Outta' the Woods

Tony Young, FWC

Hunting articles by Tony Young, the media relations coordinator for the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Division of Hunting and Game Management. You can reach him with questions about hunting at Tony.Young@MyFWC.com.

Talkin' Turkey

Tony Young, FWC, 850-488-7867
March, 2010

If you haven't already started, it's time to brush up on your turkey calling, 'cause spring gobbler season's here. Whether you prefer to use a mouth call, box call, slate or any combination, March means it's time to start talkin' turkey.

One of the most coveted and sought-after game species in Florida is the Osceola turkey, also known as the Florida turkey. This unique bird is one of five subspecies of wild turkey in North America.

The Osceola lives on the Florida peninsula and nowhere else in the world, making it extremely popular with out-of-state hunters. It's similar to the eastern subspecies (found in the Panhandle) but tends to be a bit smaller and typically a darker shade with less white barring on the flight feathers of its wings.

The white bars on the Osceola are more narrow, with an irregular, broken pattern, and they don't extend to the feather shaft. It's the black bars of the Osceola that actually dominate the feather. In conjunction, secondary wing feathers also are darker. When the wings are folded across the back, the whitish triangular patch formed is less visible on the Osceola. Osceola feathers also show more iridescent green and red colors, with less bronze than the eastern.

The National Wild Turkey Federation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recognize, in their respective turkey registry programs, any wild turkey harvested within or south of the counties of Dixie, Gilchrist, Alachua, Union, Bradford, Clay and Duval, to be the Osceola subspecies. Eastern turkeys and hybrids are found north and west of those counties in the Panhandle.

The highly anticipated Spring Turkey Season comes in first in the South Hunting Zone and runs March 6 - April 11. In the Central and Northwest hunting zones, except for Holmes County, it runs March 20 - April 25. In Holmes County, the season runs March 20 - April 4.

Hunters may take bearded turkeys and gobblers only, and the daily bag limit's one. The season and possession limit on turkeys is two, except in Holmes County, where the season limit's one.

Shotguns are your best choice when hunting turkeys, but if you're so inclined, you may use other firearms, including rifles, muzzleloaders and handguns, or you can try your luck with a bow or crossbow.

Shooting hours on private lands are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, but on wildlife management areas (WMAs), you must quit hunting at 1 p.m.

Of course, you can use turkey decoys to help entice that stubborn old tom, but you're not permitted to hunt turkeys with dogs, use recorded turkey calls or sounds, or shoot them while they're on the roost, over bait or when you're within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when feed is present.

Besides a hunting license, you'll need to buy a turkey permit. For Florida residents, that costs $5. For all the out-of-staters seeking an Osceola to complete their "Grand Slam," the permit costs $100.

If you plan to pursue a gobbler on one of Florida's many WMAs, you also must purchase a management area permit for $26.50. Don't forget to obtain a WMA brochure for the area you wish to hunt at MyFWC.com/Hunting or from local tax collectors' offices, because dates and rules can differ for each area.

Florida offers numerous public hunting areas, and if you didn't apply or get drawn for a special-opportunity or spring turkey quota permit, don't fret 'cause there are several WMAs that don't require them. With a hunting license, management area permit and turkey permit, you may spring turkey hunt one the many wildlife management areas.

Visit MyFWC.com/Hunting - to download the rules and regulations on each of the management areas, including maps. These brochures also are available at tax collectors’ offices in counties close to wildlife management areas.

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