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Successfully Turkey Hunting Public Lands Day 5: How to Hunt Osceolas on Public Lands

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Editor’s Note: David Owens from Acworth, Georgia, was the 2018 National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Grand National Senior Open Division turkey-calling champion. In 2017, he completed an almost-unbelievable feat by taking the U.S. Super Slam of wild turkeys, harvesting 49 gobblers in the 49 states that home wild turkeys with 90 percent of those birds harvested on public lands. Owens reports that, “No matter which states I’m hunting turkeys, 99% of the lands I hunt in the Southeast are public lands.” Owens started hunting turkeys when he was 13 and has been hunting them for 20 years but only has been entering turkey-calling contests for a decade.

Turkey hunter carrying his trophy and a turkey hunter posing with his trophy

As many Alabama and Georgia hunters know, the season for Osceolas in Florida generally begins around March 4, in some sections of the state and ends April 9 – April 23. Owens hunts public land there for Osceolas. You can go to the hyperlink and learn the seasons and which turkeys live where and see maps.

“Anyone can hunt turkeys on the public lands I hunt,” Owens mentions. “Since I was in college, this is the way I’ve begun turkey season each year. Hunting public land during the first week in Florida is fairly tough. However, whether we take a turkey or not, we bring home great memories of super adventures, often from hunting in the water for the entire time.

“For instance, to take an Osceola gobbler on public land, you have to be willing to get away from the other hunters,” Owens emphasizes. “Florida has huge expanses of public land to hunt, but much of it is choked with thick vegetation and palmetto flats, and water is everywhere. You can’t be afraid of getting wet. You have to look for small pockets of turkeys, scout before you hunt and search for habitat where turkeys can live and dodge hunters. Unlike many other states, in Florida, you can’t necessarily return to a spot where you’ve taken or seen Osceola gobblers previously and expect to find turkeys the next year. Osceola turkeys move a lot, depending on the water levels where they live.”

Owens doesn’t wear waders or hip boots to deal with the water in south Florida. Instead, he wears Crocs (rubber slides). Since he knows he’ll get wet every day, he goes ahead and gets wet first thing in the morning.


As Owens mentions, “Crocs and pants dry quickly. If you wear hip boots, you’ll spend more time trying to stay dry than you do hunting. Another factor that we just accept is that we’re going to get scratched by briars and cut by palmetto palms.”

Owens mentions that he’s not afraid of snakes or mosquitoes and carries a Thermacell with him. He also sprays his clothes down with Sawyer’s Permethrin insect repellant and lets his clothes dry a day or two before he packs them to reduce the number of ticks. 

Owens reports that, “Thick vegetation is another big challenge for hunting Osceola in south Florida. When an Osceola gobbler hits the ground, we have to get much closer to him to be able to hear him than when hunting other races of turkeys in other states. Misjudging distance when you hear an Osceola turkey gobble often happens. The Osceola may sound like he’s 200-yards away, when in reality, he only may be 100-yards away. Remember with Osceola that less calling is better, and the most-important aspect for success is picking a spot to call from where the Osceola will come.”

On public lands, the Osceola gobbler is probably hunted harder by more people than any-other gobbler anywhere, because south Florida’s Osceola season is the first turkey season to open in the U.S. Owens has learned that the Osceola gobbler is much-more nervous than any other race of wild turkey. Not only do they have hunter pressure, but they live in thick cover with big cats that can sneak up on them and attack in that thick vegetation.

Check out John E. Phillips’ 12th book: “Turkeys: Today’s Tactics for Longbeards Tomorrow

  • hunting strategies with pros Will Primos, David Hale, Eddie Salter, Preston Pittman, Allen Jenkins, Terry Rohm, Paul Butski, Larry Norton and others.
  • information about taking turkeys with .410 shotguns.
  • box-call techniques.
  • strategies for moving on turkeys.
  • ways to hunt public-land gobblers.
  • the differences in calling and hunting Eastern, Osceola and Western turkeys.
  • the latest research on turkeys; and other information.

Click here to check out John’s 12th turkey book.

Expert Guidebooks on Turkey Hunting: Best Sellers

Turkey Hunting Tactics
This turkey hunting audiobook has entertaining chapters like: “How to Miss a Turkey”, “Hunting with a Guide”, and “The Turkey and the New York Lady”.

You’ll learn about all the subspecies of turkey across North America, how to use a turkey call, how to scout before turkey season, how to find a turkey to hunt, and what hunting gear you’ll need to put the odds in your favor to take a wily gobbler.


How to Hunt Turkeys with World Champion Preston Pittman
You easily can take a turkey if you don’t make any mistakes, but you have to know what the deadly sins of turkey hunting are to keep you from making those mistakes. If you understand how to hunt a turkey, you’re far more likely to take a gobbler than if you just know how to call a turkey.

Of course, calling is important, and if you want to learn to call a turkey, Preston Pittman will teach you how to call turkeys with box calls, friction calls, diaphragm calls, and other turkey sounds.

You’ll also learn why Preston Pittman once put turkey manure all over his body to kill a tough tom.

When you have turkeys that strut and drum in the middle of a field, when you know there’s no way to get close enough to get a shot, Pittman will show you some weird tactics that have worked for him to help you hunt tough ole toms.

But the main thing you’ll learn in this book is how to become the turkey.

Using what he’s learned while hunting wild turkeys, he’s also become a master woodsman who can take most game, regardless of where he hunts. To learn more secrets about how to be a turkey hunter from one of the world champions of the sport, this turkey-hunting book with Preston Pittman is a must.


The Turkey Hunting Guides’ Bible
The quickest way to learn how to turkey hunt successfully is to either hunt with a turkey hunter with years of experience or a turkey-hunting guide. These two types of turkey hunters have solved most of the problems turkey hunters ever will face. 

Just as one size of shoes won’t fit every person, one style of turkey hunting doesn’t fit each hunter.  Each turkey-hunting guide interviewed for this book has his own style of calling, hunting, and outsmarting turkeys.  

While listening to this book, make a list of the new information you’ve learned, take that list with you during turkey season, and try some of the new tactics. Then you’ll become a more versatile turkey hunter and prove the wisdom from The Turkey Hunting Guides’ Bible.   


Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting (2nd Edition)
This Audible book will help you learn how to call turkeys with two of the nation’s best, longtime and well-known turkey callers, Rob Keck, formerly with the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Lovett Williams, a wildlife biologist who recorded wild turkeys giving the calls that you’ll learn how to make on various types of turkey callers.


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