It’s here! Winter is gone and it’s time to get out into the woods and chase longbeards around. Is there any other springtime activity that is more fun than turkey hunting? Just any other season, you need to do your pre-hunt prep work. It’s also a great reason to go buy some new gear. And who doesn’t like new hunting gear?
Gunning for toms
The first thing that must be done is patterning your shotgun. It doesn’t matter if you did it last year, it’s always a good idea to try out your scattergun before you head afield. You want an extra full turkey choke in your shotgun, like Primos TightWad Choke Tubes, $24.99. It’s available for all popular shotguns and in 12 and 20-gauge. It is a ported choke too, to reduce muzzle jump. Make sure you wear ear protection though when you’re pattering the gun.
There are a lot of different turkey loads on the market, so try several to see what is going to pattern best from your shotgun and choke combo. One of my favorite loads is Hevi-Shot Triple Beard, $13.99 – 19.99. Hevi-Shot is a lead-alternative load that has proven to be amazing at killing birds. The Triple Beard is loaded up with a mix of 5, 6 and 7 shot size, for a lethal combination of maximized pellet count, down-range efficiency and overall “thumpatude.” These loads pattern extremely well for me. So much so that it practically obliterates the target at 30 yards. Try using the same gear you’d use in the field too when patterning. When I can, I shoot off sticks for optimal balance, especially when I’m hunting solo. The easiest to use are Primos Gen 2 Trigger Sticks, $54.99-169.99. I like them because they are so easy to adjust on the fly. How many times have the birds cooperated just perfectly? Yeah, that rarely happens. Practice for the crazy as well as the planned. It’ll get you more birds and fewer headaches.
Archery hunters need to practice too. There’s two schools of thought on turkey hunting with a bow. You can take the body shot, much like on a deer, and let the bird bleed out. Or, you can go with the massive broadheads that are designed to disconnect the tom’s head from its neck. Either way, you need to practice. Cabela’s Pinnacle 3-D Turkey Target, $139.99, lets you do just that. This American-made foam target will take shots from field points and fixed broadheads. It’ll also take crossbow shots as well. Turkeys are tough targets with a bow and I would recommend use of a 3-D target for practice. It is the best way to get used to the body shape for that all-important shot.
Calls and decoys
One of the things that makes hunting turkeys so much fun is that you are actively calling, and those toms are responding to the call. There’s a lot of different calls and call types, and turkey hunters generally carry several afield with them. Some hunters like diaphragm calls because it lets them be hands free, and have a lot of control over the tone. My wife can run one pretty good, but the shape of my mouth has always prevented me from effectively sounding anything like a turkey when I use them. I generally stick to a friction call, like a Zink Calls Power Hen Turkey Call, $49.99. It doesn’t take a ton of practice to start sounding like a hen turkey, but it can be pretty easy to mess up in the woods when running any call. That’s why you practice. My best advice is to get more than one call and really work on the little nuances to make the right sounds. I have had toms come running across 200 yards of open field while I was just goofing around with a new call. I’ve also been busted by hens who reacted negatively to the sounds I was making.
Running a decoy is quite often a surefire way to get the gobbler to commit. You want the incoming bird to focus on the decoy and not you. I always like to set my decoys behind me, if I’m using a hen, like one of the Avian-X Collapsible Hen Turkey Decoys, $79.99. The Avian-X dekes are about as lifelike as you’re going to find and are available in three different body positions. I like the Lookout and Feeder positions for a single hen decoy set up. This way the tom is coming in looking for the pretty little lady that was making all the noise. The Breeder position works extremely well when paired with a jake decoy. For that set up, I will set up just behind the decoys and try to smack him in the face as he comes in the thump the jake that was stealing his woman. It’s all seriously fun stuff.
This ain’t no fashion show
Camo is very important for hunting turkeys. They have pretty sharp eyesight, at least it sure seems that way. The wrong glare or patch of exposed skin can get you busted. I always like to go fr stealth and comfort mixed together when I’m chasing birds, often opting for Cabela’s Men’s Silent Weave 6-Pocket Pants, $17.99 – 27.99. The fit is good; the comfort is there; and they are quiet when moving to my sets. I’ll often pair the pants with a long-sleeve shirt or a sweatshirt, depending on conditions.
If you live or hunt in snake country, make sure you get set up with a pair of snake boots , like Cabela’s Men’s Copperhead Snake Boots with 4MOST DRY-PLUS, $142.49. In spring, you get a lot of snakes crawling out, getting warmed back up and on the prowl for food. There is not a turkey on the planet worth getting a snake bite over. Snake boots are cheap insurance. These Cabela’s boots are comfortable too, so that helps.
And now we’ve come to the piece of gear we all tend to fuss over the most—the turkey vest. A vest needs to be comfortable in all positions while hunting. It also needs to have enough pockets for all of your gear, be it calls, knives, pliers, rangefinders, shells and more. I can tell you from experience, that not many companies put as much time and development into making turkey hunting vests as Cabela’s does. One of the more popular ones, and a favorite of mine, is the Cabela’s Men’s Tactical Tat’r 2 Turkey Vest, $83.99. The Tactical Tat’r 2 is designed to be cool and wear nicely, with pockets right where you’d put them if you were designing it. There is a rapidly deploying 3-inch thick memory-foam seat cushion to keep your butt up off the ground. It helps to keep you from fidgeting when you’ve got to be dead-silent and still waiting for the gobbler to finally come into range.
And now for something totally different…
Every now and then, a new product comes along that makes you kind of scratch you head and wonder if it really works. With all the ATVs out there, there is always room for something new. When I saw the QuietKat Electric Vehicles, $5,049 – 6,899, my first thoughts were, “Will that thing work?” Then I got the chance to try one out at a trade show. Let me tell you, they work. Think of it as an electric golf cart for one, but with the capability to go in places a golf cart couldn’t. The thing I like best about them is how one could open up new possibilities for a hunter with limited mobility. Got bad knees, or maybe had surgery? One of these machines can get you safely into the woods after a big old tom, and get you back, quietly. Sounds pretty good to me.
The most important part of hunting gear you have is right between your ears. Hunt smart. Hunt safe, and come back to hunt again. The turkeys will be there for you!
This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s.