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.
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 el cheapo model I got at Walmart for a dollar. Which light I choose depends on where, when and how I’m hunting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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?
What about you? What do you consider essential gear when turkey hunting? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. And be sure to send pictures of your successful turkey hunts this spring!