provided by John Phillips
Turkey hunters usually follow a progression as they mature and save their money. The first thing they want to do is take turkeys. Next, they try to call up their own turkeys and take them. Then they hunt and take several gobblers where they live. Their next goal often is to go out of state and take a species of turkey they’ve never hunted before. The last great challenge is to take a Grand Slam of all the species of turkeys in the U.S., with the toughest-to-take turkey being the Osceola gobbler, due to his very limited terrain in Florida. Most of the property where he lives is privately held, and the public land that’s available is often crowded. However, Mossy Oak Pro Shane Martinez of Sebring, Florida, is a master of taking Osceolas on public lands. Martinez shares his strategies for finding and taking these elusive gobblers.
I usually try to park 400-500 yards away from where I’m going into the Florida woods when hunting Osceolas. If the night has a full moon or is really bright, I’ll turn off my truck lights 300 or 400 yards before I reach my parking spot. I really believe these turkeys know what truck lights mean. I usually will leave a stick or Bright Eyes (reflective thumb tacks) stuck into a tree facing the road. If I’ve done my scouting before I hunt, and there’s enough light by the moon to see, then I won’t turn a flashlight on when I go to my first spot.
There’s really not much difference in costs involved in hunting Osceolas - whether you’re a resident of Florida or a non-resident hunter - except for the license. A non-resident 10-day hunting license is around $47. To hunt the Osceola turkey costs an additional $127 for a turkey stamp. A problem that non-residents encounter and many in-state hunters who aren’t familiar with hunting in this type of terrain is that on cloudy or rainy days, often the swamp all looks the same. Luckily, I haven’t ever gotten turned around for more than 45 minutes and always have been able to figure out where I needed to go. If you’re not familiar with this type of terrain, I strongly recommend that you have a GPS, or you use the onX Hunting App and store the maps in your phone or GPS. Then even if you can’t get service, you can see where you are, where your truck is parked, and how you get back to it. I carry my cell phone with me and keep it in a Ziploc bag to be prepared in case of rain while I’m out hunting. I usually always mark my truck as a waypoint. That way I’ll know how to get back to the truck from anywhere I’ve been hunting.
I have been fortunate in hunting Florida’s Osceola turkeys on public land to either go into an area I know really well. If I go to a place I don’t know, I’ll usually take a friend who knows that region and understands how to get back out. Another suggestion for a newcomer is always bring extra batteries for your GPS and/or some type of cell phone charger as well as a compass. That way, if your electronics for some reason don’t function properly, and you need to know the direction you must walk to return to your truck, your compass may be your new best friend.
For more information about hunting Osceolas in Florida, visit: https://myfwc.com/hunting/turkey/get-started/safe-hunt/ and https://myfwc.com/hunting/turkey/.