The Osceola Wild Turkey - Florida Subspeciesby Doug Howlett
Osceolas: This Little Bird is a Big Challenge
The Osceola wild turkey, also known as the Florida subspecies because it is only found on the peninsula of the Sunshine State, has by far the smallest range and population of the four primary wild turkey subspecies in the United States. Populations are estimated at between 80,000 and 100,000 birds.
Photo by: Author
The Osceola is similar in appearance to the Eastern Turkey, but tends to be smaller and darker in color. The white bars on the wing feathers are more irregular and broken. Secondary wing feathers also tend to be darker and the body feathers, while still iridescent tend toward a more greenish/reddish hue. Average weights for toms taken by hunters tend to range between 17 and 21 pounds.
Osceolas have a softer gobble than Easterns and care must be used when hunting them on foggy or high humidity mornings as they can sound farther away than they actually are.
The Florida peninsula is laden with palmetto-choked swamps, oak motts and wide open pasture lands. Hunters must negotiate near-impenetrable swamps using only open fields or logging roads, making moving on a bird tricky. Understanding the terrain and how to get around it without being seen is crucial. Setting up where birds will fly down from the roost in the early morning or loaf during midday is crucial as hunters are best served calling from one optimal location rather than risk moving around and spooking birds.
The biggest challenge to hunting Osceolas is simply finding a place to hunt them. With much of the land privately owned, it can be tricky for hunters to find a place, particularly nonresidents. There are numerous outfitters, though hunts are typically in high demand and can fetch as much as $2,000 or more for a three-day, one-bird hunt. The state offers some draw-only, lottery hunts on public land tracts that are both affordable and offer the do-it-yourself, budget-conscious hunter a quality hunting experience.
Check It Out: Florida—Since it is the only place Osceola’s are found, you have no choice. While a guided hunt is always the best way to go, quality limited access, public land hunts are a great option if you can draw a tag.