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GRANT: I really enjoy chasing turkeys and hogs. And the earliest turkey season I’m aware of is in Florida’s southern zone. So, we packed up the gear and headed to south Florida.
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GRANT: The property manager gave us a tour of where we’d be hunting. It was beautiful and we saw two longbeards and several hens. So you know we were excited for opening day.
GRANT: The habitat where we were hunting is primarily pasture, live oaks and a few tall pines. Turkeys prefer roosting in the taller pines. And the pasture we selected to listen in that opening morning had pines on both sides.
GRANT: (Whispering) Opening morning of turkey season – south Florida. Our strategy is gonna be – until we really get the temperament of these turkeys – we’re gonna start with probably two hens. And doing a little scouting yesterday, we saw some hens and they weren’t, like, with gobblers, so we think that a couple hens might bring the gobblers on in. We do think we’re so early in the season. And, and, and then, as we get the temperament of the turkeys throughout the day, we may switch and use that jake in a different setup and seeing how they respond.
GRANT: (Whispering) I’m a little surprised we haven’t heard one yet. Is that a mature bird or a jake?
CLAY: (Whispering) I couldn’t tell.
GRANT: It sounded like there were three or more toms roosted in some distant pines. So, we quickly moved that way; found a smaller pasture that had a dry flag pond right in the middle and set up.
GRANT: Flag ponds are small, semi-permanent wetlands that usually have native vegetation growing in ‘em with large leaves that look like flags.
GRANT: Dry flag ponds are great bugging areas. If you think about it – if a flag pond is dry, the rest of the area is really dry. So, there’s probably more insects in the dry flag ponds.
GRANT: (Whispering) I see him; I see him. He’s pitching out. Here he comes. Come on, baby.
GRANT: We hadn’t been set up long when the first turkey pitched off the roost and landed right in the middle of the flag pond. (Whispering) (Inaudible)
GRANT: The toms were fired up on the roost and vocal once they hit the ground. I made a few calls and saw a tom about 70 yards away.
GRANT: (Whispering) Oh yeah. Bring it on, big boy. Oh, I see him strutting. It’s a full fan. It’s a full fan.
CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah.
GRANT: (Whispering) Come on, big boy. Come to daddy. There you are.
GRANT: (Whispering) Moving to the left.
GRANT: (Whispering) If he gets about to that tree, I’ll take him.
GRANT: Right as the tom appeared, I heard a commotion off to our right. It was a hog.
GRANT: As soon as the hog stepped out, he locked on my Miss Purr-Fect decoy.
CLAY: (Whispering) He’s (Inaudible).
GRANT: Clay and I chuckled as we had a similar encounter last year.
GRANT: (Whispering) I got him dead to rights right there, buddy. You are pork sausage.
GRANT: (Whispering) Look. Look here.
GRANT: I probably had been a little bit too focused on the hog because when I looked around, I noticed the tom had drifted off a bit.
GRANT: The toms were now out of the flag pond and putting on a show.
GRANT: Unfortunately, the toms hung up about 70 yards out. The toms strutted and gobbled, but really didn’t seem very interested in the live hens or our decoys. The temperatures during the winter had been much colder than the previous year in south Florida. In fact, the morning we were hunting, the temperatures were in the 40s. That’s atypical for that part of south Florida.
GRANT: You may recall that the previous year, the same weekend, we were hunting about 30 or 40 miles away and we were slapping mosquitoes and the toms were with hens. We could barely get the toms to bust off the hens. Totally different behavior this year.
GRANT: (Whispering) I almost wonder – they're so responsive to the gobblers. I wonder if we shouldn’t put our jake out.
GRANT: (Whispering) Great start to our turkey season. He wouldn’t quite close the gap. He’s probably in range but I didn’t want to take the shot. Had a hog come out – kind of boogered us a little bit. We’re gonna cut around the corner and get back on him.
GRANT: This setup didn’t result in me punching a tag. But the information I gained served me well throughout the rest of this hunt.
CLAY: (Whispering) I didn’t see any hens. Did you?
GRANT: (Whispering) Oh, yeah. There’s two hens right here.
CLAY: (Whispering) Okay.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah, two hens, are, are all in there.
GRANT: (Whispering) Did you see that hog?
CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah.
GRANT: (Whispering) He was right here. He come right out here.
GRANT: (Whispering) Let’s just cut around that way. It would be quieter for us to go that way through.
GRANT: Once the turkeys drifted off, we picked up our gear and decided to continue exploring the property.
GRANT: We were cutting through some palmettos and live oaks when we noticed some toms out in the pasture. They were in the sun and appeared to be warming up.
