us luck!!

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