On the first evening of my long-awaited hunt, my guide and I tucked two stubborn Osceola longbeards and a tag-along jake into bed. Thanks to the scouting expertise of Jimmy Hook from Osceola Outdoors—along with a bold move on my part—an Osceola gobbler would hit the dirt the next day, finishing the last leg of my first-ever Grand Slam!
We set up within a few hundred yards of their roost well before dawn. One courtesy gobble echoed from the mixed palm/oak “hammock” (“woods” in Northerner speak) as the early morning light burned through the thick, jungle-like canopy. Minutes later, I heard a faint sound that resembled a fly-down. Suddenly, the longbeard duo appeared along with the subordinate jake. They marched out of the hammock on a trail to the front right of our Double Bull Darkhorse ground blind, which we positioned in front of one of the many burn piles in an expansive cattle pasture. The beard-swinging boys had a specific blueprint embedded in their paranoid, one-track bird brains, and they were sticking to it; unfortunately, their plans didn’t involve risking death.
They continued on a straight line eastward, gobbling and strutting away from us, 65 yards from our west-facing blind. Our single feeder hen decoy should’ve worn a shorter skirt—the birds offered only an occasional glance as they cautiously gobbled. Jimmy began calling lightly with some clucks and purrs, but the red-headed step children weren’t impressed. The lead gobbler broke out of his brisk stride into a steady jog.
After briefly cursing the ornery Osceolas, Jimmy and I crawled out of the blind to carefully glass the birds by peeking over the top of our burn pile. As they headed diagonally toward another burn pile, I realized my opportunity hadn’t expired. “They’re going to walk right behind that burn pile. What if I run over there and try to put the sneak on them once they get behind the pile?” I asked Jimmy. “It’s a long-shot Josh, but you can try.” It was on.
As soon as the trio got out of sight, I busted into a full sprint to the distant burn pile. I reached the heap of charred wood, snuck around the corner and was temporarily shocked by a reverberating gobble. They were close. As I eased further around the pile, Jimmy—who was still at our burn pile—let out some loud cutting. Simultaneously, the two longbeards came into my view at 40 yards, their multi-colored fleshy necks completely periscoped. I focused my sights on the bird on the right, pulled the trigger and delivered a load of Hornady Heavy Magnum No. 5s before the two brothers could escape behind a dense cabbage palm. He didn’t instantly drop, so I shamelessly sent another round downrange to end his strutting days as I waltzed into the completion of my first Grand Slam.
A 10-1/4-inch beard, 1-inch spurs and 19.2 pounds of flesh and central-Florida feather later—no regrets.
Next: Onward to Burnet, Texas, to taunt the rowdy Rio Grande subspecies with some friends from the National Wild Turkey Federation.
(Stay tuned for the full recap of my experience with Osceola Outdoors, including additional photos and video footage that you don’t want to miss.)