GRANT: We got set up without spooking the toms and made a few calls but it appeared the toms had other plans.
UNKNOWN: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
GRANT: They seemed to be drifting off. But all at once, their heads got red and they charged toward the side of the pasture.
CLAY: (Whispering) What are they doing?
GRANT: (Whispering) Oh, there’s, oh there’s a whole bunch running to, there’s a bunch running to the right. (Inaudible)
GRANT: We noticed another group of toms coming out of the timber where the original group was headed.
GRANT: (Whispering) You better call, Clay.
GRANT: The original two toms were outnumbered; abandoned their charge and headed the other direction.
GRANT: (Whispering) Wait a minute. Oh, so they're coming this way.
GRANT: (Whispering) How far is it to the fence, you think, between us and them?
CLAY: (Whispering) 35, 40.
GRANT: We called to the new group of toms – the three toms – and it wasn’t long until they were headed our way.
GRANT: (Whispering) Safety’s off. Aw, he’s closing the distance – coming straight out in the gap. Three of ‘em. Hopefully, they’ll come through this gap.
GRANT: (Whispering) Here comes the second one.
GRANT: (Whispering) I can kill him at that split tree.
GRANT: (Whispering) They're gonna go by us.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah. They’ve heard us.
GRANT: During their approach, the birds stayed out of range; got behind some palmettos; ended up crossing about 25 yards behind us. Having been in similar situations before, I knew it was much better to sit tight rather than try to switch around and take a risky shot.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I’m not gonna move. I’m not gonna move. Yeah. Let ‘em go; let ‘em go. Don’t call. Let ‘em go.
GRANT: A better plan is let the toms drift off; don’t alert them and then you can reposition and call ‘em again.
GRANT: (Whispering) Well, that was close. We had three toms. What we’re seeing is they're probably more interested in toms than hens right now. They just went by us – just a hair out of range. We’re gonna let ‘em go; reposition; probably put the jake decoy out.
GRANT: Now we had two encounters with south Florida turkeys and had a pretty good read on their behavior and it became obvious I needed to put the hen decoys back in my vest and pull out the Jake Purr-Fect.
GRANT: We quietly worked back up the fence row and spotted what we think are the three toms feeding around under some live oaks.
GRANT: This is why I love the Montana collapsible decoys. You can carry a flock in your vest and change based on your read of the current turkey behavior.
GRANT: They were working away from us and I don’t like being behind turkeys. But we felt if we could slide out the Jake Purr-Fect decoy and do some calling, we could turn ‘em around.
GRANT: Keyland was able to belly crawl out; put up the decoy; get back in; we started calling. It didn’t take those toms long to notice.
GRANT: The toms closed the distance but they stayed pretty far off to the side.
GRANT: It was early during the hunt and I was convinced I’d have a better opportunity. So, even though they ended up closing the gap and getting fairly close to the decoy, I passed the shot waiting for a better setup.
GRANT: Those toms drifted off and we were still deciding our next move. We spotted more toms out under the live oaks.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yup. Telephone pole – 60 yards.
GRANT: (Whispering) Safety is off. There’s, there’s three birds, boys. Two of ‘em are pretty far to the left over here. Behind the telephone pole.
CLAY: (Whispering) Grant, you got two coming on your right pretty quick, too. Those two on your right are bigger birds, Grant.
GRANT: (Whispering) How far right?
CLAY: (Whispering) Past this tree in front of you.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah, I see ‘em.
CLAY: (Whispering) They're at 70 yards.
GRANT: (Whispering) I see ‘em.
GRANT: The toms would drift in and out of view. We later discovered there was a low, sandy spot out there and they were probably going there to get some grit.
GRANT: (Whispering) I see three. Where’s the other two? Oh, I see ‘em. I’m on ‘em. The two out here?
CLAY: (Whispering) Grant, to the right of the…
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah, yeah, yeah – I see ‘em.
CLAY: (Whispering) Behind the decoy.
GRANT: (Whispering) I see ‘em. I see ‘em. I’m on ‘em. I’m on ‘em. I’m on ‘em.
GRANT: Four jakes were coming in on a string on this side but the toms were, once again, trying to pass out front.
GRANT: (Whispering) If they get much farther right, I’m gonna take ‘em.
CLAY: (Whispering) Okay.
GRANT: (Whispering) I’m on the back one. I’m on the back one.
CLAY: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
GRANT: (Whispering) Stop him.
CLAY: (Whispering) Okay. Kill him.
GRANT: (Whispering) Thank you, Lord Jesus. (Laughter)
GRANT: We, we earned that bird.
CLAY: How many times did we circle this (Inaudible)?
