TURKEY TOWN, Fla. — This was never going to work.
I was on all fours, only a Remington 870 separating the palms of my hands from the sand rut of a narrow road, crawling toward a monster Osceola longbeard 50 yards distant. He was slowly feeding his way in the opposite direction of where I crouched. My only chance was to try and cut the distance, perhaps 15 yards, by inching my way forward when he ducked his head to take a bite of whatever turkeys eat in the palmetto trenches of a dim, Florida country road. As I slid one hand forward, he pecked, then swallowed. My knee followed as he pecked again.
This was never going to work.
Only four hours earlier Chris Horton (BASS Conservation Director), Jesse Simpkins (Director of Marketing for Plano Molding) and I had been in the truck, passing the sign on Hwy 27 near our hunting grounds that read "Turkey Town."
Our turkey trek had brought us to Turkey Town, Florida in search of perhaps the most prized bird in the Grand Slam lot: the Osceola. Just outside of Chiefland, we were hunting with Ted Jaycox of Tall Tine Outfitters on the Lucky Warrior Ranch. It took very little time to realize the town was aptly named.
After quickly unpacking our gear and throwing on our camo, we hopped in the truck for an afternoon hunt. It was only 3 p.m., and the sun wouldn't set until 7:15. Our main goal was to get the lay of the land, as we'd be hunting the same areas the following morning. The wind was howling, 15- to 20-mph gusts were bending the tops of the planted pines.
"I'm going to put each of you in areas where I've heard multiple gobblers," Jaycox explained. "You might want to just sit tight over a decoy setup near the roosting areas. They likely will not be vocal this evening, and the wind is going to make it very tough for the birds to hear your calls," he continued.
Simpkins was dropped off first, then Horton, then me. My blind looked down two intersecting roads -- both perfect strutting lanes. Behind me were big hardwoods, in front of me rows of mature pines. Jaycox had left me with an aerial photo of the area. I noticed that the road in front of me led to a big food plot. So, before setting up shop at the intersection, I decided to take a look at the plot for the hunt the following morning.
I had made it only 30 yards down the road before a big turkey appeared. I raised my binoculars and noticed the bright red head and 8 inches of beard before he stepped into the woods.
Good sign. If I could get around him and set up, I liked my chances.
As I neared the food plot, I noticed a hen dusting herself in the near corner. Once she finished, I moved in and set up 15 yards off the corner of the plot. Within minutes, another hen appeared, and fed her way across the field.
The sun was getting low and the wind was relentless. I was going to give this spot another 10 minutes before I headed back to my blind. Five minutes later, a big gobbler popped up on the other end of the field 150 yards distant. I was certain this was the guy I saw in the road. I cranked hard on a box call, cutting with intermittent yelps … to no avail. No way this bird could hear me with the wind was in my face.
For a moment he went into half strut. I lifted my binoculars and noticed a hen in the corner. He turned and followed her into the woods. Bad deal.
So, I gathered myself and started walking back towards my original setup when I heard the shot. Horton was situated about 500 yards away on another road.
"Bird dwn!" Was the text I received from him minutes later.
"Bstrd!" was my response.
He had been set up over a decoy, calling intermittently when he heard some hens get excited behind him. Several of the ladies walked by him at just a couple of yards, fed around the decoy, then started moving down the road. Between the commotion of the hens, his calling and the decoy in the road, two gobblers became very interested.
"It was awesome. Both longbeards strutted their way down that road towards those hens," he explained.
"About the time one dropped off into the woods about 30 yards away, a 4-foot black snake crawled up to my boots, lifted his head 12 inches off the ground and stared at me! And I'm petrified of snakes!"
Luckily, the snake lost interest, but the gobblers did not. Horton identified the bird with the longest beard and shot it in the head at 30 steps.
His Ocseola had a 9 ½-inch beard and 1-inch spurs, a fine trophy by anyone's standards.
I put my phone in my pocket and headed back up the road. It was 20 yards later when I stumbled into the big turkey feeding in the ruts. I pulled my binoculars up and saw his beard dragging the ground as he bent over to eat.
The wind was howling, he was very slowly feeding away from me and there was enough bend in the road and nearby brush to mask my outline. There was very little chance of me backing up and getting around him before he flew to roost. So, only option was to be aggressive.
And the Turkey gods were looking after me. I was able to close the distance in a matter of about five minutes. When the gobbler would raise his head, I'd freeze. When he'd eat, I'd slowly crawl. When I felt I was within 30 yards, I slid to my belly, shouldered the shotgun and fired.
As he started flopping, I jumped up and ran towards him knowing that I got away with something. This turkey had a 10 ¼-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. My biggest Osceola ever.
As I stood over it, all I could think was that should have never worked.
But in Turkey Town, it seems anything is possible.
Author's note: If you are looking for an Osceola hunt for next year, call Ted Jaycox (352-895-6736). He has had 100 percent opportunity for his hunters over the past eight years. Only two hunters missed (one was bow hunting). E-mail Jaycox at Ted@TallTine.com.