Jonathan Harling (center), with the NWTF, is all smiles with his first Osceola wild turkey. To his right with the camera is turkey veteran Ray Eye who caught the action on tape and worked the calls. Left is Steve Cobb, like Ray, a prostaffer for H.S. Strut, who jumped in with some championship-level calling of his own.
Harling’s “Turkey Up!” command became the theme for the hunt where nine hunters took nine birds, something almost unheard of in Osceola country.
Once the bird is down, the work really begins when filming a hunt as the cameraman has to film the cutaways, or rather film the segments of events that lead up to the successful hunt. That’s right, when watching hunts on television they are typically built backward from a camera point-of-view.
Ray has become quite the video man in recent years as he almost likes to shoot turkeys with a video camera more than a shotgun. Of course he gave Jonathan, Steve and myself a scare that morning, when in the remaining darkness, we noticed him laying out on the ground near one of the decoys. In the poor light, it didn’t look like he was moving.
“You better go check on him,” Steve said. Fear crept into each of us as we stared at what seemed like an unmoving Ray: Had he just suffered the Big One? I eased toward Ray’s prone form as hens and jakes began to tree call right behind us. From 10 feet away, I still couldn’t see any movement.
“Ray?” I loudly whispered.
“Whaaaatttttt???” an obviously exasperated, and still alive, Ray Eye barked.
“What are you doing man?” I asked. A jake yelped loudly not 75 yards away. I could hear drumming from a limb somewhere to my right.
“I’m trying to get this damn camera hooked up,” Ray said with even more aggravation to his voice. It was a remote camera that he had inserted inside a decoy for another angle on the action.
Like a punished child, I slinked back to my blind, glad that we didn’t have to decide whether to go get help or just drag his body into the woods and finish the hunt.
On the final day of the hunt, Harling and I, tagged out, went to an area to call one in for our cameras. A little cutting and fast yelping brought this longbeard in where he posed for us on a small rise not 30 yards away. Oh if it were only a two-bird hunt!
H.S. prostaffer William Sullivan, a Florida local, was on hand to guide and help on calling duties where needed. The day after this picture was taken, Sullivan took his wife hunting where she scored a nice tom.
Quick-made palmetto blinds were the norm for setups along open fields and pathways. Virtually every hunt is done adjacent to an open area as the brush-choked swamps that cover this country are too thich for most turkeys to negotiate.
Happy Ending or New Beginning? David Draper with Cabela’s completed his Grand Slam when he shot this Osceola on opening day. Or did he begin the quest for a single season slam? With a Rio hunt and Merriam’s on tap, he is now frantically searching for a hunt for easterns.