South Florida is lucky enough to begin their turkey season two weeks earlier than we do, up here in the Northern zone. The border of the two turkey hunting zones here in Florida, as is determined by our Florida Wildlife Commission, is Highway 70, where it bisects the state from east to west. And, the action was hot and heavy this past weekend for the kids lucky enough to get outside and enjoy a hunt. You see, each Spring Gobbler season is preceded by a two day, youth weekend, set aside to give the kids a chance at success before the adults take to the field in search of their own longbeards.
The breeding activity has only recently gotten underway and the toms were hot for the hens. Guides, like Chuck Echenique of Rebel Yelp Game Calls and Scott Ellis of Huntquest TV shared their experiences with me over social media and they both reported not only success for their young protégés, but lots of gobbling, hen activity and big strutters tending the flocks all about. I only hope that will be the case next weekend when I’ll again have the opportunity to guide a pair of youngsters to the turkey woods.
Our youth weekend is March 11th and 12th, here in the Northern zone. The birds are already breeding, so I’m hoping for similar activity as our Southern brethren are experiencing. So far, after becoming a master turkey guide myself, I’ve used the youth weekend for a dress rehearsal for the general season which will begin the following weekend, on the 18th. I always try to make a big splash, start the season off right, with the kids. I’ve been at a hundred percent on youth weekend for the last seven years and have a great feeling, based on my scouting, that this year too will have some grinning youngsters.
It’s such an addicting sport and every one of the youth participants I’ve guided thus far, have always continued on with their newfound passion. But why is it such an addicting hunt? To quote a favorite author and longtime friend, Jim Spencer, from his book on turkey hunting, Bad Birds, “Turkey hunting is a game of infinite variables, played on a field of unlimited dimension, against an opponent who doesn’t know the rules and wouldn’t play by them if he did.”
I counted it up recently and can tell you that over the last forty years of chasing these big, beautiful birds, I’ve hunted five of the six subspecies in seventeen different states, including one trip to Mexico, back in 1996. I still have one subspecies to hunt, the ocellated turkey, found only in the jungles of Central America. I’ve got an invitation to hunt them on an estate in Belize, but it won’t be this Spring; as I’ve been telling myself for the last dozen years or so, “Maybe next year.”
If you have any questions on turkey hunting, just reach out to me at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to teach you all you need to know. God Bless and good hunting!