America's Toughest Turkeys

Osceola_longbeardcourtesy_nwtf You’re at turkey camp. It’s afternoon—some guys are napping, but the rest of you are shooting the breeze. The subject of the country’s toughest turkeys comes up. What states are on your list? Here are three of mine:

Alabama: Half a million wild turkeys, and roughly half of them are gobblers. Taking one should be easy, right? Not in my experience. They’d just as soon spit-and-drum on the approach than gobble. They see a lot of pressure. They seem more skeptical than a contest judge in the first-round of a turkey-calling contest.

Florida: Listen, man, the pressure does something to these gobblers. You need one for a Slam. They seem to know it! And fall hunts are for bearded birds only. As a result there are more hens to contend with in the spring. You heard right. All those hens in the woods pull ol’ Mr. Tom away time and again. My last spring hunt in Osceola Land involved calling a group of 11 hens in, with no trailing strutter. Then I yelped in a group of 8 female turkeys. I only got one lonely longbeard in range the entire 5-day trip. One. Five days. Tough.

Pennsylvania: Biologists estimate that the Keystone State has 330,000 turkeys within the borders, more than the 300,000 roaming Texas (recent NWTF estimates). To many Pennsylvanians, fall and spring turkeys are equal, and hunting residents approach both seasons with a near-religious zeal. I know, I was born and raised there. All that enthusiasm, as with Alabama, adds up to some serious pressure too. Ever hunt the ridges of north-central PA where I grew up? Work a bird on the roost and he might fly down to the nearby side hill. Ease down there, and you might hear him where you were standing a half hour before.

Are turkeys tough where you Strut Zoners hunt? Where? Why? How tough? What’s the toughest gobbler you ever killed, or didn’t tag?—Steve Hickoff