NANCE: Here's my 'Mount Rushmore of Florida Hunting Experiences'

·4 min read
Author and his son, Harrison with a pair of Osceola turkeys
Author and his son, Harrison with a pair of Osceola turkeys

I love the “Mount Rushmore” gimmick driven for content by websites and podcasts. They beat the standard Top-10 lists or GOAT debates for mindless, lazy banter commonly found on sports sites, if you care about such things.

The concept, for those not in the know, is to select four entries from any topic imaginable that should be chiseled in stone as the elite representatives of that topic. The first pick is typically agreed upon by most, while the following three usually merit more consideration.

Let’s take NFL quarterbacks — Brady, Peyton, Montana, and Unitas, right? Well, I know plenty who’d vote Marino, Elway, Brees, Rogers, Staubach and/or Bradshaw on there, as well. But, we’re limited to four.

So, for this week I’ve hijacked this concept for the “Mount Rushmore of Florida Hunting Experiences.” These are unique Sunshine State adventures that symbolize what hunting is about in these parts.

These are “Florida Man” pursuits.

First, though, the honorable mentions, the also-rans that nearly made this list but I dropped after much deliberation: running deer dogs in the Big Bend; Merritt Island NWR duck hunting; and the late-season Panhandle primitive weapons deer hunt.

Now, on to the main event.

Osceola Spring Turkey Hunting

This one is fairly obvious. Peninsular Florida is the sole place in the world where the Osceola subspecies of wild turkey lives. Turkey hunters seeking slams of all the turkey subspecies have to visit here to complete this quest.

Chasing these birds will lead folks from hardwood river bottoms and cattle pastures through scrubs and cypress swamps. Yes, these adaptable birds can be found in the deepest swamps and in dense residential subdivisions.

Chasing these birds will also lead folks to complete nut-jobbery. The Osceola is highly regarded as the most difficult of the turkeys to bag, known for a hesitation to gobble and sneaking in on hunters. Patience is a virtue with the Osceola, and the bird is spoken about in revered tones by those who successfully tag one of these wary animals.

Ian Nance
Ian Nance

Bowhunting Whitetail in South Florida

While whitetail deer live throughout the country, no other state offers a chance at rutting bucks during the late summer in such a unique environment as found in south Florida.

Archery season in Zone A generally begins in late July and early August. The weather is blistering hot, and dodging thunderstorms and lightning is part of the game, but the bucks are on the prowl for does.

For those hunting the expansive Florida prairie, this is a study of spot-and-stalk; those hunting Big Cypress must apply their woodsmanship to hang stands along trails in the dense jungle amid the snakes and panthers. Yes, deer hunting is a nationwide passion, but nowhere else is it done like in south Florida.

Statewide Alligator Harvest Program

Singular passion stirs the turkey hunter and bowhunter. Gator hunting, by virtue of its licensing system and call to danger, is a true Fisher of Men in the outdoor world, often to the chagrin of seasoned sportsmen praying for a permit.

Every May, thousands of people apply for a limited allotment of gator permits. Even if an applicant is unsuccessful, however, he or she can still purchase an alligator trapping agent license to assist a permit holder in this thrilling hunt, which is a unique mechanism for bringing casual or non-hunting folks into this arena.

And gator hunting is a team sport, as many hands make for lighter work when hauling an 11-foot snapping, rolling leviathan from the dark waters. The manner in which one brings a gator to bay through snatch hooks and harpoons is primitive, but this is appropriate for one of Florida’s signature beasts.

Author with wood ducks on Lake Okeechobee
Author with wood ducks on Lake Okeechobee

Okeechobee Duck Hunting

Airboating the western marshes of Lake O under the cover of darkness to reach a GPS-marked puddle amid this seemingly infinite expanse of water and cattails is what I call living. When the sun rises, one can be forgiven for distraction from decoying ducks, as this area flourishes with bird life as migratory species intermingle with the locals during the winter. And gators are never far from the mind while wading through the muck.

During a strong season, there is a greater variety of ducks here than you can shake a 12-gauge at. Migratory species such as teal, ringers, shovelers, and scaup are commonly found while the glamour birds, such as pintail and wigeon, are usually present for those who work to find them. Then there are ducks unique to Florida that people travel to this area from elsewhere in the world to hunt, namely mottled ducks and the whistling duck species.

While nearly anyone who’s hunted the lake, young or old, will tell you, it was once better than it is now, Florida’s largest lake is still wild country, and celebrating a successful hunt around the tiki bar at the Roland Martin Marina can get wild, too.

So there it is — the “Mount Rushmore of Florida Hunting Experiences.”

If you think I’m off my mark or you have a better lineup, drop me a line at, and I’ll be happy to tell you why I’m right.

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: NANCE:  Here's my 'Mount Rushmore of Florida Hunting Experiences'