As you know, we traveled to Florida together last week. We are here and now so let our hunt begin.
We arrive at 2:30 p.m., and get checked in. I call my friend, trusted guide, and outfitter, Justin Slaughter with Mill Creek Turkey Outfitters. Over the years I have learned to trust Justin, and he provides a quality hunt. After a barbecued rib supper that night with Justin, his lovely wife and their one-year-old baby, I was ready to get down to the job at hand. Only time separated me from my mission.
Justin picked me up the first day of season, exactly on time, and we were off. The swamp has a way of giving off an eerie feeling any time of the day, but before daylight that feeling is magnified. The fog was thick, but Justin told me it was just right. Justin set the decoys and joined me in the blind. He had roosted some gobblers in this area for a week.
In Florida, to try to run and gun is nearly impossible, so a blind is the only way to go. At 6:50 a.m., the longbeards started to gobble, and by 7:15 the hens were on the ground with the longbeards not far behind.
Justin, who gives me a break and does the calling, did some hen yelps and the action was on. A jenny hen came to us within a matter of seconds and I heard a bird fly over our blind, coming from behind us. It lit and was a jake. Neither he nor the jenny hen wanted to fool with the decoys, for which we were glad, and quickly moved on. We could hear the longbeards still hammering and coming our way. At 7:45 a.m., we saw the red heads come out of a wooded area. We lost out breath, as there stood six jakes looking for a fight and fixed deadpan on the decoy setup.
Just when we thought they were ready to attack, out popped the white head of Boss Longbeard, and he wasn’t happy. He almost ran to the decoys, but 10 yards from them was his last breath on this earth. Game over at 7:50 a.m., first morning of the 2011 Florida turkey season. He will taste great in Doctor Bill Collins’s cooker.
Let us look back and ponder for a minute. We drove a thousand miles over two days, paid a war pension for non-resident tags, and got to hunt for an hour. Now it doesn’t always happen that way, as we will learn in the next few weeks of Struttin’ Time, but when it does I sometimes wonder, is it worth it? Then I quickly return to my right mind. My mind just took a snapshot that will give me a lifetime of memories.
My longbeard had a 9-1/2-inch beard, three-quarter spurs and weighed in at 20 pounds, just a nice two-year-old.
Next week: Day two of our hunt in Florida.