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GRANT: Heck, yeah! Oh my goodness, Clay!
GRANT: It seems we are experiencing unpredictable conditions around the world. Aren’t we all thankful that one thing is a known and will never change? As we enter the Easter season, we know that Christ died and rose again. He is our hope; he is our rock and we can count on that every day.
GRANT: Last week I shared Clay and I were in South Florida chasing turkeys and hogs.
GRANT: Within two days we had a nice gobbler and hog down, but Clay and I still had more time to hunt.
GRANT: This week I’ll share another turkey hunt from that trip and the strategies I use to put more fresh turkey meat in the freezer.
CLAY: (Whispering) Are you kidding me? (Laughter)
GRANT: (Whispering) Man was that beautiful.
GRANT: I believe the turkey season in South Florida is the earliest in the United States.
GRANT: There are five subspecies of wild turkeys in the United States. Easterns range throughout most of the eastern states, Merriams and Rios throughout the western portion of our country. There’s a small pocket of Goulds in the Southwest and Osceolas in the southern part of Florida.
GRANT: I’ve enjoyed hunting Osceola turkeys at the La Hamaca Ranch in South Florida for years. It’s great to get down there chasing turkeys, get some fresh meat before season is open where Eastern turkeys range.
GRANT: I couldn’t be happier to tell you the truth.
JOHN: Me either; me either.
GRANT: Just the way it worked out.
JOHN: Oh yeah.
GRANT: Even though there are several subspecies of wild turkey and the habitat varies significantly throughout their range, one thing is a constant. Reading turkey sign, making observations while you’re hunting and applying that to the current hunting situation is an effective technique no matter where you chase turkeys.
GRANT: Not long after arriving at the ranch, I found fresh turkey sign in the sand.
GRANT: This sign was created by toms strutting and dragging their wing feathers in the sand.
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GRANT: The La Hamaca is a working cattle ranch. It has lots of large pastures and a great interior road system. They do rotational grazing so pastures vary between low, medium and tall vegetation which is perfect for turkey nesting and brooding habitat.
GRANT: The pastures that have short forage and the wide, sandy roads are perfect places for gobblers to strut. Clay and I used this information the first day to set up along the strut zone and had an encounter with a large Osceola.
GRANT: The tom had several hens with him and never closed the distance or responded to our calls.
GRANT: Seeing the large group of hens together indicated it was early in the turkey breeding season and many hens probably weren’t breeding yet.
GRANT: Decoys should be used to communicate a specific message to toms. And based on the information we had, I decided that a single hen may communicate to a tom that she was ready to breed and therefore be a great attractant.
GRANT: During the second morning of our hunt, I set out a single Avian-X hen decoy. That setup, paired with calling, communicated a very effective message.
GRANT: I still had another tag in my pocket. The next day it was rainy, so we basically scouted during the day and then hog hunted that afternoon. But while hog hunting, Clay heard a tom gobble from the roost.
GRANT: We marked our location and the location we thought the gobble came from on onX so we could start planning our strategy for the next morning.
GRANT: After studying the map, I believed the tom would fly down and feed and strut in a pasture to the west. So Clay and I planned to find a location between that pasture and where we thought the tom was roosted.
GRANT: I always prefer being in the line of travel a tom prefers to go rather than trying to call him to a different location.
GRANT: We did not hear any hens by the tom, so I assumed the tom was by himself. Given that, we decided our setup would be an Avian-X jake with an aggressive head overlooking a hen, hoping that tom would come down, see the setup and come in and challenge the jake that was in his range.
GRANT: (Whispering) Clay and I were stalking hogs yesterday afternoon and at sunset we heard a tom gobble from the roost somewhere over here. So we worked our way through the swamp. We’ve never been in here. It’s really dry so we could walk through real easy. He’s already gobbled about three times off the limb. Our Avians are out there about 20 yards. Because it’s so dry, this normally wet area is low vegetation – perfect strut area.
GRANT: (Whispering) I’m gonna let him talk on the limb a while, give him just a few tree yelps to let him know something’s in the area, hit the ground and then try to bring him in.
CLAY: (Whispering) Oh yeah, he’s close, Grant.
GRANT: (Whispering) I see him.
GRANT: Even though I didn’t tag that tom, I made several important observations. As the tom approached, he clearly saw the decoys, but swung around through the brush on the side with the HDR Jake.
GRANT: If you look closely, you can tell this tom keeps a large oak and some palmettos between him and the jake.
GRANT: The tom gobbled, apparently trying to pull the hen to him, but then drifted off the way he came. I interpreted the tom’s behavior that he was a subordinate. He may have been whipped recently. In either case, he didn’t want to mess with that jake.
GRANT: Based on this observation, the following morning I swapped heads on my jake decoy from the aggressive look to one that’s more submissive. That’s a feature I really like about these decoys.
GRANT: (Whispering) There was one.
CLAY: (Whispering) Where at?
GRANT: (Whispering) Somewhere back in there.
CLAY: (Whispering) Pretty far?
GRANT: (Whispering) Huh?
CLAY: (Whispering) Pretty far around that treeline?
GRANT: (Whispering) No, I think from the – past the treeline. Unless your stomach just growled.
CLAY: (Whispering) No.
GRANT: (Whispering) Then, yeah, it was a gobble.
GRANT: (Whispering) It’s a beautiful morning in South Florida. This is the first morning since Clay and I’ve been here that’s broken clear. A little bit of fog, but the other mornings have been cloudy, really high humidity. It’s going to be an awesome day. And given those conditions, as you would expect, there’s some toms gobbling on the treeline probably 400 plus yards away. So.
