Osceolas can be elusive birds. Named for the Seminole chief who defended his homeland against relocation for years, the bird is also known as the Florida Wild Turkey, and it resides in the woods and swamps in the central part of the state. It’s not an easy landscape – there’s no open beach or empty pavement.
“They may be two or three miles off a paved road,” says Jim Turlington, a wildlife artist, photographer and researcher who tracks the turkeys (and wood ducks, too) for work, something he says he could not do without his 2013 Ford F-150. “I need a vehicle that can get me to where I need to go, and back out too.”
The Deltona, Florida, resident has relied on Ford vehicles since his first, a 1974 Pinto bought with summer job earnings. “It was a real pretty blue,” he says. Attention to color and other detail is self-taught, the result of consideration and practice that started with the hunting and fishing of his childhood.
“Let’s say dad got a wood duck. I’d look at it, count wing feathers, notice what feathers were where,” says Jim. All his art is based on wildlife he’s seen firsthand. And it’s more than just reference material: research is shared with agencies like Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
It’s not unusual for Jim to wake up at 4am, take his F-150 over rough roads, hike into the dark, set up decoys, and wait. “To really see it, to get in there, you need to be there when the daylight rises.”
He uses a caller to imitate a hen, to get the Osceola very close. “What’s neat is when you’re sitting and you can’t see him but you can hear him getting louder and louder.” Curiosity and impatience should motivate the turkey.
“All of a sudden this gobbler walks out, sees the decoy, fans his tail, drops his wings, starts strutting and putting on a show,” says Jim, recalling a recent morning. “To see it in real life is really something. I still get excited.”