Welcome to south Florida, land of sharp spurs, hog heaven, overgrown lizards and fishing galore. It’s the first state in the country to open for gobblers, and it’s one of the few places on the continent where temperatures reach 80 degrees in early March. The mosquitoes come out and highway tolls are a pain, but it’s the price you pay to hunt limbhangers before everybody else.
I returned from my trip south of Yeehaw Junction, completing the Grand Slam thanks to an Osceola that couldn’t resist an Avian-X jake decoy, despite the warnings of his buddy that lay lifeless after being shot minutes before. We also brought back hog meat and several days of turkey camp memories thanks to the team at Osceola Outdoors near Moore Haven, Florida. Owner Mike Tussey has an all-star group of guides and runs a flawless operation.
The week was full of great stories. My hunting compadre, Colby Smith with ALPS OutdoorZ, completed step two of a Grand Slam by killing an Osceola 30 minutes into our hunt with his grandfather’s Harrington and Richardson 10 gauge. The gun has lots of meaning — Smith’s grandfather, Harold Scheidegger, passed the gun down to him — and it was awesome to see it used to take a gobbler in the quest for a Slam. Our hunting heritage lives on thanks to the legacy left by men like Scheidegger.
Another member of our hunting squad, Josh Dahlke with Scoutlook, knocked out his third Grand Slam, as well as the coveted Osceola Spring Slam — killing a gobbler, gator (nuisance tag required this time of year) and hog in one day. That’s a heck of a day for a hunter, and Dahlke took lots of meat back to Minnesota and arranged for an eye-catching gator hide to be sent north.
Matthew Breuer with NorthCountry Guide Service and Promotions in Minnesota scored on a beautiful Osceola and shot his first hog to complete a memorable trip. The crew tested out a few Federal TSS loads on the range, as well as products from ALPS OutdoorZ, Primos, Federal Premium Ammunition and others.
Pundits have discussed the advantages of Tungsten Super Shot ad nauseam — denser than lead, more pellets packed into each shotshell, etc. — and the results are devastating. The bird I hit with Federal Premium Straight Heavyweight TSS No. 9 (12 gauge, 3-inch, 1¾-ounce) went about three feet in the air and did a nosedive before its final flop. Average pellet count for that load is 634 No. 9s, and most gun and choke combos can put close to 50 percent in a 10-inch circle at 30 yards. The blended Federal Premium TSS loads combine No. 7 and 9 shot and No. 8 and 10 shot, the latter of which has a pellet count more than 1,000 in a 2½-ounce load. The right gun/choke pairing can put about 500 pellets in a 10-inch circle inside 30 yards. Think about that for a minute. The downside is the cost; these shells are about $10 a pop. Even so, do you really want to skimp on ammo when you’re hunting out of state or chasing the Grand Slam?
ALPS’ binocular harness is a perfect run-and-gun accessory for turkeys and hogs. We didn’t need them for turkeys in the dense palmetto canopy, but we scoped out plenty of pigs using the harness to keep binos at the ready. It’s comfortable, holds a slate call and two strikers in a discreet back panel and has a removable box call pocket that can be attached with Molle webbing. You can also hook on additional pockets for a rangefinder, and two side mesh pockets will hold your mouth calls. As a minimalist who doesn’t like to carry a huge vest, I’m considering using just this harness for turkey hunts on the run, especially when hunting open terrain.
ALPS, a proud partner of the NWTF, created the only low-profile hub-style blind on the market — it sits just under 4 feet high, and the four-hub blind is simple to set up. The Deception is made for low profile chairs or the ALPS OutdoorZ NWTF Grand Slam turkey vest, which has a kickstand feature so you won’t need a tree for back support. It’s perfect for solo hunts, as the 48-inch-by-44-inch dimensions won’t accommodate two normal-sized hunters.
The Stake-Out blind incorporates its SurroundView technology — you can see through the blind’s walls, but critters can’t see you. The two-hub design pops up quickly for running and gunning, and the Double Bull Stake-Out has three shooting windows. Corner to corner, the blind is about 5 feet in length and stands about 3 feet high. It’s also a perfect solo hunt blind. I tried it with a youth hunter as well, and it works if you can get the seat height and a shooting stick positioned correctly.
Look for more reviews, ammo testing results, in-depth stories and more from the hunt at NWTF.org and in Turkey Country magazine in the near future.
— Matt Stewart