Turkey Hunting In Florida: The Expected and the Unexpected (Episode 381 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

GRANT: To my knowledge, the first turkey season opens in south Florida each year and my friends at Flatwood Natives are gracious enough to have me down and join them for a hunt.

GRANT: I suspect a big part of why the guys at Flatwood Natives are so good at doing the habitat work and growing trees for wildlife tree plots is because they’re hunters themselves and know what it takes to attract wildlife.

GRANT: South Florida’s a long ways from The Proving Grounds. So Clay and I decided it’d be easier to fly. I usually don’t like flying, because there’s not a good way to ship all my gear. But this year, we used the Scent Crusher Totes, which protected our gear while we’re flying and allowed us to clean our gear during those hot Florida afternoons.

ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops. Also by Reconyx, Trophy Rock, Eagle Seed, Nikon, Winchester, Dead Down Wind, LaCrosse Footwear, BloodSport Arrows, Flatwood Natives, Morrell Targets, Caldwell, Hook’s Custom Calls, Montana Decoys, Summit Treestands, Drake Non-Typical Clothing, Howes Lubricator, Genesis No-Till Drill, Yamaha, Fourth Arrow, ScentCrusher, Antler-X-Treme, iscope, BoneView, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and Redneck Hunting Blinds.

GRANT: We posted up by a large live oak just about 100 yards away from a big timberhead, thinking there might be some turkeys roosted there. And just shortly after daylight, we saw a boar moving about 70 yards away. And watching his behavior, you’d have no idea that this area is in a severe drought.

GRANT: (Whispering) First morning of turkey season in south Florida and it is beautiful, gorgeous sunrise. A little bit cooler than normal. The turkeys are quiet, so far. We did see a big boar move by these live oaks. I’m confident we’re getting the action a little later on this morning.

GRANT: Our host suggested we move to a property that had a large citrus grove. And it seemed kind of odd to me to chase turkeys amongst citrus trees, but we have a policy of not guiding the guide.

GRANT: The property consisted of a long skinny pasture about 60 yards wide and almost three-quarters of a mile long and the eastern side of that was some very tall pine trees and the western side was about 100 acre tangerine grove.

UNKNOWN: There you go.

GRANT: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

GRANT: The landowner had noticed the turkeys were roosting in the tall pine trees, crossing the cattle pasture, and spending most of the day in the citrus grove.

GRANT: (Whispering) Hey, we’ve moved east about an hour in Florida. There’s a tangerine grove in front of us. They’ve picked half; haven’t picked half. Long, narrow pasture and roosting trees right behind us. This seems like a perfect setup. I think we’re gonna see some turkeys come out of that grove, because it’s really windy. They like to feed under those citrus trees; move back to roost. We’re gonna cut ‘em off.

GRANT: (Whispering) Deer, deer. Just swing, swing, swing, swing.

GRANT: (Whispering) Folks, this is why decoys work. They’re totally locked on the decoys. Don’t know we’re in the world.

GRANT: (Whispering) They were spooked. Calmed ‘em right down.

GRANT: I thought I’d have time for a nap, but that wasn’t the case. We hadn’t been set up long when we saw a tom up on a berm – a road that surrounds the citrus grove.

GRANT: (Whispering) Come on, baby. Work.

GRANT: (Whispering) Come on, baby.

GRANT: (Whispering) I need you to work.

GRANT: (Whispering) (Inaudible)

GRANT: It was so windy, we could barely hear him gobbling. In fact, I’m not sure we heard him, but just saw his head go out and knew that he was supposed to be gobbling and thought we heard the remnants of a gobble.

GRANT: When I saw the tom, I was feeling confident, because I’d placed a Montana Jake and a Miss Purr-Fect hen out in the pasture. And I knew he could see my setup. I had the jake posed standing over the hen in the breeding position. I really felt that mature tom would come in and challenge the jake decoy.

GRANT: This is usually a great setup for the early season when they’re still sorting out dominance, unless there’s groups of bully jakes working the area; and solo toms will rarely challenge bully jakes.

GRANT: The tom was clearly interested, but he would not approach the decoy setup. And when he drifted off, I started thinking there’s probably some bully jakes in the area and sent Clay out to retrieve the jake.

GRANT: Shortly after, a flock of turkeys went down the same road – several hens and some toms. Once again, they were interested, but those toms were not leaving the hens.

