Into the Tall Grass: An Essay On Florida Turkey Hunting

Florida Sportsman member flydown contributed this terrific, off-the-cuff tribute to public lands turkey hunting. He posted the following on the General Hunting Forum on Monday, March 26. We thought his words were worth posting for others to see on front page. –Jeff Weakley, Editor

Trophy Room photo contributed by new Member Bow2Bone. That set of 1 1/8-inch spurs belonged to an Osceola turkey killed by Bow2Bone on opening day.


It’s early. Far too early, in fact, for anyone to be up and motivated to hunt turkeys as I set up my blind in the black and settle into my chair.

It’s interesting really, sitting in the woods at 4:45 a.m. scanning for flashlights, ready to light up the eyes of any decoy-toting intruder. Perfectly innocent fireflies cause my blood pressure to spike. The sound of tires displacing gravel ignites my insecurity. I am turkey hunting on public land for the first time in over 15 years as the guest of a permit holder, and I am well outside of my comfort zone.

Gotta get there early. Gotta beat the man to our spot. Gotta leave the house at 3 a.m.. Gotta sit a long time. Gotta kill.

Finally the sky begins to lighten. The whippoorwills slowly go quiet. Sandhill cranes and owls are firing off. Game time.

My setup is less than 75 yards south of a 5-acre cypress/oak head, and my owl hoot at 7:05 cajoles a gobble from a tom residing within it’s confines. Goose bumps now dot my forearms. This is good. I like close birds. I can see him if he flies down east, west, or south. I am in the proverbial cat bird’s seat. I ease out a couple of light tree yelps and then go quiet. Don’t want to over-call to him on the roost. Done that before and learned my lesson. Gotta get quiet.

A single hen decoy 15 yards from me should confirm his suspicions. It could be over early. This could be gravy.

7:20 now and a double gobble from the ground inside the head. Two birds. Nice! Then a hen call. Okay, they have company. Glad I went quiet. Don’t want to create jealously. Birds gobbling every few minutes from the head. Then around 7:45, all goes quiet. Played this game before, I know the drill. They’re with their ladies, doing what turkeys do. I should be golden in a couple of hours when mama heads to the house.

It’s a strange emotion turkey hunters experience during this time of a hunt. You’re not sure if the birds are holding tight or if the hens are dragging them away. All you know is that there is no talking.
Silence is not golden. Silence is torture.

Two hours goes by in a crawl. Time to get nasty. At 10:30 I run a series of hard cuts from a mouth call that draws a hearty gobble from northeast of the head. They’re still in the zip code. Another cut, another gobble. Mr. Tom is loving the hard stuff. Fifteen or so minutes of back and forth and the bird isn’t moving. He has to have hens with him. What the…? Why haven’t they gone to nest? Then a gobble further northeast. Then another. Multiple birds. This is good. My hunting host is on the distant bird I learn by text message. He see’s him. He’s close. Just waiting on the bang.

Then like magic, both birds go quiet. Calls now go unanswered. No gunshot from the east. I get more aggressive and cut harder than ever before. Only silence. The stillness is like a dagger in my back. “What happened to your bird?” comes the text. No idea, I reply. What about yours? I inquire. “He disappeared into the tall grass.”

What happened to my lustful bird? Did I somehow spook him? Did he, after hearing the other bird gobble further east, head off to show him who’s boss? Was he spooked by another hunter? No idea. I never saw him. Couldn’t tell you.

Pleh…

By now, my backside is rather sore from sitting since before Christ, so it’s time to go for a little stroll into the head in hopes of spotting one of the birds on the northeast side of the marsh. I ease into the head and encounter a 3-foot Eastern diamondback doing a bit of sunning. He got a free pass. Lots of turkey scat in there as well. Good looking spot. No wonder they stayed in there most of the morning.
Slip out the east edge and scan the marsh. Nothing. Not even an armadillo.

It’s now close to noon. Back to the blind for some last ditch calling to see if I can get one to shock gobble. No luck.

Game over.

The game is changing, fellas. And I don’t like it one bit.