GRANT: My goodness. Patience paid off; made a clean kill. But goodness, boys, we’ve been, we’ve been there, there, by us here. Then out front at about 50, I think.
GRANT: I knew he was dead ‘cause I was on top of his head. I mean, he wasn’t getting out of there. But, goodness gracious. They came several hundred yards of that set of calling.
GRANT: They were looking at that decoy but they wanted to cruise on through here.
CLAY: Hmm. Hmm.
GRANT: And I said, “Well, I don’t want him to get too far over here to my right.”
GRANT: And, of course, we’ve patterned this gun. We know how – but let’s just see. ‘Cause that looks like – goodness, that’s a ways out there.
GRANT: Any guesses before I pull the trigger here?
KEYLAND: I say 48.
GRANT: 38 yards. 38 yards. It dumped him, too, boy. He didn’t do, he didn’t do much flopping.
GRANT: We dumped him. That was fun, boys.
CLAY: Yeah, that was good one.
GRANT: And you know the great thing about Florida? We can do this all again.
UNKNOWN: Yeah. That’s right.
GRANT: We can get us a sandwich; put a little sunscreen on for me; and do this again.
GRANT: Clay’s thinking to the right. And I’m thinking, “Oh, gosh, those other birds come back to the right.” He was like, “Bigger birds to the right.” And I’m like, “Man, I want to see them.”
GRANT: I was trying to crane over here and as I was turning over, I saw these right here and I was, “Oh, that right.”
CLAY: Did he gobble right here up… (Inaudible)
GRANT: Yeah. Yeah. He gobbled right before I shot. His ole neck come out and he gobbled. And he started coming back in and I said, “Well, now’s a good time.” Boom. Had the ole neck stretched out.
GRANT: Well, let’s go see what he looks like. Man.
GRANT: I, you know, this southern hunting is fun, but these palmettos aren’t near as comfortable as an oak tree back in the Ozarks.
UNKNOWN: No, they're not.
GRANT: You got these daggers in your back. Holy mackerel.
GRANT: All right. We are on safety. This is 37 short yards here.
GRANT: Nice, thick paintbrush. Probably a two-year-old bird. But it’s kinda – look at this – it’s kinda growing on the side. Look at this. It’s kinda growing out the side. And this one is more normal. And they have such beautiful colors.
GRANT: These Osceolas are just, just starting to – look at this, folks. Just starting – hasn’t worn off much. So, just – even though it’s about the same day, literally, as last year when we tagged a tom here with Keyland, they were worn off more. They're just starting to strut.
GRANT: We’re – it seems like it was a much colder winter here. The orange blooms are – the orange trees have much more blooms and it was colder – more nights of cooling for the fruit growers down here.
GRANT: And it seems to have delayed the turkey breeding ‘cause last year they were with hens and they would not respond to our jake decoy at all.
GRANT: They’d flare off of it.
GRANT: And now, they are coming to the jakes who were earlier – were still sorting out dominance. They're not with hens. We need to adjust our hunting strategy.
GRANT: And here’s the telltale sign. They're just not – haven’t been strutting as much. Not worn off as much as the bird last year.
GRANT: Nevertheless, bird down. We’re gonna put this bad boy in the truck and go see if we can't come up on another tom out here. Now that we know kind of chronology of the breeding; the timing of the breeding here and the strategy, I think we’ll have a good hunt the rest of the day.
GRANT: We took some time to talk about the hunt and take some pictures and I was thankful that we patterned the Winchester before we left. I knew the performance of my gun because I've used the same gun and ammo combination for a couple of years now. But I wanted to make sure it was still on. Because I hunt turkeys in some pretty rough country – make sure I hadn’t bumped the scope or knocked it off somehow.
GRANT: When we patterned the gun, I took one shot at 40 yards and it was a wicked pattern.
GRANT: Whoa. I don’t need to walk down there, boys. That turkey is in the fryer. My goodness.
GRANT: The other thing I really like about this load is how even the distribution is. I mean, just look at that. In that 10-inch circle, look how even it is. It’s not all shifted to one side or the other. It’s pretty well balanced all the way through. And that’s at 40 yards.
GRANT: As it worked out, the tom I tagged in Florida was 38 yards. And you’ll notice there was almost no floppage and instant droppage.
GRANT: I just gotta tell you – I’ve been using Winchester’s Longbeard XR shells for a number of years now and for the price point, I don't think there’s a better turkey load on the planet.
GRANT: In Florida, hunters are allowed two turkeys. So, after we’d finished celebrating and enjoying the hunt, we got everything picked up and took off to try to find another tom.
GRANT: We took some time exploring and getting to know the lay of the habitat a bit better when we spotted three hens and a big tom out in the pasture.
