By Nick Johnson
Gear is something that we as hunters pay a great deal of attention to. Most of us who hunt own a fair assortment of “stuff”; the essential tools that drive our success and empty our wallets. Some of it is a complete necessity, some a pertinent addition for key applications and some just serves no other purpose but to keep us busy with dreams afield using it. Let’s not discuss the latter as the list would span beyond many issues of The Iowa Sportsman and do nothing but promote bankruptcy and discouraged spouses. Rather, let’s take a look at some of the key tools and gear that turkey hunters attribute to success year after year in various ways.
1). I don’t like to assume but I would venture to guess that many of you reading this have picked up a box call at some time or another. For me it was the first call I ever learned to use. The ease of use makes this call great for beginners but it doesn’t end there. Many seasoned turkey hunters rely on this call for various purposes such as getting a tom to shock gobble on the roost in the morning, realistic purrs and yelps and using the superior volume capabilities a box call often has to reach out to birds on winds days.
2). Pot Calls (Glass, Slate, Acrylic & Metal) are bread and butter calls for most turkey hunters. The ease of use is slightly more challenging than a box call but still on a level that a beginner can pick one up and make it sound like a turkey pretty quick. The range of sounds and volumes along with minimal movement involved in use is what makes these calls stand out. Putts, purrs, yelps, kee-kees, cackles and even gobbles can all be produced on one call as well as different volumes and pitches for each. I never hit the turkey woods without one of these.
3). Another type of call that adorns many a turkey hunter’s vest is the diaphragm or mouth call. One of the more difficult calls to master, the diaphragm call is one that is undoubtedly useful in a wide range of turkey talk. The best part about it is the hands free nature and almost zero movement involved. A hunter can train a bead on an approaching tom and still vocalize many turkey sounds without spooking the bird with unnecessary movement. High pitch, low pitch, soft, loud and anywhere in between is all attainable with this call.
4). A vest is a very important piece of equipment to a turkey hunter. Most are equipped with different pockets and pouches that make hauling all those calls, shells and other items into the field a lot easier. These pockets are also arranged ergonomically in such a way that items stored can be easily extracted while hunting. Many also come fitted with a padded seat to give ground sitting hunters some extra comfort when waiting out a stubborn tom. Even further, some even have a pouch in the back for carrying collapsible decoys or other items such as a rain jacket.
5). The blind is a vital piece of equipment that bowhunters especially have come to cherish. Turkeys, unlike other game species, are very accepting of blinds for some reason and this is what makes a blind so deadly. When donned in dark clothing within a blind you can make small movements like drawing a bow, raising a gun or adjusting a camera with a bird well in range and they wont even notice. Blinds can be a little cumbersome to haul into the field but they are crucial for bowhunters and youth hunters to get up close with tom.
6). Decoys are another item that I never leave for the woods without. There are many different styles of decoys on the market and all have a purpose but their primary use is to bring birds in close and keep the focus away from the hunter.
7). Unless you are out to shoot photos instead of ammo, it would be wise to bring the trusty shotgun along for the adventure. Shotguns have evolved in such a way that many manufacturers now make guns specifically catered to turkey hunting. Ergonomic things like thumbhole or pistol grip style stocks are now pretty standard on today’s new turkey guns. Be sure the gun you choose can handle the heavy payload rounds of modern turkey shot.
8). Turkey chokes are a must in my mind. You can kill a tom with a standard choke like a modified just fine but ranges with stock chokes are limited. Turkeys can be unpredictable and you do not want a tom to hang up at 50 yards only to realize the choke in your gun is suited for 40 or less. Turkey chokes are fairly affordable and can really make the difference when the time comes to pull the trigger to ensure that tom stays put.
9). For those who hunt on the ground rather than in a blind, camo is clearly one of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle to fool a turkey into range. There are many brands to choose from and styles of camp but one things is for certain, you want to be concealed from head to toe. Turkeys have excellent eyesight and can pick out the glow of human skin easily.
10). While ground hunting we often find ourselves in some uncomfortable positions. Shooting sticks are great for bearing the load of the gun while it rests against your shoulder and also for stability when the adrenaline is surging or the arms are getting fatigued. Shooting sticks are light and very portable and in my eyes a key piece of equipment for gun hunters to have along.
11). When the big old longbeard comes strutting in you have once chance to make everything come together. That one chance ultimately ends with the performance of the shotshell once the trigger is pulled. Yes, turkey loads are expensive but it pays to combo the right load to your gun and choke. Having the right shells along for the hunt will give you the confidence needed when it’s crunch time.
Gear, gear and more gear. All of it necessary? Probably not but it’s the “stuff” that keeps us hunters entertained, confident and excited about our beloved hobby. Like any form of hunting, turkey hunting has a few vital pieces of equipment that most of us would agree is essential to have in our bag of tricks to fooling old tom. Good luck this spring!