Just a couple of days before this 2016 interview, I was at another veterans’ hunt. I had a blind built on the edge of a food plot and put a hen decoy out in front of it. The weather was fairly warm, but the wind was blowing. In the afternoons, turkeys usually will look for shady spots to hold into dodge the intense Florida sun. We hadn’t been in the blind very long before a hen came out and started feeding in the food plot, not 10 yards from our blind. She was clucking and purring. Although I had called some before the hen appeared, I never call when I’ve got a hen out in front of me. I know if a hen is in front of you, she may come into your calling, get spooked, start acting alarmed and run off a gobbler. There’s not a better decoy made than a live hen out in front of a hunter’s blind. In just a few minutes, we looked to the right and saw a longbeard coming into the food plot from the same direction that the hen had come. He was shying away from my hen decoy and was walking toward the live hen he could see out in the field. When the gobbler was about 35 yards from the blind, I yelped really loud, and my hunter downed the gobbler at about 35 yards. The gobbler had about 1-1/4-inch spurs, a 9-1/2-inch beard and weighed about 18 pounds - about average for an Osceola gobbler. A 20-pound Osceola gobbler would be rare in the places where I hunt.
Remember that the land where we’re hunting is managed and intensively hunted for deer and turkeys. We do controlled burns, we plant food plots, and we put out feeders for deer and turkeys. We have really good habitat for those deer and turkeys. We not only do the Seamark hunt for the children’s home, we also do a wounded veterans hunt in the fall and spring. In the fall, we host a deer and a quail hunt for wounded veterans and a turkey hunt in the spring. I’ve been managing the Dee-Dot land for wildlife for 18 years, but I’ve been hunting turkeys for 35 years. Mossy Oak started hunting with us 13 years ago when we had our first Seamark hunt. Toxey Haas, Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, Bill Sugg and many of the other Mossy Oak Pro Staffers have hunted with us every year.
I’m really fortunate to be one of the hosts on the Mossy Oak Turkey THUGS TV show, because I get to hunt turkeys all over the nation. I’m hunting in 2016 in Texas with Paul Butski. I also have an Illinois turkey hunt at the first of May, and I count myself as truly lucky to get to travel and hunt all over the country with the Mossy Oak Turkey THUGS. Although there are many of the hunts videoed that I do for the show here in Florida, I also make two or three other trips out of Florida each year. I love to hunt Osceola and Eastern turkeys in the South, but these two kinds of turkeys don’t gobble as much as the Rio Grande and Merriam’s turkeys. Out West the more open land than we have in the South and especially in the Southeast, seems to keep the turkeys out west from being as spooky as the Osceola and eastern turkeys are. The western turkey seems to gobble more that the turkeys in the East, and they don’t mind being called to a lot. The Osceola gobblers that I mainly hunt don’t gobble very much, and the hens don’t yelp very much when they walk around in the woods.I enjoy going out to the Big Sky Country where you can see and hear turkeys at greater distances than we can in Florida or in the East, and I can call much more often than I do here in Florida.