TURKEY HUNTING: THE EIGHT ESSENTIALS
As wild turkey numbers have rebounded over the last quarter-century—thanks in large parts to the efforts of hunters—more and more people take to the woods each spring in search of a big gobbler. Pursuing turkeys is exciting, and the struggle of bringing a big bird strutting to the call is one of the most rewarding hunts you can experience. But before you head to the woods this spring it’s important to be sure that you have all the essential items to make your hunt a success. Here’s a list of eight essentials to help you bag your bird this year.
1. Clothing: Turkeys have a poor sense of smell and rely on their hearing and vision to detect danger. That means you’ll need to wear camo clothing that breaks up your outline and prevents the birds from spotting you. Redhead’s Stalker Lite pants and ¼-zip shirt are perfect since they are available in a wide variety of camo patterns to match the environment where you hunt. They’re also lightweight, a real bonus for long walks on warm spring days.
2. Shotgun: Turkey guns need to produce a tight pattern and must have sights that allow you to center your shot in the vitals. There are a number of dedicated turkey guns that are effective and affordable, including Weatherby’s PA-08, which features a durable synthetic stock in Realtree Xtra Green camo, sling studs, dual action bars and a maneuverable 22-inch barrel with full choke. A clear sight picture is also critical for accurate shooting, and HIVIZ’s TomBuster II front and rear sights are an effective and affordable add-on that will improve your shooting, especially in low light.
3. Loads: Turkey loads must have enough energy to put a bird down quickly and cleanly at 40 yards or more. This demands medium-weight shot (#4, #5, and #6 are all great options) with a magnum charge of powder. Federal’s 3rd Degree turkey loads are comprised of 40% #7 HEAVYWEIGHT shot, 40% #5 Premium lead shot and 20% #6 FLITESTOPPER lead housed in a FLITECONTROL wad for dense, lethal patterns at all ranges. In addition, a portion of the proceeds from Federal’s 3rd Degree support the National Wild Turkey Federation.
4. Vest and Seat: You’ll need a camo vest with plenty of pockets that allow you to keep your calls and ammo accessible yet tucked out of sight, and comfortable straps for long days in the field. Since the ground might be wet or rocky, you’ll also want a comfortable seat, and many hunters look for a vest with a built-in seat to minimize the items you have to carry afield, something like Cabela’s Minimalist Turkey Vest, which has plenty of pockets and a soft seat for sitting on any terrain.
5. Boots: Just about any boot will work, but you’ll be more comfortable with dry, warm feet. For that reason, I like a tall, lightweight camo boot that won’t leak even in the wettest conditions. Lacrosse’s AeroHead Sport Snake Boot is perfect for spring gobblers because it is light, waterproof, and protects you against the bites of venomous reptiles.
6. Turkey Calls: There are many types of calls, but most hunters use a box call, a slate or a diaphragm mouth call. All of these will work well (and I have all of these in my turkey vest), but my favorite is a diaphragm call simply because it allows me to keep both hands free to make the shot. The Knight & Hale Beginner Pack is a great option because it includes three easy-to-use calls at an affordable price.
7. Locator Calls: Most hunters try to locate turkeys on the roost, and one of the most effective methods is to use a locator call early in the morning. These natural calls illicit a shock gobble from the birds and help hunters locate their exact position. The most common options are a barred owl call like H.S. Strut’s Owl Hooter or Knight & Hale’s Magnum Crow. A locator call is a must-have addition to your turkey vest.
8. Decoys: Decoys aren’t absolutely essential, but they are a great aid in getting birds in close and help keep the bird’s attention focused on the decoy and not the hunter. Brands like Hunters Specialties offers a wide range of hen, jake, and tom decoys that might make the difference between a bird hanging up out of range and coming close enough for an easy shot.