With Florida’s Spring Turkey Season resuming March 6th in the South Zone, here’s a list of somewhat random things you should know before the 2010 campaign kicks off.
- Remember, Florida is home to two subspecies of turkey, the Osceola and Eastern. Regardless of what an entrepreneurial outfitter may have sold you, the Osceola resides only in the peninsular section of the state. If you’re coming to Florida to hunt the Osceola, make sure you haven’t booked a trip in the Panhandle.
- Here’s FWC’s list of walk-on WMA’s for those without a quota permit.
- Correctly, a third and fourth subspecies of turkey lives in Florida. The third typically inhabits WMA’s and is particularly dangerous. They can be lured in with a number of calls, a gobble being most effective, and are extremely hazardous to jake decoys in particular. If you suspect this beast roams your woods, take great care in setting up your spread in the morning. The Fourth breed of wild turkey comes in liquid form, and is, more often than not, directly responsible for the actions of the above-mentioned subspecies.
- I guess you should know the legal mumbo-jumbo. The daily bag limit for bearded turkeys is one, while the season limit is two, almost guaranteeing someone will break the law when, after days of fruitless pursuit, a pair of satellite gobblers comes wandering in. Hunting license is $17 for residents, $46.50 for nonresident 10-day license; Management area permit is $26.50 and needed for all WMA’s; and the turkey tag is $5 for residents, $100 for nonresidents.
- Popping a bearded hen is in the Top-Five of my hunting goals. And she’s going straight to the taxidermist when it happens. What a neat trophy, I think.
- You may not use dogs to hunt turkeys, hunt within 100 yards of a feeder, or shoot them from the roost. Why us hunters are held to strict standards is beyond me; it’s not like the toms play by the rules. They should be required to consistently gobble at call, never walk up behind you, and never follow hens to a feeder.
- I hunt with a Mossberg 835 3 ½ Magnum, stoked with Winchester Supreme #5’s. Those who’ve hunted with me on a regular basis know I’ve done some wicked things with this set-up, but I won’t repeat it here for fear of scaring the children. We’ll just say at forty-five yards it’s lethal, and beyond that it’s pretty deadly too. Still, the focus of turkey hunting should be getting the birds in as close as you can. The fact they manufacture shotguns that’ll poke across a cow pasture doesn’t mean it’s a great idea.
- Usually, I prefer to stay put when I hunt, but there are times to go mobile. Two things will make your day so much easier. One, a shotgun with a short barrel, 20-22 inches. You never know how helpful this can be until you go crawling through Florida tangle trying to circle a field bird or what have you. Two, a vest with a seat built in. Yes, they sell stools and chairs, but a vest where you can pull a strap and sit comfortably against the palmettos without toting extra junk is the cat’s meow. Go. Spend money. Help the economy. And your hunt.
- Take a hog with you when you go. Spring gobbler season in Florida is an opportune time to do a combo hunt either during the middle of the day when the birds have shut up and are back in the woods, or after you’ve tagged out. The hogs love the new growth grasses and vegetation of spring, and can be a downright nuisance some mornings. Plan accordingly. (Check with individual WMA regs!)
- Florida is one of the few states where it’s legal to harvest toms with centerfire rifles on private land. But man, if you want to raise the hackles of the faithful, show up to camp with an AR-15 for purposes outside of swine. Ethically, I see nothing wrong. People shoot deer standing in the middle of fields with rifles all the times. What is different with turkeys? As a sporting concept though, especially to those of us who plant decoys and roost birds, it’s akin to fishing with dynamite.
- Decoys, as you may have already picked up, are legal in Florida. One question I can’t completely solve is the jake decoy. I’ve had gobblers charge it, ready to whoop some butt, and other birds high-tail it the other direction on seeing the young foam stud hanging with his blowup dolls. I always carry one, but tend to regard it as a secret weapon anymore.
- Necessary items you should have in your turkey vest: decoys; one slate call, two strikers; one box call; one push peg; a Tom Gaskins call for practical and spiritual purposes; a pair of clippers; toilet paper and Therma-Cell refills. Anything else is extraneous unless you are backpacking into the Green Swamp for a month.
Good luck to you this spring. Gobble, gobble!