Every good hunter needs a solid role model, and Melissa Bachman, host of Winchester’s Deadly Passion, fits that bill perfectly with a unique ability to share her love for hunting with passionate fans and viewers. Tune in to Winchester’s Deadly Passion Sundays at 11:30AM ET.
As an avid turkey hunter I always dreamed about going to Florida to complete my grand slam. Over the years opportunities had come up to hunt Eastern, Rio Grande, and Merriam’s but it appeared that the demand for Osceola’s were much greater and many other turkey hunters across the country had the same idea. If you think about the large expanse that Eastern or Merriam’s can be found it’s quite incredible. Then you think about an Osceola which lives on the Florida peninsula and nowhere else in the world. Between the warm weather, early season, and being a unique bird it’s obvious why it’s such a sought after trophy in Florida.
Another incredible trophy in Florida is their abundant supply alligators, and boy do they have some giants. As much as I love to turkey hunt, well there’s a chance I love gator hunting even more. So it’s easy to understand why a trip to Florida would be so high on my list. I’m from Minnesota and if the Florida sunshine doesn’t draw you in, well the big gators and turkeys sure will. So after debating on a hunt for several years, I finally booked with Wild Florida Outfitters and was headed to Vero Beach for my Osceola, then would be traveling to Lake City for an alligator hunt. Leaving the cold tundra of Minnesota it was -8 and upon arrival in Florida it was nearly 80. Yes, that’s close to a 90-degree swing and I was already loving every minute and the hunting hadn’t even begun.
One of my first concerns on the hunt was how these turkeys would act compared to other turkeys I’ve hunted across the country. I was going to be using a Winchester SX3 with 3.5 inch 5’s in the Winchester Longbeard XR. I had patterned the gun in the cold back in Minnesota and knew it was lethal to 60-yards. I was hoping to have some gobblers in close, but I knew if they hung up I had the equipment to get it done.
As the sun came up the first morning the first major difference was the terrain. It was much flatter than where I’m used to hunting. The birds were also a lot quieter. I’ve sat in Illinois hunting Eastern turkeys and the birds literally gobble non-stop. That wasn’t going to be the case here so we needed to hunt a little different and stay mobile.
After putting in several days hunting hard, we caught a break on the last morning and spotted a gobbler strutting in an open field with a hen. We used the timber to get close, setup in the shade, and watched as they both came running in straight for our decoys after a couple calls. The hen arrived at the decoys first, and the gobbler wasn’t far behind. Once he hit 40-yards I wasn’t interested in waiting any longer and squeezed the trigger. The best part about the way it all ended was the fact that this gobbler had a triple beard!
Once we wrapped up the turkey hunt in Vero Beach we made the drive to Lake City in search of some of those big gators. For years I’ve been a huge fan of gator hunting but this trip proved to be one of my most successful yet. Because it’s early in the year and the gators aren’t as active at night, we decided to hunt them spot and stalk during the sunniest time of the day. We usually found that from 11-4 was the best as many of the gators were laid up on the beach and easily visible. I was going to be using a .300 Win. Mag with 180-grain Ballistic Silvertips. The key with gator hunting using this method is to make a precise shot right to the brain so they don’t have a chance to make it back into the water. Being a reptile they have muscle memory and even a lethal shot to the lungs or heart would probably mean a lost gator as they would make it off the beach and into the water.
After a few days of stalking, and a couple missed shots, I finally connected with two of my biggest gators to date. They were both sunning themselves on a beach and after adapting our hunting methods we were able to use a few new tricks to get close and head home with a ton of gator meat. These two bruisers both measured over 12-feet!
In the end Florida not only provided some much needed sunshine and warm weather for this Minnesota girl, but also incredible memories on my biggest gators, and a triple bearded bird! In my opinion this was a picture perfect spring break.