It seems like I’ve been on the lucky end of surprises this season. First, Ralph and Vicki surprised me with a Javelina hunt down in Texas in December 2010. Now they surprised me with the opportunity at my first Osceola turkey down in Florida with Uncle Hoppy at Osceola Outfitters.
The day started off slow. Ralph, Vicki, Hoppy, and I had roosted a gobbler the night before on the edge of a fire break back in the swamp, and we were set up on him at daylight. He gobbled his head off in the tree and as Hoppy laid the sweet talk to him, he was answering back. He pitched down from his perch and gobbled a few more times when he hit the ground, each time he was closer. I readied my Benelli and waited for him to round the bend in the fire break, but the wise old boy never showed up. We scratched our heads, trying to figure out what happened, and came up with plan B.
We jumped in the truck and started driving around, glassing some recently burnt fields for strutting birds. As luck would have it, we spotted a gobbler with several hens at the far end of a burnt pasture. We parked, grabbed our gear, went over a ditch bank of an irrigation canal, and started the long walk to the back of the field trying to cut the birds off. When we got there we spotted the hens cutting through a gap in the field headed into the timber, but the gobbler was nowhere to be found. We waited for the hens to move off. Hoppy climbed up on the ditch bank and glassed the gobbler back from where we had just come from, wouldn’t you know it? We started walking back.
About half way back to the truck, we stopped and Hoppy let out a sexy sounding yelp—the gobbler hammered back. Hoppy climbed back up on the bank and spotted the bird, “here he comes” he said. We slowly belly crawled up onto the ditch bank. Ralph was to my left with one camera trying to get another angle of the action, while Vicki, Hoppy, and I stayed together. We all laid on our bellies as we watched the bird close the distance. He got to about 50 yards when he started to go wide to our right and out of range. Hoppy slipped back down the bank and went back to our left, crawled back up the bank and pulled out his tail fan. Hoppy fanned at the bird a couple of times, making the gobbler think another tom was in his territory, it was all the old bird could stand. He turned and started coming back to us. I clicked the safety off my Benelli. The big tom came straight in, walking right down the barrel of my gun. When he got to 20 yards I let my Benelli loaded with number sixes eat. His head snapped back from the impact like a Pez dispenser. He piled up like a ton of bricks and hardly even flopped. I had my first Osceola and boy was it a good bird. Hoppy figured he was at least 4 years old with 1-1/2 inch spurs and a 10-1/2 inch beard. Not only was this my first Osceola, but my best gobbler ever.
Big thanks to Ralph and Vicki for the opportunity, Osceola Outfitters and the entire Kempfer family, and certainly the good Lord above for blessing me yet again with his awesome creations. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, Mr. Reed I owe ya one!