Turkey hunting can require as much or as little gear as you’d like.
You may prefer to haul a heavy load, which can provide you with a solution to every turkey hunting situation. Or you might be a minimalist, like me, who’d rather substitute weight for a wide range of gear.
Really, your turkey hunting gear essentials are what you deem most important if you’re in the woods for a full day without the need to head back to the truck. As you’ll notice below, I haven’t mentioned things like snacks, gloves and mask, or a weapon of choice. I think these are given. My top five turkey hunting essentials are with me throughout the season. And they’re items that may not necessarily meet the criteria of every hunter. A lot of it depends on hunting style and personal preference. The only thing that really matters is that we’re out there in the spring woods enjoying every moment of the turkey season.
The vest may seem like a given. It is, I guess. What I think is important is the type of vest. As I mentioned, I like to move when there’s no action at a given spot. I also like to be comfortable when I am sitting down. That means I like a vest with a good seat and back bad that can help me sit still against a tree for as long as that old tom needs to reach me.
ALPS Outdoorz makes one of the best vests on the market in my opinion. Even though I don’t carry a ton of stuff, the Impact has all the right compartments for box calls, slate calls, extra shells, you name it. The most important aspect is the stadium style seat. I can sit totally still on the root of an old oak tree for an hour or in knee-high sage when there’s not a tree nearby.
I like to move around when I’m turkey hunting. This may mean covering large swaths of land in a given day when I’m not hearing or seeing turkeys move. In order to cover miles and keep my feet in good shape, I rely on Meindl boots. They can withstand hard use.
They are also priced really well. And versatile. In fact, I wear them nearly year-round from turkey to deer hunting to yard work. If you’re a run-and-gun turkey hunter, you know the importance of footwear and Meindl has not let me down. If I want a knee high boot I’m really digging the Lacrosse Alpha Burly. The extra rubber coating over the neoprene keeps me from shredding them on briars and barbed wire.
I’m a diaphragm call guy. More specifically, I prefer a minimalist approach and these calls take up the least space of everything else in my vest. That’s not to say I won’t pack a box call on a windy day or a slate when I’m hunting with someone else. If I’m calling and not shooting, this frees up my hands. But if it’s just me out there, I’d rather keep my eyes down range and my hands still.
Whatever your preference, a variety helps. What I mean by this is being able to change pitches. You don’t know how a gobbler’s ear is tuned. He may ignore a deep “throaty” yelp but come right in to high and screechy.
Make sure state regulations allow the use of decoys. Most do. And for me at least it’s pretty much a given that I’m going to have a hen decoy in my vest. What I will also carry for those gobblers that are hung or henned up is a reaping decoy. The Wiley Tom Strutting Gobbler Decoy is, simply put, convenient.
It folds down neatly and weighs just under two pounds. The ability to add tail and wing feathers make for an incredibly realistic decoy that is irresistible to a dominant tom.
Unfolded, Wiley Tom is 30” x 30” and can easily conceal a six-foot-plus person. As you probably know, the later in the season it gets, the harder it is to call in a dominant bird that’s already built a solid harem of hens. He’s not going to like an intruder boldly marching into his territory. Talk about fun in the turkey woods.
You may know by now that I’m a fan of a direct-to-consumer optics company called TRACT. I carry a pair of 8x binoculars with me in the turkey woods at all times. The wide field of view of the 8x allows me to pick up the slightest movement in the densest timber. My turkey hunting style is more of a run and gun - I don’t like to get in a blind and sit all day. I’d rather move from spot to spot and all the while I’m glassing. You’d be surprised how many times you scare away turkeys without even realizing it. Having a good set of glass has helped reduce the amount of times that happens to me as I ease through the woods.
While I’m mostly a bowhunter, there is something awfully fitting about shooting a shotgun at a turkey’s head. Like a lot of hunters I’ve switched to the tungsten shot and I’m very fond of the newer TSS Browning shotshells in 20 gauge. If the price tag is a little too scary for you on the TSS stuff, Winchester Longbeard is a solid performer at a much easier price. And it’s available in 20 gauge as well. With either of these loads I have yet to feel handicapped by “only” toting a 20. And plenty of people are using a .410 and TSS with great results.
What works for me may not work for you. I’d love to hear what you deem an essential in the turkey woods. It could be anything from a favorite hat to the optics atop your shotgun. Gear aside, I’d bet that you are like me in that you’re counting the days to turkey season!