A gobbler track along a dirt road. The only wild turkey sign Peter Updike, a long-time turkey hunter from Florida’s Lake County, had seen in three days of camping and hunting at Osceola Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
Updike, not the least bit deterred by a challenging hunt, went back the next day, set up, and harvested a mature gobbler.
“Having my efforts pay off – scouting, being patient, and finding those areas on the WMA where others weren’t hunting – gave me a huge sense of accomplishment,” Updike said. “I really enjoy putting my skills to the test on a WMA.”
While he applies for spring turkey quota permits every year, his season always includes hunting areas where a quota permit isn’t required. He likes to hunt these walk-in hunting areas because it gives him more time to enjoy the solitude of the turkey woods, hear birds gobble, and maybe see a tom put on a show.
Jimmy Ingram of south Florida, who started turkey hunting in 2005, is also a fan of walk-in hunting areas. He credits preseason prep for putting him in the right place at the right time.
“Hunting non-quota permit areas like J.W. Corbett is where I cut my teeth on turkey hunting. While I always put in for quota hunts, hunting non-quota areas is where I do my learning. I spend a lot of time scouting, listening, and walking before the season opens. I’ll roost birds, then go back the next morning and pattern them. It’s a challenge to hunt birds that see more pressure but it also helps me learn from and reduce mistakes.”
Ingram’s other passions, ultrarunning, and trail running help him “get in the middle of nowhere” on a WMA. He often starts walking at 3:30 a.m. to where he wants to hunt. He uses a few other strategies to hunt walk-in WMAs, such as hunting weekdays and waiting for the season opener north of State Road 70 to spread hunters out.
Hunters willing to spend time scouting put some miles on their boots and embrace the virtue of patience also can find success in walk-in hunting areas. While many WMAs offering spring turkey hunting require a quota permit, there are over 40 areas you can hunt even if you didn’t score a quota hunt permit. This is great news if you didn’t apply for or didn’t draw a spring turkey quota permit. If you were selected for quota hunt opportunities this year, you can extend your season by hunting no-quota permit areas.
Don’t forget, season dates and other rules may vary from statewide seasons and other WMAs, so make sure you review the WMA regulations brochure for the area you want to hunt. You can find links to the WMAs listed below by visiting MyFWC.com/Turkey and clicking on “2021 Spring Turkey Hunt Guide.” It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of checking an area’s open/closed status to determine its availability to public access and if there are any road closures or updates about check stations or entrances. You can find this information by visiting MyFWC.com and clicking on the red button “WMA Closures and Updates.”
No-quota permit WMAs to hunt Osceola wild turkeys
- Big Bend WMA – Jena Unit
- Big Cypress WMA
- Green Swamp WMA
- Herky Huffman/Bull Creek WMA
- W. Corbett WMA
- Jumper Creek WMA
- Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area
- Kissimmee River Public Use Area
- Lake Monroe WMA
- Lochloosa WMA
- Log Landing WMA
- Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
- Raiford WMA
- Richloam WMA
- Rolling Meadows Unit – Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area
- Santa Fe Swamp Wildlife and Environmental Area
- Three Lakes WMA
- Upper Hillsborough WMA
- Upper St. Johns River Marsh WMA
No-quota permit WMAs to hunt eastern wild turkeys
- Apalachicola WMA
- Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area
- Aucilla WMA
- Big Bend WMA:
- Hickory Mound Unit
- Snipe Island Unit
- Spring Creek Unit
- Tide Swamp Unit
- Blackwater WMA
- Chipola River WMA
- Choctawhatchee River WMA
- Econfina Creek WMA
- Eglin Air Force Base
- Escambia River WMA
- Lower Econfina River WMA
- Mallory Swamp WMA
- Ochlockonee River WMA
- Osceola WMA
- Pine Log WMA
- Point Washington WMA
- Steinhatchee Springs WMA
- Marks National Wildlife Refuge
- Talquin WMA
- Troy Springs WMA
- Yellow River WMA
While a quota permit isn’t required to hunt the areas on this list, you will need a hunting license, a turkey permit, and a management area permit to hunt wild turkeys at a WMA, unless exempt. These licenses and permits can be purchased with a credit card at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (486-8356). They can also be purchased in Florida at county tax collectors’ offices and at most retail outlets that sell hunting/fishing supplies.
The FWC also provides a list of areas you can take a youth hunting during Florida’s Youth Turkey Hunt Weekends. The Youth Turkey Hunt weekend south of State Road 70 occurred Feb. 27-28. North of State Road 70, the Youth Turkey Hunt Weekend is March 13-14. These Saturday-Sunday hunts are available to youth 15 years old and younger and occur on many WMAs and lands outside of the WMA system. Find a list of WMAs where a quota permit is not required at MyFWC.com/Turkey and click on “Youth Turkey Hunt Weekends.”
For more information about turkey hunting, visit MyFWC.com/Turkey.