I poach posts from this website all the time for my other blog, Good Hunt - think it's about time to cut back across the grain. If you've not checked out Good Hunt or Polk Outdoors, please do so.
Hope everyone's had a great hunting season, and I'll get to some original material soon enough!!!
"You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow; This opportunity comes once in a lifetime" - Eminem
So one of the neat things about hunting some of Florida's WMA's is the opportunity to harvest a hen turkey during the fall, ostensibly while deer hunting. I can't imagine anyone would set out to do such a thing as its own hobby, so its gotta be a Luck of the Draw kinda deal. All I know is the rules prohibit private land hunters from doing so.
The only wrinkle is, you've got to shoot them during archery season. No easy feat on a 8-10 pound bird.
I first noticed this quirk in the regs while hunting Upper Hillsborough WMA several years back. Ever since, I've been unable to get this challenge out of my mind, but the opportunity to stick an egg-layer has never presented itself.
Why I care about such an esoteric pursuit is beyond me. It could be because I know no one else who's accomplished such a thing. Just look at all these variables involved and you'll understand the magnitude of this accomplishment. You'd be a hero.
Skittish Hen Turkey + Public Lands + Bow & Arrow + 20 Feet Up a Climber = Hunting Immortality
Straight to the taxidermist if success ever smiled on me.
So there I was last Saturday afternoon, lounging in my Summit Viper at the aforementioned Upper Hills WMA. One of the weird things about hunting Upper Hills is that it is very close to Sky Dive City in Zephyrhills. From dawn til dusk, all you hear is the drone of Twin Otters ascending to the proper altitude and descending back to the airfield. In between will come the sound of the violent unfurling of parachutes. Hold an empty plastic grocery bag out of the window next time you drive home from Publix, then magnify that noise by 100. Add that to the throttling engine noises and this should give you an idea of the cacophony associated with pulling a tag on this property.
All. Day. Long.
Anyhow, it's noisy hunting and almost impossible to discern the crunching of hoofbeats through the dry leaves of the cypress swamps, a near necessity to know when something is approaching in that thick environment. But crunching footsteps I did hear. Whatever it was made a ruckus.
It was about 3:00. I slowly rose from my seat, clipped my release onto the bow string, gently placed my iPhone down, and awaited what I was certain would be a big buck slip by my stand.
We've all been afield and heard thrashing in palmettos and expected something grand like a 10-point or giant boar or Swamp Ape to emerge from the shadows only to be disappointed and underwhelmed by an armadillo. This feeling was similar, but the disappointment shed quickly when I realized I might have my 1st shot at that hen I've long coveted.
A skinny bird, she took her time, slowly meandering through the bald cypress. She wasn't 30 yards away straight ahead, but the shooting lanes were all clogged - for an arrow, at least. A case could be made for a clear shot had I been allowed any sort of firearm. But, then, that wouldn't be part of the mystique, would it?
She'd have to hit spots 10 yards in front or 20 yards to either side to be in the money. The way she was trending, though, a shot was, for certain, in my future.
I figured I'd have at least a little wiggle room for movement, being that I was 25 feet up a tree and all, so I shifted just slightly anticipating a shot to my right. Well, on a breeze-less day, this rustled the branches of a tree that leaned against the cypress I had climbed.
Bang! The element of surprise was gone. She was alarmed.
The hen would poke her head up to look around for a few moments, take a couple steps and repeat. Minutes turned to hours. My heart was racing and brow dumping sweat now. She was so close to a clean shot, just a few more steps...
When I thought she was obscured from view behind one final myrtle, I pulled my PSE back, knowing her next four strides into the open would be her last. Somehow - somehow - she caught me and turned 15 yards into 35. She paused on a fallen log and I released the Rage hoping the Force or Lady Luck or a fortunate wind would direct my arrow into the Kill Zone.
Today I feel like a kicker who missed the winning field goal of the Super Bowl. A slugger who struck out with 3 on and 2 outs in Game 7. I've had a couple 2-hour breakfasts alone to ponder this tragedy and realized alcoholism and a tell-all book is my future now - which is pretty depressing since I've essentially told all already.
If you've ever had success plugging a hen Osceola in the state of Florida with a bow - legally - please share.
Those of you who have missed, like me, counseling sessions are every first Tuesday of the month at Bass Pro in Orlando.