By Pete Rogers
Central Florida is home for this subspecies and is the last remaining bastion for those seeking their grand slam of wild turkeys. Somewhat call shy, the Osceola is hunted hard on the public land in Florida, but for success, often all that is needed is going to the basics.
In my years of hunting him, he appears to prefer the coarse sound made from friction calls to any other. Simple yelps, clucks, and purrs on box calls and scratch boxes will suffice.
No need for elaborate cackles, fly-down calls, cutting, or anything else. Let him know you’re there and get ready. Decoys seem to work well, if placed accordingly.
Osceola turkeys call Central Florida home. Their copper, teal and chocolate coloration are breathtaking. Known for having the longest spurs of all subspecies, the Osceola makes a handsome trophy.
A typical set-up for Osceola turkeys is to nest near and/or inside some of the palmetto palms that dominate the landscape. These low-growing palms make excellent concealment for patient hunters.
Osceola turkeys can decoy easily. A full-body hen and strutting jake decoys work well when positioned fifteen to twenty yards from your position.
When using strutting jakes, place them closer to you than the hens. The mature gobbler will approach the jake first when coming in and present a better shot. A word of caution: When using male decoys on public land, not all hunters are able to distinguish a decoy from the real thing, so be mindful of your positioning.
Osceola turkeys are very vocal on the roost. But typical spring weather in Central Florida can mean heavy fog at dawn. Be patient while waiting for the fog to burn off, and do not get too aggressive in your calling too early. Birds tend to fly down later than you’d expect.
Once the turkeys are on the ground, start with a series of yelps from a box call. These will get his attention and let him know where you are. At that point, less is more. Waiting a minute or two after a response is not unreasonable. It seems to build anxiety in the Toms and will bring them in to investigate.
On a particular hunt a few years ago, we were hunting with Osceola Outfitters in St. Cloud, Florida. Setting up along the edge of a cow pasture, we heard no less than twenty-seven different turkeys gobbling before fly down.
It was one of the most amazing moments of my turkey hunting life. When the fog began to lift, five mature gobblers made their way across the pasture from over 400 yards to investigate our calling.
Unfortunately, due to the television cameras, we were unable to get a shot that the cameraman could see clearly, but seeing those birds walk across that field to the calling and decoys was incredible.
That hunt taught me one thing for sure, Osceolas tend to take their time. At no point in this hunt did these turkeys ever get in a hurry. They saw the decoys, but sauntered, ambled and strolled the entire distance before getting into range.
Hunting Osceola turkeys is a great adventure. The places they call home can be adventurous enough, but the beauty of this sub-species of wild turkey make the hunt memorable.
If searching for a great turkey hunting opportunity, look no further than the Osceola of Central Florida.