Other than the worldwide and deadly COVID-19 pandemic, it was a perfect morning for Paul and I to be spring gobbler hunting on Florida public land. We had the trailhead to ourselves in Devils Hammock WMA in Levy County. We had come close to connecting with more than one Osceola gobbler here the week before and had a good idea where they were roosting, so our confidence was high. Keep in mind the Osceola, Meleagris gallopavo osceola, which occurs only in the Florida Peninsula, is widely considered the most challenging to hunt of the six wild turkey subspecies. They aren’t as vocal as the Eastern turkey, and often come in without making a sound. But I had my lucky wing-bone call that I made from an Osceola gobbler I killed a decade ago. This call is so powerful, simply having it in my vest is strong medicine. Yelping with it would be a death sentence for any gobbler that heard it, so I also brought my best camera to document the hunt.
Before first light we eased our way to the edge of a creek bottom where we thought the gobbler would be enjoying his last dreams of hot hens before departing this world thanks to a deadly pattern of 12-gauge Federal TSS turkey loads. In short order, a gobbler fired off within 50-75 yards, so we knew we were in the perfect spot! We quickly set out a few decoys and settled into our blinds with great shooting lanes into the bottom, from where we hoped he would soon come strutting into our set-up.
Just as I finished readying my calls and gun, we heard another turkey, a hen, fly down between us and the gobbler. It was disappointing, but we still had hopes of calling him and his girlfriend our way. But he flew down and moved just south of us. He answered our best slutty hen yelps, but it was with that dreaded, “I’m here and I’ve got plenty for you too, baby, come on over.” He gobbled his invitation multiple times as he and his hen moved away.
Ok, time for Plan B. After whispering back and forth, with Paul using the phrase, “Those bastards” multiple times, we decided to move and set up in the area we last heard him. I’ll save the reader further disappointment and just come out with it … no, we never saw him, or even got him to gobble again. After an hour or two we packed up our gear and moped back to the truck. But little did we know the morning’s excitement wasn’t over.
After stowing our gear, as responsible Back Country Hunters and Anglers members, we began picking up trash in the parking area. Paul found a spent 16-gauge shotgun shell and explained they usually have purple hulls, something I didn’t know. A few minutes later, he said “Here’s another one.” As he picked it up, with disbelief we both realized that instead of a 16-gauge shell, he was holding a used purple tampon applicator! With a look of horror of in his eyes, Paul quickly dropped it. After grabbing a disinfectant wipe to dispose of the applicator and sanitizing our hands like our lives depended on it (though I never touched it), we both got a really big laugh out of his misfortune, noting how similar the two objects appear from a distance.
Lessons Learned / Gear: