Outdoor Journal: Florida filled with outdoor opportunities

Since my wife and I have been wintering for the month of March the past few years in Florida, I’ve h

While you’re reading this column, I’m on my way to the Sunshine State — Florida — where I’ll stay until early April.

Since my wife and I have been wintering for the month of March the past few years, I’ve had to miss the opening of the New York state trout fishing season, but in all honesty, it’s a sacrifice I have to make in order to obtain first-hand information on the feathers, fur and fins opportunities in Florida, so I can report on what my readers are missing.

I truly will miss wearing that long underwear and heavy coat, chasing snowshoe and cottontail rabbits around in the Adirondacks the last few weeks of the season. And I definitely will miss the shoveling of the late winter snowfalls and slipping and sliding on those icy roads. But as a dedicated outdoor journalist, I’m making this sacrifice.

It is a tough job, but someone has to do it.


In all seriousness, I really look forward to this trip every year for a number of reasons. One is that I get the jump on the turkey hunting season, which I’m sure many of you know is my first love when it comes to hunting. Florida is where the Osceola turkey roams, and it’s the only place that you can find them.

The Osceola, sometimes called the Florida turkey, is also one of the four turkey species you have to harvest to complete and be recorded in the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) Grand Slam records.

Last year, I had a very successful hunt in East Palatka, Fla., and harvested the Osceola I needed for my fifth NWTF Grand Slam. This year, I’ll be hunting in Volusia County with Bill Henry of New Smyrna Beach Outfitters. I didn’t find Bill; he found me after reading an art­icle I wrote about a poorly guided turkey hunt I had in Florida in the spring of 2007. I was impressed with Bill’s e-mail, offering me his services and his honesty and his promise to do his best to put me on birds. This is all you can ask of a turkey guide, or any guide for that matter. I called him last month, and am looking forward to meeting and hunting with him.

In preparation for this story, I wanted a little more information about Bill, who told me during our correspondence that he was a firefighter, and so I Googled “Bill Henry Firefighter,” and I got a very pleasant and interesting surprise, not so much about the guiding, but about the man I would be hunting with.

The first article I read was entitled “Florida Firefighter Amputee Passes Test, Wins Job.” In 2000, Bill had a bad motorcycle accident that resulted in his loss of his lower left leg, but he vowed to return to what he referred to as his “dream job.” And from everything I read, he fought and worked very hard to regain his job. Following 15 months of therapy and determin­ation, and with the encouragement of his family, friends and co-workers, Bill was back on the job. And after reading what he had to do, in terms of the physical fitness and agility tests, it will be an honor to hunt with him.

Almost all of the turkeys that’ve shot have been with either a 12- or 10-gauge shotgun, but on this hunt, I thought I’d like to try it with something different. My choice is a crossbow, a legal hunting imp­lement in Florida. I thought it would be a good time to kick off my quest for a sixth NWTF Grand Slam with a crossbow. As many of you already know, crossbow hunting is one of my favorites, and for a number of years, I’ve traveled out of the state to enjoy hunting a number of game species with a crossbow. But this will actually be my first time using one to hunt for a wild turkey.

The crossbow that I will be using is the BowTech Stryker, which is now a part of the Savage Arms Co. I actually chose the Stryker at a New York State 4-H Shooting Sports banquet in Lake Luzerne. I sat with Ron Coburn, chairman and CEO of Savage Sports, and he “twisted” my arm to try a Stryker. When I first read its specifications, I knew I’d made the right choice. These included favorable features such as a bolt (arrow) speed of 405 feet per second and a draw weight of 175 pounds. The only thing I added to the Stryker was a Hawke Optics SR & MAP crossbow series scope which, with its ballistic reticles, makes the Stryker the most accurate I’ve ever shot.

After some careful shooting, and with the assistance of a friend, I was amazed and excited about hunting with the Stryker. By sighting in the large circle in the scope at 20 yards, I was able to drop the bolt into the heart of a deer target, using the corresponding smaller circles in the scope at, 30, 40 and even 50 yards. Several days later, at the Kayaderosseras Fish & Game Club 3-D archery range, I duplicated its acc­uracy. I also let two other compound bow shooters who had never shot a crossbow, shoot the Stryker, and they were equally impressed with its accuracy. If I miss this turkey, it will be totally my fault.

Needless to say, I’m really excited about my first turkey hunt, which I decided will be from a ground blind. Using a blind when hunting with a bow or crossbow is ideal for wild turkeys, especially since I want to try and film the hunt. If Im successful and able to record it, I’ll put it on my blog.


The fur hunt during my Florida visit will also will be guided by Bill. Florida has one of the largest populations of wild boars in the U.S., and I plan to try taking one with the BowTech Stryker. I’ve hunted Florida boar before, but only with a rifle. It’s quite a challenge, sneaking and peeking in and around the thick vegetation of the Florida ranches.

It’s amazing that animals that can weigh over 300 pounds can move as quickly and quietly as they do. There are numerous guided boar hunts in Florida, some of which are done from air boats and others using dogs to circle them to the hunters on watch, and there are also chase hunts that can be done using only a long knife as your weapon. I don’t think this veteran hunter wants to try one of those. I prefer a blind around feeding areas or sneaking and peeking. It should be very interesting, maneuvering through those thick palmetto bushes and brush with a crossbow and trying to thread that bolt through an opening in the bushes.


Last year, I enjoyed several days of largemouth bass fishing on several private ponds I got permission to fish. The amazing thing about these little five- to 10-acre pounds was the size of bass I caught in them. I released them all and they should be bigger this year.

I hooked up with a local angler I met in a tackle shop in Flagler County. He invited me to join him on the St. John’s River for bigger big bass. In early March, the largemouth are still spawning in northern Florida, and there are plenty of them. Tossing white tube jigs and my favorite Salty Sling wacky worm rig, I caught and released a number of four- to six-largemouths, and lost one in the nine-pound class.

This year, I will again be tossing the wacky worm around for largemouths, but I’m also going to try and hook up with a few spotted seatrout. Their season in northern Florida opened last Monday. This is one of their most popular game fish, and they’re quality seafood. You can find them inshore or near shore in the surf, jetties, grass flats and inland coastal waterways, all of which I have out the front and back doors of the our rented condo in Flagler Beach.

The method and equipment needs for catching these trout can be spinning, baitcasting or even fly-rodding. I’ll be using spinning tackle for the surf and bait casting for the inland waterway fishing. From what I’ve read and been told by veteran spotted seatrout anglers, the best bait is live shrimp or live small fish to attract the trophy-sized fish. The slot limit (fish within a listed size range) is 15-20 inches in total length. Fish within this limit cannot be kept. Also, the daily limit is five, and only one of this limit can be over 20 inches.


While in Florida, I’ll have Internet capabilities, so if you’ve had a good day(s) of hard water fishing, you can still e-mail me the details.

Be sure to include full name, where you live, where, when and what you caught and any other information you think would be interesting. Send them to me at [email protected].

Categories: -Sports-

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