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Bagging an Osceola turkey is a big deal for sportsmen

As I See It

Friday, March 05, 2010

Media contact: Chairman Rodney Barreto

Florida is known, near and far, as the "Fishing Capital of the World" and with good reason. But the Sunshine State also enjoys some pretty good hunting opportunities, with arguably the best gator and wild hog hunting around. And Florida is home to one game animal that has hunters from all over the world planning trips here for the chance at harvesting one of these fine birds.

I'm talking about the Osceola wild turkey, also known as the Florida turkey.

What really makes the Osceola special is that it lives on the Florida peninsula and nowhere else in the world. That fact alone makes the bird extremely popular with out-of-state hunters who might be trying to complete a Wild Turkey Grand Slam by harvesting each of the four subspecies that occur in the United States - those being the eastern, Rio Grande, Merriam and the Osceola.

When it comes to appearance, the Osceola looks very similar to the eastern subspecies, found in the Panhandle, portions of North Florida and the rest of the eastern United States and parts of Canada. The Osceola, however, tends to be a bit smaller and typically a darker shade with less white barring on the flight feathers of its wings.

The most noticeable difference is the white bars on the Osceola's primary flight feathers; they're narrower, with an irregular, broken pattern, and they don't extend all the way to the feather shaft, as compared to the eastern.

When you observe a turkey in a relaxed posture, the whitish, triangular patch that is formed when its wings are folded across its back is less noticeable on the Osceola than it is on the eastern, because of the reduced white barring on the Osceola.  Another visible difference is the feathers of an Osceola tend to show more iridescent green and red coloring, while the eastern's feathers have more of a bronze coloring to them.

Now, it can be argued that the truer Osceola turkey is found in the southern portion of the state.  But to help clarify for hunters where each subspecies resides, for record-keeping purposes, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recognize any wild turkey harvested within or south of the counties of Dixie, Gilchrist, Alachua, Union, Bradford, Clay and Duval to be the Osceola subspecies.  Eastern turkeys occur north and west of these counties into the Panhandle.

And regarding turkey hunting, I am very pleased to announce that in February at the FWC meeting in Apalachicola, Commissioners passed into law a new rule, establishing a special, two-day youth turkey hunt the weekend prior to the opening of spring turkey season in each hunting zone.  I need to mention, though, that this youth spring turkey hunt weekend applies only to private property and does not come into play until the 2011 spring turkey season.

Only those under 16 years old are allowed to harvest a turkey while supervised by an adult, 18 years or older during the new youth season.  However, any adult supervisor who has a hunting license and turkey permit will be allowed to "call in" a turkey and otherwise participate in the hunt, but only the youths will be permitted to harvest one.

So, this spring, you can expect to see some new hunters in our turkey woods, and I'd like to personally welcome them to our great state.  After all, these visitors help stimulate our economy, plus, there's plenty of Osceola longbeards to go around.

Good luck and happy hunting.

FWC Facts:
Eagles perform a spectacular aerial courtship display in which they lock talons and tumble toward the ground before releasing and flying up again.

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