Turkey Hunting: A Different Kind Of Wonderful

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The state of Florida is certainly a “different” place.  Just as the Lone Star state of Texas proclaims to be a country unto itself, Florida is a state whose cultural and geographic characteristics give it a separate identity.  What other state has pristine beaches, swamps, alligators by the millions, world famous theme parks, and its own subspecies of wild turkey?  Yes, the state of Florida truly is different, and the mysterious Osceola turkey is a principal reason, at least among passionate turkey hunters.

If you were to poll every turkey hunter in the country and ask them what hunt they would like to go on before “kicking the bucket,” hunting Osceolas amidst the palmettos and live oak groves of the Sunshine State would rank towards the top.  Because the Osceola is only found in peninsular Florida, it is essentially land-locked, and its slowly evaporating home range is creating a sense of urgency with out of state hunters needing the swamp demon in order to fill their grand slam.  With the Osceola inhabiting a unique and different part of the world, it has almost a mystique about it, one in which champion caller Scott Ellis of Mulberry, Florida knows all too well.

“Hunting the Osceola is both a blessing and a curse,” admits Ellis, who has hunted the prized bird for over 25 years.  “Even though they are beautiful birds, and are hunted in a cool part of the country, they are also very difficult birds to harvest, partly because they are less vocal than other subspecies.  They are notorious for gobbling a few times on the roost then going silent on the ground.  When turkeys gobble sparingly, it makes it tough to pinpoint them and setup properly.”

Ellis believes that the longer spring breeding season forces turkeys to break up more efficiently, leaving more solo gobblers with a harem of hens.  “When you have solo gobblers that have five, six, or more hens all to themselves, they do not need to gobble as much.  This is a very frustrating part of hunting the Osceola, but one you simply have to accept as a part of the deal.”

Ellis, an incredible caller who has amassed over 20 Florida state calling titles and is consistently in the running for the Grand National calling championship, feels being proficient with the full range of the turkeys’ vocabulary has helped him when hunting the Osceola.  “Whether you are hunting private or public land Osceolas, it is important to sound like real hens and not your run-of-the-mill caller.  I try not to overcall, as the Osceola is somewhat of a shy bird and typically will not respond to overcalling.  When I begin my calling sequence, I am simply trying to get his attention, and will adjust my calling sequences accordingly if more excitement is needed .”

“Because the terrain can be segmented by thick palmettos or pockets of water, I try to get as close to the gobbler as possible before ever making a sound,” says Ellis.  “I will use a locator call to keep tabs on his position.  I feel the closer you can set up to a gobbling Osceola before making a sound, the more likely it is that he will make a quick look for the sexy hen is hearing.  In this case, it is game over!”

One hunt that took place in the 2007 season on a tract of public land in central Florida defined Ellis’ belief in getting close.  “I got a tip that a certain bird on this tract of land was a tough customer, and had given everyone that had hunted him fits,” recalls Ellis.  “So my filming partner, John Applewhite, and I decided that we would accept the challenge and go after ‘Mr. Tough.’  It was the last weekend of the season, and we did not know the lay of land, so we had to adjust on the fly.  We set up on him from afar, due in part to the open terrain, and while he gobbled at our calls, he would not move any closer.”

“We decided to get tight with him, and used a crow call and terrain to get within 75 yards of him before setting up.  I began by yelping softly and clucking and purring.  After about fifteen minutes of two or three ‘hens’ feeding in his living room, he decided to close the gap to check out the new ladies.  When he got to thirty yards, a load of number 6’s ended the suspense and gave us a win over a tough public land Osceola,” smiled Ellis.

“If you get the opportunity to come to Florida to hunt the Osceola, do it,” said Ellis.  “Hunting the Osceola is a tremendous challenge for all hunters, and takes place in a beautiful setting.  Just remember that they are slightly different customers than other subspecies, and you have to adjust your game accordingly to be successful.”

Scott Ellis is a champion caller, hunter, and freelance outdoor writer from Mulberry, Florida.  He serves on the pro-staff for Woodhaven Custom Calls, Ol’ Tom, TruGlo, and ThermaCell.  He has recently produced an instructional DVD, "Mouth Call Magic," designed to help turkey hunters master the mouth diaphragm.  For more information on Scott, or to order a copy of "Mouth Call Magic," visit his website:  http://www.scottellis-eliteturkeyhuntingandcalling.com!

Wild Turkey Report Staff
Wild Turkey Report is the internet's new destination for information on the sport of turkey hunting. Follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wildturkeyreport and on Twitter @wildturkeyreprt!
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