GRANT: (Whispering) We’ve been through this area and seen birds on this road and going to a little pond right behind us. So yesterday, thinking ahead, we came in here, picked the spot to put our decoys, made a little blind, put some palmettos behind me. So my outline isn’t showing up. Clay’s against a big tree. Got a little bit of grass in front of us.
GRANT: (Whispering) Decoys are out there 30 yards. Got a jake and a hen. Because we think there’s at least four toms in this area and some jakes. So that jake tending a hen may be the perfect setup to get those toms coming in close. This is gonna be a fun hunt.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah, they’re gobbling on the limb, man. I’m not calling because we know we’ve got a good setup and we think they’re coming this way. I want to let them get on the ground, see which way they’re gonna go. Then I may give a yelp or two, but not much until they get in close.
GRANT: (Whispering) I don’t think they have hens with them because they’re all yapping at each other.
GRANT: (Whispering) That sounded like it’s on the other side of the timberline.
GRANT: (Whispering) Oh, that didn’t. Oh, he’s on the – he’s on the berm. I see him. He’s strutting on the berm. Don’t move. He’s coming up the berm towards the decoys.
GRANT: (Whispering) He’s a good bird.
GRANT: (Whispering) If he goes by (Inaudible), I’m going to get my gun down.
GRANT: (Whispering) He’s in the weeds, in the tall weeds. Are you on him? Do you see him, Clay?
CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah, I see him.
GRANT: (Whispering) Tell me when his head’s down, and I might get my gun down.
CLAY: (Whispering) Go, go, go. Stop. Okay. Okay.
GRANT: (Whispering) He’s on the other side of those weeds.
GRANT: (Whispering) There he is. He’s coming.
CLAY: (Whispering) Yep.
GRANT: (Whispering) Man, that’s pretty.
CLAY: (Whispering) Yeah.
CLAY: (Whispering) Are you kidding me?
GRANT: Man, was that beautiful. I’m talking – it was just – that was so stunning. The sun coming through the fan. My goodness. It was just – those birds were roosting. We heard some toms roosted all the way in the far timberline.
GRANT: And some drifted off this way – just, one come straight up. Just did a little call. Come straight up. Actually got here quicker than I thought. My gun was still up. I had to move it down when he went below the ditch.
GRANT: And man, that full fan. That head colored up. You can tell I’m still excited. Locked on that jake decoy. We set up with the jake looking at the hen. I mean, he locked on the jake, stood right there. There might be a pellet in my jake. I saw where he had rumbled just a little bit, but. I was watching the show. Then he stuck his head up and it was just perfect.
GRANT: Took the shot and I mean – man! Second turkey down in Florida. Man, I’m filming Clay now and hog hunting. This is awesome. And this is a beautiful setup. You dream about this. I don’t even know what time it is, but we’re —
CLAY: Early, that’s for sure.
GRANT: – 10, 20 minutes into the hunt. Heard him gobbling on the roost. This is as classic a turkey hunt as I have. I mean, man! Man! You want to go check out what we got?
CLAY: I’ll take a look at it.
GRANT: Heck, yeah!! Oh my goodness, Clay.
CLAY: Got some hooks on him?
GRANT: You knew that was the man walking up, but what you didn’t know was that.
CLAY: Holy cow!
GRANT: That is a man! I mean it. Check that out!
GRANT: What a thrilling hunt. I was glad to fill my second tag and have more turkey meat for the cooler.
GRANT: As I reflect on that hunt, there are several lessons I’d like to share.
GRANT: Reading turkey sign and behavior and understanding the current phase of the breeding season is important to being a successful turkey hunter.
GRANT: By watching a tom’s response to my decoy setup one day, I made the decision to swap out the jake’s head, put a more submissive looking head on, put it out the next day and it was obvious that tom came right in.
GRANT: In big pastures, which is common in Osceola habitat, if you call without decoys, oftentimes the toms will come in 70, 80, 100 yards, look, not see that hen and drift off. So we put a hen over here looking away so a tom would want to swing around. And the magic is knowing there were some mature birds in this area, putting a jake looking at the hen. Boy, they can’t stand that.
GRANT: You get in a big tom’s range, put a jake overlooking a hen, he’s gonna come in. And this morning, exactly what we thought. Rather than going to the hen, he comes to the jake. That’s a great setup, especially for this time of season – first week of season here in South Florida.
GRANT: The tom didn’t show any sign of breeding yet – hadn’t worn off feathers off the bottom, but he’s been strutting a lot. Really working on that dominance. He’s coming right to the intruder.
GRANT: Decoying strategies change throughout the season. And those changes are primarily based on the dominance of the birds you’re working and the stage of the breeding season.
GRANT: That was the case during this trip as a few days later, Clay set up on some toms that sounded much more aggressive. So we pulled out the aggressive head, put it on our jake decoy and I can’t wait to share those results with you next week.
GRANT: After Clay tagged a nice tom, I did some spot and stalk hunting. Whoo, it was fun! And I’ll share that also next week.
GRANT: If you would like to chase Osceolas in South Florida at the La Hamaca Ranch, contact John Horn, the ranch’s wildlife manager, and start planning your turkey hunt.
GRANT: Whether you’ve got plans to go turkey hunting or do some habitat improvement projects, we’ve got lots of how-to videos at GrowingDeer.com.
GRANT: Turkey season is underway in a lot of states, but some states have still got a little snow on the ground. No matter where you live, take time to get outside and enjoy Creation, but more importantly, take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
CLAY: You thought you were gonna have to sit all day today.
GRANT: I got – you know, to be honest, I got up and prayed this morning. Man, I was just literally – I mean I was just…
GRANT: – Lord, bless us with this hunt today.
GRANT: Let me sit there. We heard several turkeys back in there.
CLAY: There was a pile of them back in there. And there’s more even further back…
GRANT: Yeah, yeah.