Hunting Articles

Age Estimation by Spurs

Spur Length Age
7/16" or less 1 yr old (Jake) - High middle tail-fan
1/2" to 15/16" 2 yr old - Full (even) tail-fan
1" to 1-7/16" 3 - 4 yr old
1-1/2" to 2-1/4" 5 yr old (+)

*The margin of error in age estimation increases in hilly and rocky areas of the country where birds are more likely to have worn or broken spurs.  Margin of error also increases when birds develop spurs 1-1/2" or longer.


Grand Slammin'

The spring of 2016 marked my 30th year of pursuing spring gobblers and would be my first attempt at harvesting a true Osceola bird in Florida. My hunting partner Jim Muesing and I arrived at the Bull Creek WMA area a couple days prior of opening day to set up camp and scout the area. We knew the area would be filled with other hunters opening weekend but our plan was to hunt the most remote areas of the property. We also brought a canoe to cross gator filled water where hopefully hunting pressure would be less pronounced.

The first three days of the hunt didn't produce a shot opportunity but we were hearing some birds. On day four we set up in a huge burned area about 150 yards from a bird roosted in a finger of timber which divided two burned fields. There was only a few scattered large trees in the field so I set up a blind around a lone charred tree out in the open field.

As the dark morning sky began to lighten the bird made his first gobble of the day. The gobbler was pretty talkative on the roost and I heard a hen call softly a few times from a tree near him. After gobbling on the limb for about twenty minutes I saw the bird fly down into the burned area about 125 yards away from me. He gobbled good on the ground answering most calls but wouldn't come my way.

After another twenty minutes of gobbling on the ground two hens flew out of the trees nearby where the gobbler was roosted. Luck was on my side because both hens flew well past the gobbler and landed in front of me about fifty yards away. The hens began feeding in the new green grass growing among the burned field.

I had my gun up and ready in anticipation for a shot. From my left I first saw the gobbler strutting about 75 yards away. He continued strutting towards the hens and then stopped about 42 yards in front of me. Without hesitation I took aim and pulled the trigger on the first Osceola gobbler of my hunting career and completed a public land grand slam when he went down. He was a great bird with very black wings that signify a true Osceola wild turkey. As a bonus his spurs where long and sharp measuring 1-7/16" in length.

Hunting in Florida was a unique and challenging experience. In four days of hunting I encountered wild hogs, water moccasins and alligators while hiking through Cypress swamps, hardwood creek bottoms, Palmetto flats and large burned fields. If you plan to hunt public land for an Osceola bird Florida offers different options. Check the state's regulations well in advance because some areas allow open hunting while many other are limited to by draw only for specific dates during the season.


The “NY Osceola” and “PA White Wings”

The day was May 7, 2014.  Hunting partner James Olmstead and I teamed up together to hunt one of my local spots in NY.  The plan was if I were to kill a bird in NY I would then head to PA and hunt the rest of the morning with James. During the week I had a couple close calls with a bird I named the “NY Osceola,” a nickname given because his very black wings made him look like a Florida gobbler.  On this particular morning the gobbler once again flew down with his hens but his demise was following one of them that came by me.  On a dead calm chilly morning I pulled the trigger at 5:40 am and the “NY Osceola" was ready to have his picture taken.  After a few photos and admiring his black wings we hiked out just as the sun began to fully brighten the woods.

James and I now headed to PA and were back in the timber by 8 am.  We ended up working a couple gobblers but hens eventually led them away so we jumped in the truck to try another spot.  Shortly up the road we spotted a big lone tom walking across a field about 500 yards away.  As we watched with binoculars suddenly the bird turned 90 degrees and began heading to the road we were on. Hurriedly we drove a safe distance down the road where we could hike up and around him.

James was set up at a stone wall looking down into a field where we thought the bird might have crossed the road. After a short delay he answered our calls and worked his way towards James.  He came in gobbling and looking at 25 yards in front of James and down he went at 10:40 am.

Collectively James and I have tagged over 165 gobblers to date but neither one of us has ever seen a mostly black or white wing bird until today.  Unbelievably within 5 hours and two states we had a day that both of us would never forget.


A Great Example of Photography Telling the Story

The four pictures I took below are of hunting partner James Olmstead in Nebraska.

This first photo shows James and his bird with a little background.



The next photo is from a distance to show the terrain where James hunted.



The third photo highlights the Merriam's beautiful white fan.



The last photo shows where James came from and the distant timber being where he shot his bird. Four simple but very telling photos!



10 Tips for Turkey Hunting Success

1. Listen more than you call. You can still run and gun but use your calls sparingly. On more than one occasion I've been accused of "not enough calling". How much hen talk do you really hear in the woods? I've heard hunters call more in one day than I would in a week.

2. Pre-determine the shooter. In my experience, two shooters sitting side by side is often futile. And in my opinion, not correct. First of all, a hunter sitting 15 yards or so behind can help draw the bird in closer rather than both of you stuck and unable to move because the bird hung up just out of range. Also, the hunter in the back can walk away calling or slip out, circle and re-position. Your odds will dramatically increase if one hunter is out ahead in the best position versus two who sacrificed a better set-up to sit next to each other. Communication is great but not when you need a quick set-up. With the shooter pre-determined he can quickly and silently slip ahead instead of two hunters wasting time and talking to each other figuring out where they're going to sit.

3. Be Patient. You're on their time, not yours. Avoid forcing hunts. If you can hunt the next day than try to learn where the bird likes to roost, travel and strut. If you continually call and chase the bird you won't know his natural routine. Patience = more spurs!

4. Bring food and drink. This will allow you to concentrate and stay out longer. You don't want to be hungry or thirsty when you hear that gobble a "mile" away.

5. Always wear and use binoculars. How many times have you wondered if that bird way out in the field is a jake or longbeard? Do you want to waste a good morning circling a field and find out it was jake when you only want to shoot a longbeard? Fields and turkeys go hand in hand, don't be without binoculars. Also, before getting up to re-position take a quick scan with your binoculars.

6. Avoid over pressuring birds. Over pressuring birds forces them to change their natural daily routine. I love to just sit back, be patient and let the birds settle into an area where they want to go. You'll learn part of their routine by doing this. This can be an absolutely deadly technique if you're not on a time schedule. If you can keep tabs on a bird by sparingly using a locater call or maybe just by listening to him gobble while he's henned up you are buying time. You'll get a feel for what direction he may be going and better yet as the morning progresses he may lose his hens.

7. It's OK to be agressive. - when it's time to be. Back off on low percentage set-ups. Change a birds routine and you may be back to square one.

8. Be prepared. Be mentally as well as physically in shape. Slow down in the timber and let the hunt come to you. The best hunters I know all have one thing in common, they all take naps in the woods.

9. Develop a routine. Be familiar with your clothing, calls and how your gun shoots (patterns). Put everything you carry in your vest the same place every time. It will become second nature to reach for what you need rather than making unnecessary movements searching for something. 

10. Have fun and be safe. Hunting is a competition between you and nature, not other hunters.


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