GRANT: We spent the afternoon watching turkeys cruise up and down that road and go in and out of the grove. You may be wondering, “Why didn’t you just get in the grove and go after ‘em?” But I’ve never hunted in a citrus grove before. It looked like really limited visibility and I felt confident that if we stayed by the roosting trees, they’d eventually come out in the pasture and we’d have a shot.

GRANT: Close to fly up time, we spotted some turkeys and it was a bunch of jakes. They spotted our decoy and came right into the pasture.

GRANT: They seemed a little timid around the decoy at first, but that was about to change.

GRANT: Finally, one of the jakes brushed up against the Montana Decoy. If you’re not familiar with ‘em, they’re made out of cut cloth and they look and feel very realistic. Once that happened, those jakes accepted that decoy and did everything to a hen that jakes can do.

GRANT: We watched this for more than 30 minutes, brushing around, on top of, pecking on. In fact, the jakes were there so long, it was literally getting dark; low camera light. You don’t think about low camera light when you’re hunting turkeys and once it got that low, well, the mosquitoes come out of somewhere there was moisture. And I was literally fanning at the jakes, trying to spook them off, so I could get out of mosquitoes. I was so bad that Clay was just saying, “Shoot one of ‘em, so we can get out of here.” Mosquitoes were in our face, in our eyes, up our nose, and finally, I just stood up and started giving the big wave and the jakes still stayed interested in the Miss Purr-Fect Decoy.

CLAY: (Whispering) Just shoot him. (Laughter)

CLAY: (Whispering) I’ve still got light.

GRANT: Heading back to camp, we started forming our plan for the next morning. And given we’d seen multiple toms at different times using that road, we decided to setup there in the morning, opposite the roost trees, and let ‘em come to us.

GRANT: It was a beautiful morning – sun starting to crack, turkeys talking in the pines; it seemed we had the perfect plan. They started pitching down and I was so excited. I was probably hovering above the ground a little bit. Hens were pitching down; gobblers were pitching down. All in the pasture. And it seemed that their morning plan wasn’t to come up to the road where they’d been in the afternoon, but to spend the morning in the cow pasture.

GRANT: Clay and I remained under a citrus tree and watched turkey after turkey after turkey pass by us, just barely out of range, going down the pasture.

GRANT: Once you understand the turkeys’ pattern, it’s much easier to call them if you know where they want to be than trying to call them against the grain on where they’ve already been.

GRANT: Once again, the turkeys skunked us on this property, but I felt I now knew the entire daily pattern and mid-day it’s all about being in the grove. I didn’t know how to hunt the grove, but we’re gonna go get lunch, come back, and give it a try.

GRANT: During lunch, we formulated a plan to walk a service road that goes up the middle of the grove, peek down the rows and try to figure out where the turkeys were feeding, and then, get ahead of ‘em and do some calling.

GRANT: We’d only went a few rows when I spotted turkeys about 100 yards or so down one of the rows.

GRANT: It wasn’t long until I saw a little turkey movement through the citrus trees, and about that time, I thought I heard something.

GRANT: It wasn’t a turkey I heard, but a pickup coming up the service road. One of the field hands was driving right through the grove, saw the turkey and never saw us. He’s looking the other way, drove right by us, went up several rows, and turned on a very loud diesel irrigation pump.

GRANT: Another lesson about hunting in a citrus grove is they irrigate a lot this time of year right before they pick the fruit and we were sitting about a foot away from an irrigation spicket.

GRANT: We moved, the turkey moved, and now, we’re ready for plan c.

GRANT: With the irrigation going and not knowing exactly what the turkeys were gonna do, we decided to work all the way around the grove and setup on the road where we’d seen turkeys the previous afternoon.

GRANT: The road forms a big curve, so we decided to set up at the far end, so we could see all along the curve and see if turkeys were approaching.

GRANT: (Whispering) Clay and I are learning this property. Yesterday, we were on the far side in those tall pines and turkeys kept working back and forth next to the citrus grove. So today, this afternoon, we’re in the citrus grove hoping they do the same thing, go roost in those pines.

GRANT: (Whispering) Are you rolling?

CLAY: (Whispering) Umm-hmm.

GRANT: Well, folks. As soon as we did our interview, Keyland, who’s hunting with us, spots a strutter. I don’t know – what do you think, Clay? 500 yards away?

CLAY: Yeah.

GRANT: Long ways away. Even out of Winchester range.

GRANT: But they’re on the berm and if they stick to the plan…

UNKNOWN: They’re coming this way for sure.

