My first Osceola turkey;
now it’s time to apply for gator permits
By: Tony Young
I hope everyone enjoyed a great turkey season, and I am happy to report that I tagged-out in Florida, finishing my season in local woods, harvesting a nice Eastern with a 9-inch beard and 1 1/8-inch spurs. But the most exciting part is that I took my first Osceola on a great hunting trip with my wife to Martin County, thereby getting my Florida Slam (shooting both subspecies of wild turkeys that reside in the state). And what a true trophy bird and wonderful vacation it was.
My old college friend, Matt McGuire, had been trying to get Katie and me to come down to hunt with him on his good friend Lance Troup’s cattle ranch. So that’s exactly what we did – and that gorgeous property did not disappoint.
I am a lifelong Floridian and have spent the majority of my days hunting the red hills of the Panhandle, so this south Florida landscape was new to me and its beauty captivating. We were there for a three-day hunt, and it was on the second morning when we struck gold.
Matt and Katie sat in a blind we had made from palmetto fronds with three decoys out in front. Matt was doing the calling, and Katie the shooting. I sat in another ground blind 150 yards away with no decoys, and except for some soft, pre-dawn tree yelps, I wasn’t going to make a sound. If the turkeys walked their way, perhaps Katie would get a shot. And if they came my way, maybe I could.
That morning, without hearing a single gobble from the tree, I turned out to be the lucky one when two big toms came in silent from behind me and crossed right in front of my blind. When the opportunity presented itself, I raised my 12-gauge 870 pump and rolled the bigger of the two, and when I walked over and put my hands on him, I realized my first Osceola was also my very first bird to qualify for the Florida Turkey Registry. One spur was 1.5 inches, the other was 1.25 inches, and his beard was 11.25 inches.
A trophy gobbler in any state!
The next couple days, we continued to hunt hard for a bird for Katie, but never could get one within shooting distance before we had to head back home to Tallahassee. But that’s hunting for you. Needless to say though, it was an incredible extended weekend of Osceola turkey hunting in a whole different habitat, and we can’t wait to go back next spring – maybe for a whole week!
Gator permit deadline nears:
Now that it’s May and turkey season in Florida is over, it’s time to apply for gator hunting permits, and that is yet another hunting tradition that my wife and I love to do together every year.
Have you ever wondered how cool it would be to fight and bring into the boat a 10-foot alligator? If you’ve never gator hunted before, to me, it’s a combination of hunting and fishing.
Since 1988, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has offered hunters the opportunity to take part in its annual recreational statewide alligator harvest. These special hunts provide a thrilling, hands-on hunting adventure unlike any other you could imagine.
Alligator season spans about 11 weeks and always runs from Aug. 15 through Nov. 1. Here’s how you can apply for the more than 5,000 permits that will be available.
During Phase I, alligator permits will be issued by random drawing, but you only have until May 5 to apply, so hurry! Applicants will be limited to drawing only one permit during the Phase I and II application periods.
You may submit your no-cost application at any tax collector’s office, license agent or through the Internet at License.MyFWC.com.
Phase I drawing results will be posted after 10 a.m. EDT on May 9. You will have until May 19 to pay the cost of the permit, if you are drawn.
Any permits not purchased by this deadline will be available to apply for during Phase II.
While Phase II was previously a first-come, first-served phase, it is now a random drawing. Hunters can apply for permits during this phase beginning at 10 a.m. May 23 through June 2. However, those who drew a permit in Phase I and paid for it cannot apply during Phase II. And, hunters applying during Phase II must submit a new application.
Phase II results will be posted after 10 a.m. on June 6. Hunters who drew a permit during this application period must pay for it by June 16, or it will again be placed back into the system and be available for all during Phase III.
Any permits remaining after the first two application periods can be purchased during Phase III on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 10 a.m. on June 20 until all are sold. Anyone may participate during Phase III – even those who bought a permit in Phase I or II.
The cost for your first alligator trapping license and two hide-validation tags is $272 for Florida residents and $1,022 for nonresidents. If you happen to buy an additional permit during Phase III, it will cost $62, regardless of whether you’re a resident or not. No hunting license or other permits are required to go gator huntin’.
Each permit allows you to take two alligators from whichever county or body of water you were awarded during a specific harvest period. You must be at least 18 years old by opening day, Aug. 15, to purchase one.
If you don’t have all the gear necessary and you’d rather assist a friend who’s purchased an alligator trapping license, you can pay just $52 for an alligator trapping “agent” license. You don’t even have to be 18 to buy one. This license allows you to take alligators, but only when you’re with your friend who has the tags.
So if you’d like to do some gator giggin’, visit MyFWC.com/Alligator and click on “Statewide Alligator Hunts” for more information on these exciting gator huntin’ opportunities.
Here’s wishing you luck in getting drawn for what could be the hunt of your life. Remember to introduce someone to hunting when you can. As always, have fun, hunt safely and ethically, and we’ll see you on the water!