Osceola turkey hunting is bucket-list item for every turkey hunter. Here's where and how to do it.
The Osceola turkey only exists in the Sunshine State, but as a hunting foe is one of the toughest challenges that a turkey hunter can face. You'll have to make some tough decisions like traveling to sunny Florida, taking part in one of the best turkey hunting experiences there is, and bagging a game bird with your bow or shotgun.
Tough choices, but someone's got to do it!
On the other hand, you may have to risk things like alligators, snakes, ticks, and mosquitos the size of which you may have never seen, but it's all in a day's work for a hunter seeking one part of the turkey Grand Slam. When you stop to think about it, you may have just found yourself smack dab in the middle of the most fun turkey hunt you ever tried.
Osceola Turkey Hunting Areas
Once you decide to embark on an Osceola turkey hunt you'll find out right away that it can be done as an unguided hunt on public land, or as the experience of a lifetime with one of Florida's premier guide services. If you happen to own a piece of good turkey hunting property or hunt with a friend who does, so much the better when it comes to Florida turkey hunting. If only because most of the prime turkey habitat is on private land. Especially ones with food plots to help draw the birds in during the spring turkey season.
The state of Florida birds in the only state that officially recognizes this subspecies of wild turkey, making it virtually the only place to bag one of these long beards. There are wild turkey throughout the state including in the panhandle, but nearby (geographically speaking) is a line known as the "intergrade zone" and just south of this area is where you will find the Osceola.
There are regions in the northern part of Florida that can hold eastern wild turkeys, Osceola turkeys, and hybrids, but the true Osceola is found south of the panhandle to Florida's southern tip. Despite the fact that much of the best turkey hunting is done on private land, there are many public hunting areas that not only have a lot of land, but a lot of turkeys.
Public Land Hunting
Green Swamp WMA and Richloam WMA are two of the large public land areas in Florida with over 50,000 and 58,000 respectively. They are largely considered some of the best hunt areas, but they certainly aren't the only ones. Turkey hunters who want to try their luck at their own, non-guided hunt can have a lot of area to choose from, but it should be said that these large, remote areas are not for the novice adventurer who has never pursued turkeys in the palmettos and palm trees.
You will certainly have to deal with water in some fashion, whether it is from the rain or from high water around swamps and cypress areas. As with any public hunting, the pressure will be on for the birds that are there and all the basic rules of turkey hunting safety should apply. Success rates are always going to be lower on public land, but that is going to make for some more rewarding Florida osceola turkey hunting.
Osceola Hunting Tips
Since Florida Osceolas get a lot of pressure every hunting season, your best bet may be to hire an outfitter to put you on private land birds that can be hunted near game feeding stations in which a hunter can set up no less than 100 yards according to Florida law. Birds will still get call shy after the opener, but any turkey hunting veteran knows that is a fact of turkey hunting life.
You'll want to use your favorite 12-gauge shotgun with the tightest choke possible since Osceolas are virtually the same size as the eastern wild bird that most are used to pursuing. Set your decoy or decoys no less than 25 yards away. While it might feel tempting to lay on the turkey calls when the birds start to strut, it's usually best to call sparingly with Osceolas.
When you do call, soft hen yelps and purrs work best on morning hunts as the birds come off the roost. However, these birds are also known to do some afternoon traveling and seem to investigate the decoys more in the afternoon for reasons known only to the birds themselves.
Season Dates and Other Considerations
A cell phone with a good mapping app is a good idea to give yourself another edge. A compass is a good idea too. Consider that you will get wet one way or another. A waterproof wallet or container to keep your hunting license and turkey permit dry is always a good idea. Even though it's Florida, it's also important to dress appropriately; it can even get a bit chilly in Florida in the early spring.
You might consider chaps or snake-proof boots for safety, but you're definitely going to want some of the best (strongest) bug repellent you can buy. Sometimes the best course of action is to spray your head netting thoroughly before you even put it on.
According to the FWC, "The 2022 spring wild turkey season south of State Road 70 opens March 5 and runs through April 10 on lands outside of the WMA system. North of State Road 70, the 2022 spring season opens March 19 and runs through April 24."
And you may be surprised to learn that "On lands outside of the WMA system, any legal rifle, shotgun, pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air guns of at least .20-caliber, muzzleloader, crossbow, bow or pistol may be used to take turkeys." That offers some chances for non-resident hunters to get creative in ways to harvest a bird that likely aren't legal in their home states.
Please check out my book "The Hunter's Way" from HarperCollins. Be sure to follow my webpage, or on Facebook and YouTube. Go to Rack Hub and use the coupon code Craiger for a new way to display those antler sheds!
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