This story begins way back in 1998, when I started my so-called turkey hunting “career”. My parents had recently purchased a beautiful slice of heaven, 160 acres in Southern Indiana. I remember renting a VHS tape about turkey hunting from our local movie rental store in Huntingburg, Indiana. A quick trip to our local Wal-Mart ensued to buy my first turkey call; A Lynch box call…which I still have to this day. That next morning my Dad and I headed out to our family farm and successfully tricked my first gobbler. I was hooked from day one.
Fast forward 11 years. I had many successful hunts chasing Eastern wild turkeys, but had never really thought about hunting other turkey subspecies. My good friend, and SELFILMED Founder Forrest Breedlove, asked me if I’d be interested in chasing some Rio Grande turkeys in West Texas. With bows in hand, we headed to Texas for the opening weekend of the 2009 season. My hunt culminated on the second day of season by shooting my first archery bird off the top of my hard bodied DSD Jake decoy at only 8 yards. (Video Link Here) It was a great hunt, and a great time with life-long friends.
With both an Eastern and a Rio Grande now in the bag, it was time to chase the next subspecies on the list – the Merriam’s turkey. If you’ve read any of the turkey articles here on the SELFILMED Blog in the past, you’ll know that the Merriam’s turkey was probably the hardest subspecies for me to kill. We started chasing them back in 2011, and it was 2015 before I finally was able to get the monkey off my back. Year after year we’d make the trip back to Nebraska hoping to fill a tag. Year one (2011), none of us were successful in filling a tag. Year two (2012), our group was finally able to put a tag on a bird as SELFILMED’s webmaster Rich Peace and my Dad both killed their first Merriam’s. In 2013, we were down to a Father and Sons trip as my Dad, Brother, and I headed out to Nebraska for the third year. The hunt started off great as Calvin was able to fill his tag. Another year and another strikeout for me. The fourth year (2014), both Calvin and Rich were able to shoot their second Merriam’s. For the fourth year in a row, another strikeout for me. Don’t get me wrong, I had my opportunities through the years, but was just unable to seal the deal. Finally, in 2015 it happened. It was my fifth year in a row of heading to NW Nebraska, and I was finally able to tag my Merriam’s. It was our most successful year hunting Nebraska as we were able to fill a total of 6 tags between the 4 of us.
This year we decided to switch things up and chose to make a trip to Florida to chase the Florida wild turkey (Osceola). The Osceola turkey was the last subspecies I needed to complete my NWTF Grand Slam. My Dad, Brother, and I made the trip down to Osceola County for opening weekend this spring. After arriving a day early to get a little in-person, preseason scouting in before opening day, we hit the sack eager to give the old swamp turkeys a run for their money. Hunting public ground in Florida proved more challenging than the public ground we were use to hunting in Nebraska. The first day of sitting in a blind resulted in a having 4 different groups of hunters walk within bow range of my setup by the time we had to stop hunting at noon. We learned quickly that we had to adapt to all of the hunting pressure…and fast.
Day two I swapped out my trusty Hoyt Defiant 34 for my Remington 870. We also ditched our blinds and most of our gear in an effort to be a silent and mobile as possible. I setup a few times, putting out only my DSD Feeding Hen. It was a pretty uneventful morning hunting until we met up again around 11:30 AM to make the 2 mile walk back to the truck. As we made our way back along the sandy firebreak, we spotted a couple gobblers feeding along the trail. We were instantly back into hunt mode. With only 30 minutes left to hunt, we had to make it happen quick. Dad and Calvin stayed back while I attempted to sneak within gun range. I crawled on my hands and knees using brush to conceal my movement as I made it to roughly 20 yards away. Calvin called lightly trying to bring the birds out from behind the brush. Instead of coming out in front of me within range, the gobblers made a straight B-line towards him. This put the gobblers within 5 yards of me, but on the other side of a palmetto. Those two gobblers lived to see another day, but we were getting closer to filling a tag.
By the third day, we were getting more and more in tune to what we needed to do to put a bird on the ground. If it wasn’t for my impatience, Calvin may have been able to fill his tag on the third morning of our hunt. Again, we found ourselves making the long walk back to the truck without a bird in hand. We hunted hard for the first three days of our hunt, but were unable to connect with any birds. Fortunately we were seeing and hearing birds every hunt. Every day we were getting closer and closer to getting it done. After spending the evening hitting a local fishing hole, we prepped for our last morning to hunt.
When I woke up on the morning of March 21st, something just felt right. We all had a sense of optimism as we loaded up the truck and made the 30 minute drive to the WMA we were hunting. When we pulled into the check station to check in, the check station attendant handed me daily quota permit #21. After wearing #21 playing varsity basketball in high school, and also wearing it playing football in college, it felt like it had to be an omen. As I had suspected, the morning started off with a bang – literally. It wasn’t long after day break when my brother, Calvin pulled the trigger on his Remington and dropped his first Osceola. You can read about his hunt experience by clicking here. I was setup directly across the small creek from him, only about 150 yards away at the time of the shot. After exchanging a few congratulatory texts, I decided to move further west along the creek in an effort to cut off any birds making their way towards the private property that bordered the WMA land. I setup on the edge of the wood-line with a small strip of grass between myself and the palmetto thicket in front of me. The DSD Leading Hen was setup only 5 yards in front of me. It was now about an hour after Calvin killed his Osceola. I made some purrs on my slate call and lo and behold I hear some light clucking off to my right (East). Before I know it, here comes 1…2…3…….7 jakes all coming single file towards the DSD Leading Hen decoy. I slowly shouldered my gun and pushed off the safety… picked out the jake with the longest beard… and put the red dot directly on his head. BANG! 5 yards in front of me laid what I had come to Florida for. My first Osceola turkey, and the final wild turkey subspecies I needed to complete my first NWTF Grand Slam.
I know you’ve probably heard it before, and I know I’ve said it before, but hunting is so much more than just filling a tag. Enjoying God’s wonderful creation, the beautiful sights and smells of the wild, and having the opportunity to spend time hunting with family and friends is what it is all about. Memories that will last forever.
- 12.5 lbs.
- 4-1/2″ beard
- 1/2″ and 9/16″ spurs
- Remington 870 Express Super Magnum
- Hoyt Defiant 34 – 70# 31″draw length
- Spot Hogg – Hogg Father w/ double pin scope
- Gold Tip Velocity Pro 300 arrows
- Firenock nocks and Aerovane II vanes
- Carter Too Simple release
- Grim Reaper broadheads – 125 gr. Carni-four
- DSD decoys – Jake, Submissive, Upright and Feeding Hen.
- HECS Stealthscreen
- Sitka Gear
- Benchmade HUNT Knives
- Tightspot Quivers
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