How to Hunt the Most Difficult Gobbler in the U.S. - the Osceola with Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland
Editor’s Note: Most of us want to hunt a turkey we've never hunted before in a place we've never been. Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, vice president for media, TV and video productions for Mossy Oak, has hunted all the races of wild turkey in the United States and two other countries. This week Mr. Cuz will tell us the differences in hunting each of the different types of gobblers.
The Osceola gobbler is not the meanest or the worst turkey in this country to hunt. The difficulty with taking an Osceola tom is that he has a very-limited range. Often, getting access to hunt him is the major problem. Some people will tell you that the true Osceola gobbler only lives south of Lake Okeechobee, Florida. However, some Osceola turkeys have been transplanted north of Lake Okeechobee.
The Osceola gobbler is much lot darker and has more black feathers than the eastern, the Rio Grande or the Merriam’s gobblers. It has been my experience that these Florida turkeys don’t gobble as much as the other races of wild turkeys. I'm not sure why that is, but it may be due to the more predators in south Florida than other places where turkeys live. These gobblers may have learned that the less they talk, the better their odds are for survival. One of the reasons these birds are so tough to take is because of the geography of the land too. There are only a few counties where you can hunt Osceola turkeys.
I've hunted quite a few Osceola birds before. One hunt that comes to mind occurred when I was hunting in southern Florida below Lake Okeechobee. We hunted all day long the first day and didn’t hear a turkey gobble. We went out the second day, hunted hard from daylight to dark and still didn’t hear a turkey gobble. But I knew the birds were there, because I was seeing tracks, droppings and places where the turkeys had been scratching. On the third day, the air was a little cool, and we heard a turkey gobble twice just after daylight. I could hear the turkey drumming off to my left, so I quickly built a blind out of palmetto palm bands. Then I moved some leaves out of the way, so I could turn without making a noise. I couldn’t believe it! Sitting right beside me was a rattlesnake that was so big, it could’ve been a sideshow in a circus. That rattlesnake never made a sound, and I realized it had been sitting right beside me the entire time I had been in that blind. I must have jumped straight up 2-3 feet off the ground. Of course, I spooked the gobbler. But 2 days later, I took that ole turkey. That was the most frightened I'd ever been when I've been turkey hunting. I'm sorry, but now I associate Osceola turkeys with snakes, alligators and Florida panthers. Hunting Osceola turkeys in Florida to me is like hunting turkeys in Jurassic Park.