by David R. Kelly •
If you know anything about the Kelly boys, you know they may be prone to chase an Osceola turkey or two during the Spring.
In fact, my brothers Michael and John and my Dad Jim have already kicked the season off in the South Zone in the state of Florida, which is property below State Road 70. If you are interested in more information on hunting dates and zones and regulations check out www.myfwc.com and click on the hunting tab.
Part of Florida is home to a turkey called the Osceola, many have affectionately nicknamed this bird the thunder chicken, or swamp bird, or some other crafty name. A mature male bird is called a Tom and is prized throughout all the nation as one of the most elusive turkeys to kill.
I have only ever hunted turkeys in Florida so the Osceola turkey is all I know. Each year, I’m reminded each hunting season that I don’t know everything about turkey hunting, although over my 30 years of hunting this bird, I have learned a few tricks to the trade, so to speak.
My Dad introduced me to turkey hunting at a young age, I have a picture in my son’s room of me and my Dad and a giant gobbler he killed when I was under 2 years of age. His old Ford falcon was in the background and his 12 gauge browning shotgun was held in one hand. Even in that picture you can see the wonder began, but it wasn’t until I shot at my first turkey at the age of 12 and missed that I really got the fever.
From that point on I annoyed whoever was near me as I tried to perfect calling in turkey’s with just my mouth and an old Tom Gaskins box call. I literally spent hours contorting my mouth and straining my vocal cords, even listening to old cassette tapes my dad had on turkey calling.
Finally when I was 14, my Dad took my out one afternoon after work and we slipped in on some birds flying up to roost. Back then you could shoot turkeys off the roost, which is no longer legal and in my opinion very fair, but then it was fair game, and about the only way I was going to kill one. We snuck within about 40 yards of a giant oak tree and there must have been a dozen or so to choose from, I remember being nervous and scared and excited all at the same time.
KABOOM, I shot my gun and turkeys started flying everywhere, except one, it fell straight to the ground and thud. I thought for sure I had just killed my first turkey by myself. As we went over to pick up the bird it was almost dark and hard to see, so we went to the truck and got some lights and started looking around. There was no dead turkey to be found. But my Dad didn’t give up easy.
We drove all the way from Ona to Bowling Green and picked up my Dad’s Basset Hound and then back to the woods. Barney, the dog, kept wanting to run off and we kept trying to show him where the bird was. Eventually, we let go of the leash and BAM, Barney dove off in another direction in the middle of a palmetto patch, and we were off to the races. A wounded turkey, a basset hound, me, my dad and a lantern all trying to outrun each other.
Moments later Barney latched on to the turkeys neck at the bottom of a palm tree. And my first turkey was in the books, well I guess my first ½ turkey. I’ve never wounded another turkey since or ever had to use a dog, but I was so glad that hunt went the way it did, I’ll never forget it and will always be thankful to the landowner, my dad and his dog.
Here’s to your turkey season, may it be fun-filled and memorable and take somebody new and introduce them to the greatest sport there is, well, at least if you are a Kelly boy.
One of the reason’s I love turkey season is it was time spent with my Father. I think every Christian would understand this, whenever we spend time in God’s word, we are spending time with our Father. My prayer is that time spent with your father or Father is ever memorable.