Turkey Hunting in Florida

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  • B
  • 100,000

    Wild Turkey Population

  • Osceola estimate; Easterns live in the Panhandle; also some hybrids

    Turkey Subspecies

  • 73,000

    Number of Licenses Sold Annually

  • $27

    Resident annual hunting license ($17) and turkey permit ($10).

    Cost of Resident License and Permit

  • $171.50

    10-day non-resident hunting license ($46.50) and turkey permit ($125). An annual non-resident hunting license is $151.50.

    Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

Want to kill an Osceola spring gobbler? Florida is your only official option.

It's the most narrowly distributed of the wild turkey subspecies, but much sought after despite this. After all, you need one for your Grand Slam.

The so-called "intergrade" line in northern Florida is widely discussed as the border of demarcation for the Osceola. Conventional thinking over the years, along with biological data, has put Easterns in the Panhandle and Osceolas to the south.

Truth is, wild turkeys, best we can tell, don't read such game management literature. They wander where they will. Florida turkeys go north; Easterns drift south. Twenty years ago such controversial discussions were rare, and in truth, only a concern for those chasing a Slam. 

That's just the way it is.

But there's more to this mystery . . .

On a personal note, at least one friend has shared a photo of a gobbler killed in South Carolina's "Low Country" bearing spot-on characteristics of the Florida turkey. I've also hunted Osceolas numerous times, and seen birds come into camp looking like Easterns, or hybrids of the two.

Of course the further south you go, many suggest, the greater chance of a pure Osceola exists. Southern Florida is a good bet. Enough said.

All are wild turkeys, of course. 

They haunt swamps full of Spanish moss. They roost in piney woods. They favor cattle pastures and go shutmouthed on feeling pressure. They go where gators lurk. Poisonous snakes. All that.

Florida hunts are livelier because of it.

Distinguishing characteristics include prominent black barring on the primary wing feathers. White bars are skinny, ragged and irregular. They seem to stand taller than the other subspecies.

Turkey Hunting in Florida. (c) Tes Randle Jolly photo

Fun to hunt? Absolutely.

For many hardcore turkey hunters, starting out in Florida, where seasons begin earlier than most states, is the only way to take the edge off winter and begin the spring turkey season.

Fun Fact: The name honors 19th Century Seminole Indian leader Chief Osceola.

– Steve Hickoff

2017 Florida Turkey Hunting Regulations

Map of Florida turkey population densities.

Go here for more Realtree turkey hunting.