The author with his Osceola tom. Phil Bourjaily

Last week in Florida, on a slow, windy afternoon hunt, guide Jimmy Hook (a name that pretty much narrows your life choices to fisherman, pirate, or turkey guide; he is two of the three) and I discussed easy birds and sure things. We agreed that since so many sure things don’t work out, and so many turkeys are tough, that the proper thing to do is take the gift birds unapologetically and never look back.

We were prophetic. Next morning, after an unproductive sit in under the branches of a giant willow oak, we checked a big pasture and saw an Osceola gobbler strutting with four or five hens. Jimmy, who is a much more prudent turkey hunter than I, suggested we go to lunch and give the turkey time to leave the field, then set up a blind for the afternoon. I noticed the hens were leaving and the gobbler was sort of coming our way, and I thought we could stay and kill it. I would hide, I said, and Jimmy would slip down about 30 yards to my left where the cover ran out and put the strutter decoy at the very edge of the field, then call the turkey past me. The plan might have worked, but we never had a chance to find out. Jimmy got me tucked into the palmettos on a little camp chair but hadn’t had time to set the decoy or make a call yet when the gobbler walked past me at 12 steps. I held a little off to one side (so its head would remain attached) and shot. Whether the turkey heard rustling in the bushes and thought we were turkeys or if it just wandered by in exactly the wrong direction, I’ll never know.

osceola turkey
Jimmy Hook with a pair of long spurs. Phil Bourjaily

I had lucked into the biggest turkey killed in camp so far this year, a 20 pounder with the long, sharp spurs of a 4- or 5-year-old bird. Per camp tradition, Jimmy and I drank a toast with airline-size bottles of Wild Turkey, and we made sure to drink to sure things and easy turkeys.

If you are in need of an Osceola turkey for your Grand Slam, or if you’re interested in a turkey hunt in a very exotic – to my Yankee eyes anyway – corner of the world, Osceola Outdoors know their stuff. They scout hard and their guides are very good and all four of us were done in a day. Accommodations are pretty, um, rustic, but being in the middle of old rural Florida cattle country and having Lake Okeechobee right down the street more than makes up for it. Since I tagged out early, I was able to go on an airboat ride on the lake, which is a marvel full of alligators and every water bird you can imagine. I even did some bass fishing the next day.