GRANT: We felt we needed to do something to get the tom to close the gap, so when they went in a little depression and we couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see us, Clay skidded on out there and stuck up the Jake Purr-Fect.
GRANT: We called a few times and tom would certainly look our way, but he seemed content to be feeding and moving around, then simply drifted off to the edge.
GRANT: While we were waiting to see if the tom would return back in the pasture, Keyland spotted a large sounder of hogs all the way on the other side.
GRANT: Hogs can do a lot of damage to pasture and native habitat. We knew there were hogs in the area and Keyland had been carrying my bow along just in case we saw some hogs while turkey hunting.
GRANT: I think the excitement kind of overtook me; took off the turkey vest; leaned my shotgun against a tree; grabbed a bow and took off.
GRANT: We used trees to gain the first couple hundred yards pretty rapidly.
GRANT: (Whispering) 77 to the closest. 77.
GRANT: Finally, I made the decision we’d leave the cover of that tree and try to cut across the pasture to the shady side.
GRANT: This move is possible because hogs have relatively poor vision. So, the three of us stayed in one line from the hogs’ point of view and scooted across to the timber on the other side.
GRANT: (Whispering) There’s two of ‘em. Right there.
GRANT: (Whispering) There’s 40.
CLAY: (Whispering) Let’s keep going. (Inaudible)
GRANT: (Whispering) 38.
GRANT: (Whispering) 33 on that big one right here. Quartering away from us.
GRANT: (Whispering) She’s gonna go down. She’s down. Porker. Drilled that baby. Did you see that? I mean right there.
KEYLAND: Heart shot.
GRANT: Right there. I mean right there. I’m talking – get down.
GRANT: Come out the shoulder. How’s that for power, boys? That’s a pretty good size (Inaudible) right there. Like, we’re driving the truck back here. We’re not dragging that rascal.
GRANT: That, uh, Clay, that went all the way in and out the shoulder on the off side.
GRANT: And, and that’s the DeadMeat. And I’m only shooting 55 pounds, folks. Because turkey season, I dial it down a little bit. Sitting in the blind and what-not. (Inaudible)
GRANT: Oh, thank you. Oh, yeah. I, I can see the Blood Ring is soaked from here. That did some damage.
GRANT: Man, look at the blood on there. I mean that baby – there ain't no doubt that baby went through the pumper.
GRANT: I love watching beautiful arrow flight. It’s when you let go, you know you ripped the net like you're shooting a basket. And this one went in right here – out the off shoulder. She went, maybe, 30, 40, 50 yards, including the circle. And she was down.
GRANT: This is the first critter I tagged with my new bow. It’s a Prime Logic and a shorter design than the bows I’ve been shooting. It’s easy to shoot and I found the shorter bow was a real asset when weaving in and out of cover and taking a shot in a tight location.
GRANT: This is a perfect eating size hog. They want to get rid of the hogs on this ranch and probably every ranch. And hunting won't control hogs. It’s great sport and great food. You have to trap to control hogs. But this is one less hog that will be making piglets and one less that’s rooting in the pasture.
GRANT: Awesome day in south Florida. Tagged a tom this morning and a hog this afternoon. In Florida, of course, you can hunt hogs on private land with the landowner permission.
GRANT: So, we brought the bow and the shotgun. Keyland was nice enough to carry my bow along. We were sitting on the far side of the pasture – actually saw a tom and three hens. They wouldn’t close the gap. You're allowed two toms in Florida. And so, once we let them pass and trying to figure out what to do, Keyland saw some hogs across the pasture.
GRANT: Golly. Flipped the hog over and here’s the entry hole right behind the shoulder. You can tell. Here’s the should- edge of the shoulder right here.
GRANT: He was quartering away just a little bit; took out the off shoulder. Probably ran 40, 50 yards – a little loop. She was down.
GRANT: Great day in south Florida. No floppage; rapid droppage. It doesn’t get any better than that.
GRANT: We had a great hunt in south Florida. I’ve hunted with Keyland before and he’s an awesome hunting partner. You probably recognize Keyland because he’s with the Flatwood Natives group and he’s done a lot of habitat work here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: It’s easy to understand why the Flatwood Natives group does such great habitat work – because they're good hunters. And good hunters usually understand what type of habitat is necessary for critters to be very productive.
GRANT: Turkey season is just starting and we’ll probably be hunting or scouting almost every week. If you’d like weekly updates on what we’re seeing out in the turkey woods, please subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.
GRANT: Whether you're chasing turkeys or doing a bit of habitat work, don’t forget to slow down and enjoy Creation and make time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.