Things for this hunt started a little rough. After landing in Fort Myers, we couldn’t find our rental car location. We asked Enterprise, Hertz, and others and no one seemed to know where the “ES” rental counter was located. Surprise surprise, after a quick call, we found out it was OFF airport property. Finally, after a hop into a shuttle bus, and a short ride later, we were dumping gear and jumping into our rented Durango.
Arriving at the Southern Strutters Ranch the first thing I noticed, there were turkeys EVERYWHERE! I was ready to hunt right there on the spot! We rolled up to camp to meet the rest of the group, and Michael Waddell (Bone Collectors), Brad Schorr (Realtree/Jordan Outdoor Enterprises) and Eric (Waddy's friend) were all finished for the day and had bagged three turkeys before 9 AM. They said they knew where the birds were roosting, and we will get after them first thing in the morning. Everyone finally arrived later that evening and we all got our gear situated for the next morning hunt.
Heading out before sunrise, a ranch guide, D, took our photography team, Brad and I out in one truck. The owner, Pat, took Michael, Eric, Carlos (our market manager and new hunter), and Cohen (Michael's videographer) in another truck. As we pulled up to the entrance of where we were going to sit, a gobble came from the woods no more than 100 yards away. This got my heart pumping and I was feeling very confident that this would be my first Osceola. We got situated in our hunting area, there were palm trees, palmettos, and yucca plants all around us. We put out the Primos Photoform Strutter and hen as well as the Chicken-On-A-Stick. D and Brad put out a couple more decoys. Turns out this was a mistake. As we’d learn later, we had too many decoys out.
I got settled with my back to a palm tree and the decoys out in front, the sun was coming up to my left and I felt that we had a good set up. No sooner than we got situated, the deer started coming out in front of us. They were beautiful...and a pain in the behind. Now we had to make sure not to spook ‘em. A little after sunrise, to the south and east I heard a TON of gobblers start sounding off. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this many gobbles before. Out of nowhere, this quiet little hen approached our decoys and walked through not making a sound. Then we heard a gobbler fly down from his roost off to my left. He was responding to Brad and I’s calls and I got excited that he might be coming our way. Much like other turkey hunts, he went silent on us.
With the little hen now behind us, Brad whispered that the big boy was to my left. I tried to peek around the tree in front of me, but I couldn’t see him. Five minutes later he came around the tree in full strut. I watched him for what seemed like a lifetime strutting and being very cautious around the decoys. Suddenly it seemed that he didn’t like the decoys, got alarmed and started walking back to my left. Then he saw the quiet little hen! He turned around and started to walk towards her. Brad whispered, “swing around”. I turned and positioned myself so I could see the gobbler and be ready to shoot. As he walked behind a wood pile about 50 yards behind me, I heard two shots in the distance and then some whooping and hollering. This was Carlos and Eric, and yes, they shot their turkeys, and made sure to tell the whole world. My gobbler came darting out from behind that wood pile. He looked extremely nervous and ready to run from the shots and the yelling. Right then Brad told me “Shoot him”. I looked down my gun through the Bushnell RXS-250 red dot and put the red dot right on the gobbler’s head and pulled the trigger. As soon as the gun fired and the TSS load hit him, he crashed over dead. I ran over to pick up my first Osceola Turkey! I was stunned at that beautiful bird. Using my Bone Collector Laser Range Finder, I looked to see how far the shot was; I admit I was somewhat impressed with myself and my set up. The distance read 47 yards. Quite impressive with a 20 Gauge Shotgun. The Retay Masai Mara with Jeb’s Headhunter Choke Tube, Federal TSS 20 gauge 3” 7-9 shot with the Red Dot came together as an effective and deadly combination. I am truly impressed with the performance of this combo.