BINOCULARS FOR TURKEY HUNTING
By Joe Arterburn
I just got back from turkey hunting in and around the turkey-filled Holly Springs National Forest in northern Mississippi, where I was reminded of the sharp eyesight turkeys have. Taught another lesson might be a better way to put it.
Before sunup, we were set up about 10 yards into some pines, with three GHG decoys—a feeding hen, upright hen and a jake—set in the grassy field in front of us. The sun had been up a while and it was quiet. I looked up from my GoPro I had been fiddling with and saw two hens walk down a lane through pines about 175 yards across the field. Instinctively, I reached to take off my glasses and the turkeys froze. There was a breeze blowing, otherwise nothing moved. The hens were statues, looking; then the wind spun a decoy on its stake and the lead hen turned tail and ran past the other frozen hen, which took one more look and followed.
At that distance, I didn’t need binoculars to tell me they were hens, but it got me to thinking about binoculars as the best tool for hunters to match wild turkeys’ exceptional eyesight.
I use binoculars from start to finish, starting with scouting and roosting birds. When scouting, I don’t want to get too close to turkeys. I don’t want them to know I’m around and I don’t want them to get nervous and move off their usual locations or patterns. Binoculars let me watch from afar, judging a group, counting the longbeards, jakes and hens, and seeing where they go at different times of the day and, most importantly, where they roost in the evening.
But where my binocular really comes into play is when the hunt is on. Keeping concealed at a safe distance, I can count the birds in a flock and gauge ages, size and beard length of the gobblers. If I’m watching a gobbler with a beard that drags or nearly drags on the ground, my heart starts thumping and I know he’s one I want to go after. I want to know how many total birds are there because that is how many sets of eyes I have to fool when I set up to call.
For turkey hunting, you don’t need huge binoculars. I believe 8 power magnification is about right; 10 power if you really want a close look. And, I prefer the easy carrying, lightweight aspects of compact or medium designs, such as the Zeiss TERRA ED Pocket and ED 32. The TERRA line is Zeiss’ entry class, so you can get all the benefits of their quality components and construction—and crisp, clear viewing—at a reasonable price.
The eyesight of wild turkeys is so sharp, they can see you blink, so you’d better have all your stealth and concealment skills operating at a high level and you’d better enlist top-notch binoculars to help foil that keen eyesight.
Check out the TERRA line of binoculars at Zeiss.com. And while there, check out their Conquest and Victory lines of binoculars. Conquest is the benchmark in the upper middle class of binoculars while the Victory line, yet another impressive step up, represents the leading edge.