John's Journal...


The Hunt for the Osceola

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Osceola - the very word rings with defiance. The man who bore this name and blazed it into the history of this nation was one of the greatest Indian chieftains who ever lived. He led his Seminole people into battle against one of America's finest generals, Andrew Jackson, and handed Jackson his only defeat in the great Indian wars of the 1800s. So powerful was the Seminole nation that they never signed a peace treaty with the American government but chose instead to retreat to the swamps of Georgia and Florida. Chief Osceola was a guerilla fighter who effectively used hit-and-run tactics to defeat Jackson's army. Because Osceola and his men would appear and just as quickly disappear, many soldiers under Jackson attributed supernatural powers to Osceola. Even today the turkey that bear his name, Meleagris gallopavo osceola, also known as the Florida turkey, the only place where it's found, is believed by many of the Seminole nation to be spirit-possessed.

Click to enlargeBefore first light, the camp was up. Soon Allen Jenkins, Marcelous Osceola and I were out listening for gobblers. We only drove 200 yards before we stopped and listened. After 10 minutes of silence, a swamp gobbler began to crow. When we determined the direction the gobbling was coming from, we climbed back into our truck and drove 1/2-mile to get closer to the bird. However, after 45 minutes of calling and listening, we couldn't find the tom. "I can't believe I can't crank this gobbler up and make him talk," Jenkins commented with disgust in his voice. "The bird just vanished. I don't know where he went. Let's go see if we can locate another one."

Click to enlargeWe drove about two miles and listened. Once more we heard a turkey gobble. Again when we went to where a tom should have been, the gobbler was gone. "There's a pasture where I always see turkeys in the morning," Osceola mentioned. "Maybe we'll spot a gobbler there." We drove about five miles, got out of the truck and walked down a raised dirt road between two pastures to reach a back pasture where Osceola had watched turkeys before. After we'd walked about 150 yards, Jenkins said, "Let's listen."

Click to enlargeWithin five minutes a gobbler reported, apparently in the back field where Osceola had thought he would be. We moved quickly down the road to get to the corner of the field. Jenkins was out in front. Just as Jenkins came to the edge of the back field, he motioned for Osceola and me to get down. Crawling back to us, Jenkins whispered, "There's a longbeard out in the field, but no place for us to hide. I'm going to set up this portable blind on the edge of the road. John, you can move off the edge of the road into the ditch and up beside the field and watch the turkey with your binoculars. Marcelous, you stay here behind the blind, and I'll try and call the turkey to you."



Check back each day this week for more about OSCEOLA - A BIRD OF SUPERSTITION

Day 1: How I Came to Hunt Osceolas
Day 2: The Mystery of the Swamp Magician
Day 3: The Hunt for the Osceola
Day 4: More of the Hunt for the Osceola
Day 5: The Hunt for the Osceola Ends



Entry 297, Day 3