GRANT: … 30 minutes or an hour from now, they’ll be over here.

GRANT: I was shocked that relatively how fast those turkeys closed the distance coming towards our set up.

GRANT: (Whispering) Got to be a tom in there somewhere.

GRANT: (Whispering) Make sure we don’t spook ‘em. Just let ‘em walk by. Just everybody sit really tight.

GRANT: Finally, the flock of hens that we’d been watching this whole time come up the road and are now within shotgun range. For two days now, we’ve been watching these hens with toms following ‘em every step of the way. But now that they’re in range, no toms are in sight.

GRANT: Then, like an answered prayer, way down the road I see two toms coming toward us. Maybe the same two crazy toms that went by us just an hour ago. And they’re putting down some tracks coming toward our setup and those hens.

GRANT: (Whispering) The one on top of the hill.

GRANT: (Whispering) I’m gonna take him.

GRANT: They were closing the distance and finally got within 45 yards or so and I had a bad case of trigger itch. But Clay’s whispering, “No, no, no. Let’s get some footage. Let’s get some footage.” I’m thinking, “We got days of footage. Let me shoot the thing.”

GRANT: (Whispering) Left.

GRANT: The sun was setting and I could tell the hens were getting that twitchy look like they’re getting ready to leave the area and fly up to the roost and I was afraid they’d pitch off right where they were. And once again, I would not have a chance to take a shot.

GRANT: The hens and toms were mingling, pretty much all pointed towards the roost trees, and finally, the hens got in front of the toms and gave me a clear shot.

CLAY: (Whispering) I’m on them, if you’re good.

GRANT: (Whispering) Thank you, Lord.

GRANT: (Whispering) That was an awesome hunt. A lot of patience. Clay, give it to me, buddy.

CLAY: (Whispering) That was awesome. (Inaudible)

GRANT: (Whispering) Man, we’ve been on birds for, yesterday afternoon – just couldn’t make stuff work. And then, this morning, they went by us out of range. And so, we really hunted this by pattern thinking, okay, they roosted there. We’re gonna see if they’ll come back and roost. We saw ‘em come from this way this morning, and the pattern and just a little bit of light calling brought us a nice tom.

GRANT: That baby’s got some hooks, too. I mean some hooks. Yes, sir-y. Well, hey. This was a hard fought hunt.

CLAY: That was a – that was a process there.

GRANT: We will remember this hunt. This wasn’t just sit down, come off the limb, and kill ‘em. This was chase ‘em for a day. Check out the hooks on that thing there. Look at that. Osceolas tend to have a little bit longer spurs, ‘cause there’s no rock here. It’s all sand. They don’t wear ‘em off, but. Man. Look at that. That’s what you come to Florida for, folks. Beautiful, beautiful tom. You can tell where he’s been strutting, dragging. Probably a three-year-old bird based on the spur length, maybe four. His head just got, as they say, a jelly head. Goodness gracious. Beautiful coloration here.

GRANT: Learning how to hunt in the citrus grove was very enjoyable and memorable for me. It’s a technique I hadn’t used before, but I will probably use it again.

GRANT: You’ll notice on the footage that at 31 yards, this tom didn’t flop. He literally was shot and hit the ground. I see that pretty commonly when I’m using the Winchester Long Beard XR. It just throws such a tight pattern – even at 30 yards – that the toms just collapse. There’s no floppage, no loss of feathers, and they make a great tom for mounting. I really enjoyed sharing this hunt with Keyland from Flatwood Natives and the landowner that gave us permission to hunt the grove.

GRANT: We had a great hunt. Just made it back to the place where we’re staying and got under the light where we can really enjoy this bird. And had about a 10-inch beard; we measured it. Big ole thick beard. Inch and quarter spurs. Look at the hook on that thing. Sharp. You know, in the Ozarks, they get chipped off ‘cause of all the rocks, but of course, all sand here in Florida. Very sharp spurs. And of course, just a great experience. Just a – turkey hunting’s just a great way to enjoy Creation.

GRANT: This hunt was certainly entertaining, and more importantly, taught me a lot of lessons about chasing toms in citrus country.

GRANT: You may recall that recently my friend and world champion caller, James Harrison, told us here on GrowingDeer that even though he’s a world champion caller, the most important technique he uses for turkey hunting is patterning turkeys. And that’s, in fact, what we did in south Florida. I hope you have a chance to scout or chase turkeys soon, but most importantly, get outside and enjoy Creation. And every day, slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.