Hunting the Osceola Wild Turkey

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The Osceola wild turkey is one-of-a-kind. Its only home is in Florida. They have a longest spurs of all wild turkeys and they are by far the most aggressive. Although they look similar to eastern turkeys (and likely interbreed with them), they are smaller and have darker colors. They are tough to hunt, but The Hunting Public’s Zach Ferenbaugh has some tips below to help.

A map of the U.S. with Florida highlighted in orange.


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Florida is a hot spot turkey state for the most obvious of reasons. First, it is the only place in the world to kill an Osceola subspecies gobbler. Second, its season opens up earlier than any other place in the nation. These two factors blend together to make a list of challenges to overcome in order to hunt turkey in this state. The public land gets pounded with hunters. Killing a turkey there is not entirely impossible, but it’s close. Your best bet for a gobbler in the public woods is applying to some of their limited draw areas. 

Private land turkey hunting is a different story entirely. Because of the high value put on these gobblers, both by hunters and landowners alike, getting access to these birds is a tall order. Unless you have a long-lost relative that owns ground down there, you better be prepared to pay an outfitter a couple of grand and to sit on a waiting list for at least a year. In this regard, hunting an Osceola can be similar to hunting a Gould’s, where there are not many birds and they are found in very specific areas. In short, turkey hunting here is no walk in the park.

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Local Intel: The Hunting Public’s Zach Ferenbaugh

“We hunted Florida for the first time to start off the 2021 season. We traveled to the southern zone, which is the only part of the country that holds the subspecies of Osceola. Although there is a lot of public land in the state there are a lot of public land pieces that are limited to hunters that draw a special “limited quota” tag. 

“If a hunter is planning to travel to Florida to get an early start on the season or to target Osceolas, they should make sure to do research beforehand to make sure they know where they can legally hunt without drawing a limited quota permit. 

“When we were there we hunted public land that was not part of a limited quota hunt. Due to the fact that the areas that are open to everyone are so limited, it definitely forces a lot of people into the same areas. There was a ton of pressure early, especially during the first week of the season. But as the season went on the pressure decreased and the action picked up. I believe we hunted there for two full weeks and only shot one turkey on the ninth day. This also may be something to keep in mind if you plan to hunt Florida. Like other southern states with early openers, we tend to see an extreme amount of pressure on public land early in the season but as other seasons open across the country pressure drops back off to a normal level. 

“In southern Florida, the climate is unlike anything we have ever experienced. High humidity and temperatures that consistently made it into the mid-80s to 90s every day made for some uncomfortable hikes and camping conditions. Also, hunters planning to take on Florida should plan to spend a lot of time in standing water, and along with the water expect a lot of snakes, alligators, and other critters you don’t see in very many parts of the country! 

“We have also spent time in northern Florida too. We chased easterns in a mix of planted pine forests and riparian corridors between the vast pine stands. We also were able to hunt from a canoe along several big stretches of public land river bottoms. In conclusion, Florida can be an exciting place to get a unique hunting experience, but with it being one of the few states that is open to hunting in March, if you plan to hunt there during that time expect a lot of other traveling turkey hunters to be doing the same thing. However, for hunters willing to do their homework and think outside the box, Florida can be a fun challenge!”

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FL Regs

Ryan Newhouse

Though raised hunting squirrels and whitetails in the South, Ryan Newhouse has spent nearly the last two decades chasing Western big game in Montana and writing professionally about his travels and the craft beers he’s consumed along the way. He loves camping, fishing, boating, and teaching his two kids the art of building campfires and playing the ukulele. And yes, he’s related to Sewell Newhouse, inventor of the steel animal traps.