By Jenna Taylor
Photos by Hunter Forbes
Florida’s spring turkey season came in on March 18 and runs through April 23. If you’ve never turkey hunted in Florida, here are some things you will need:
1. Hunting License. For residents, $17. Nonresident 10-day license is $46.50.
2. Management Area Permit (if not hunting private land). It’s $26.50, or you can sign up for a quota hunt. More info at myfwc.com.
3. Turkey Permit. $10 for residents, $125 for nonresidents.
4. Turkey Call. Diaphragm, friction, box, etc.
5. Locator Call. Crow, owl, etc.
6. Turkey Vest. To keep all your calls in, with attached seat or foldable hunting lounger to sit in.
7. Shotgun. 20-gauge or 12-gauge, or compound bow.
8. Extra Full Choke.
9. Shotgun Shells. I use a mixture of 5, 6 and 7.
10. Ghille Suit or Camo.
11. Decoys. I use two hens and a jake.
And here are some things you need to know:
Get familiar with the land. Now that you have everything you need to turkey hunt, we can talk about how to find and effectively hunt them. The woods in Florida are thick and lack the fields that you use in the northwest to locate turkeys. Therefore, you must first be familiar with the land that you’re hunting. Locate an aerial map to find creek bottoms, pines and small fields, if there are any.
Locate them. You will want to set up near these areas and first use your locator call (owl or crow) to hear for any gobbles. From there, you will move closer to where you hear a gobble to set up your decoys. I use two hens and a jake, setting them out in any opening that I can find. You want your decoys to be seen from as far as possible. Turkeys have excellent vision during daylight hours. They can see in full color and have a very wide field of vision. Their eyesight is about three times greater than that of a human’s. Therefore, you will want to move around but be careful of the open spaces and firebreaks, where they could have a chance of seeing you before you see them.
Talk turkey. You will want to utilize your turkey calls to talk back and forth with any hens in the area, but be careful not to overcall. You also want to minimize calling the closer they get in case they see any movement.
For this specific bird, Hunter and I had planned a hunt on some private land in DeFuniak Springs. It was opening day and we hadn’t had much luck that morning, so we decided to give the afternoon a try. As we were walking up to the field along the fire break, we spotted two toms in the opening of the field. They were about 150 yards ahead of us and, shockingly, they didn’t see us walking up.
We slowly made our way into the tree line and set up on a tree. Hunter crawled out to the firebreak and set out a jake decoy and two hens. As he was crawling back, he noticed that the two toms had already seen the decoys and were coming our way. Within a matter of minutes, the two toms were in full strut 20 yards ahead of us. I already had my gun up and ready when the one in the front walked right in front of my barrel.
Jumping up, we saw the other tom fly back in to the field to live another day. Hunter gave me a big congratulatory hug, and we called it a day. Organic wild turkey meat was on the menu that night and for many others. This is why we do it.