Hunting

Sharing some thoughts on turkey hunting as the season kicks off

My Spring Turkey 2022 campaign has been outstanding so far — and Florida’s overall season north of SR-70 doesn’t even start until Saturday.

For the youth season south of SR-70, my son Harrison and I hunted public land, and he won an Osceola Trophy. It actually attracted a regular season hunt thanks to a renewed permit application for the same location the following weekend. I tagged a gobbler as his guest, and the kid doubled down on a jake.

Then last weekend my daughter Cile knocked down a big 12 step longbarb which charged my lure jake. Luckily, she was a real shooter, and I didn’t have a 20-pound bird cannon in me as I crouched helplessly behind the decoy.

Without a doubt, it was memorable. I’ve had some serious hours in the woods over the past three weekends and thought I’d share some thoughts before turkey season kicks off.

• Some people hit using ground blinds while turkey hunting. Personally, I love using them. They’re wonderful tools for hunting youngsters, but I’ve emphasized the comfort they provide, rather than trying to get my butt stuck between oak roots and piles of fire ants. Age gets to me.

• “Reaping” is a style of turkey hunting that uses a jake decoy as I described above. Essentially, you’re approaching a boss gobbler with this decoy, and tom’s aggression will force him to ignore the 230-pound guy trailing through the mud behind a fake turkey and go into attack mode. Harvesting is an exhilarating strategy; however, anyone attempting this on crowded public land should be Baker Acted for self-harm, as sneaking up behind a strutting decoy can earn a face full of #4s from trigger-happy strangers.

• When you raise children, they say, it passes in the blink of an eye. I never felt this until I calculated how many seasons of youth I had left with my twins before they aged to 16. There are five left, that’s the answer. Maybe then they’ll call the turkeys and carry gear while I sleep, play video games, and open noisy snack packets.

• Demand for Florida quota permits is strong. While hunting for my son’s young, however, it was us and two other groups that registered at the checkpoint, leaving several permits unused. It’s great to handle less pressure, but I’m afraid if they’re not used they might be lost one day. At the very least, know that you can return the permits for others to enjoy.

• Like many, many others, I share my hunts on social media. Partly it’s for bragging. Partly, it’s to interact with a community of hunters. But as I tell my kids and now suggest to anyone getting into this game, don’t dwell on spurs length, beard length, or weight – under those measuring sticks, most mature gobblers are separated by fractions of an inch or a handful of pounds. We do not care? No shame in bagging jakes either.

• Above all, freely celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes. Turkey hunting is a unique experience, especially here where you can enjoy the wild sights and sounds of Florida’s spring. Perhaps from the comfort of a floor blind.

The 2022 spring turkey season north of SR-70 is March 19 to April 24. The season south of SR-70 ends April 10. For more information on turkey hunting in Florida, visit myfwc.com/hunting/turkey