Top 10 Turkey Vest Essentials

With so many gadgets and gizmos available for turkey hunters, it’s easy to head afield weighted down like a lead balloon. Let's avoid that this season.

Top 10 Turkey Vest Essentials

Florida's turkey season opens in March, first among U.S. states.  Photo: John Hafner

With so many gadgets and gizmos available for turkey hunters, it’s easy to head afield weighted down like a lead balloon. I’m assuming you won’t leave the truck without your shotgun or bow. And while I may add or subtract some stuff depending on where or how I’m hunting gobblers, these essentials are always with me.

10) Flashlight/Headlamp

Sometimes you need a little light to sneak in close to a roost tree in the dark, or to navigate back to the truck after a late evening hunt. They come in all shapes, sizes, and price brackets and, trust me, I have some pricey lights so powerful they can turn off a street light. Often for turkey hunting, though, I use a little cheapo model I got at Walmart for a dollar. Which light I choose depends on where, when and how I’m hunting.

9) Thermacell

Spring turkey hunting often means hordes of biting insects. The Thermacell is a quick, quiet, non-toxic way to keep them at bay. I also pack along some single-use insect repellant wipes in case they get super-bad.

Bob Robb uses turkey decoys whenever and wherever practical. When he uses a full-sized strutter, he always adds a real turkey fan. And an extra decoy stake is pretty important too, if you’re like most of us and apt to lose one. (Photo Credit: Flambeau Outdoors)

8) Toilet Paper, Wet Wipes

No explanation necessary. I do carry both in a heavy, quart-sized Ziploc bag, which is also where I keep my license/tag and wallet and a small roll of electrician’s tape. All are buried in an inside vest pocket where they cannot accidentally fall out and I know if I have my vest I have all my paperwork.

7) Water and Snacks

All-day turkey hunts require hydration and fuel. I bring two 16-oz. plastic water bottles for each half-day and a half gallon-sized Ziploc that contains a myriad of tasty snacks.

6) Multi-Tool/Knife

Gotta have a knife, and there’s no better way to pack one along than with a multi-tool that can help you repair little problems without heading back to the truck.

5) Decoys/Spare Stake

I love decoys. This is especially true for the super, life-like decoys from Avian-X, Dave Smith Decoys, Cherokee Sports, Flambeau, Flextone and Primos. I know, many of you don’t believe in decoys, and many won’t hunt without them. I use them whenever and wherever practical. When I use a full-sized strutter, I always add a real turkey fan. And an extra decoy stake is pretty important for an airhead like me that’s always loosing stuff.

4) Cutters/Snips

Many companies sell pruning shears and collapsible saws for hunters, and I never leave home without my set. They’re invaluable when you need to build a brush blind, trim a shooting lane, or remove pokey roots, thorn brush, and other annoying butt- and back-stickers when trying to set up. I have an old set from Knight & Hale Game Calls that I’ve used for years and really like.

A smartphone can offer the lay-of-the-land via Google Earth and it can be a real gem when you’re looking for your truck. Tools like that make phone chargers a turkey-vest essential. This Firecel by Celestron is compact and more than a charger.

3) Binoculars

From glassing for birds in roost trees to scanning ahead for turkeys before moving to glassing distant country out West, a binocular is a hunter’s best friend. I prefer either an 8X or 10X glass.

2) Cell Phone/Charger

My smartphone is more than a safety device. With Google Earth, I can see the lay of the land, and a GPS app like MotionX means I can always find the truck. On an all-day, away-from-the-truck hunt I also pack along a small Firecel which serves as a phone charger (charge cord extra) and also incorporates a handwarmer and flashlight.

1) Calls

I am a minimalist caller, meaning I call as little as I have to to get the job done. That said, I always have in my vest at least two pot calls, one box call, one push-pull call, and an assortment of diaphragms. I also make sure I have extra chalk and sandpaper so I can keep my friction calls working like new.

BONUS TIP: If you have not started practicing with your calls yet, you’re way behind the curve.

Honorable Mention

A pocket, first aid kit pretty much always comes along. I like to have a laser rangefinder even when hunting with a shotgun and certainly always when bowhunting. A seat of some kind is nice, too; my favorite is an inflatable seat pad with back & sides that I can cinch tight to make it stiff as any chair back. Three spare shotshells seems to be my lucky number.

When my wife hunts with me I bring along a lightweight, collapsible bipod she can use as a rest for her shotgun. The number of decoys I carry is directly proportional to the amount of ground I plan on covering. When hunting Merriam’s and Gould’s birds out West that like to cover a lot of ground, I may exchange the traditional turkey vest for a high-volume daypack. This approach allows room for a full-sized strutter decoy with real fan and at least one hen decoy. If I am planning on hanging out on a field edge or near a water hole for an afternoon with the decoys out, a paperback book helps pass the time.

Oh, and did I mention you never, ever leave the truck without your hunting license/turkey tag? This may seem like a no-brainer, but in the heat of battle who hasn’t forgotten their license and/or tag?


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