What's In Your Turkey Vest?
March 09, 2011
Let's rummage through Jim Casada's turkey-hunting vest. After more than 40 years of chasing gobblers, he's pretty much got packing down to a science.
From duct tape to Krazy Glue, trail mix to pruning shears, you'd be surprised at the items seasoned turkey hunters tote while afield.
This Redhead Highback Turkey Lounger is at the higher end of the evolution of turkey vest comfort. $54.95. Basspro.com. There's no kitchen sink, but author Jim Casada actually often carries Krazy Glue as well as binos, shears and a knife with sentimental, as well as practical, value. You never know what kind of calls you'll need, so bring suction yelpers, slates, boxes, diaphragms and tube calls. (Don't forget the locators to howl, hoot and caw!)
Photo by Jim Casada
As veteran turkey hunter Kenny Morgan suggests in his aptly entitled book, Turkey Hunting: A One-Man Game, the quest for longbeards is best conducted in solitude. The hunter plans his own strategies and implements tactics and techniques he thinks best suited to his specific approach to hunting. Given the solitary nature of the proceeding, and that turkeys are moody and capricious as the weather, it comes as no surprise that hunter choices for tools of the trade vary greatly. What follows is a collective peek into a passel of vests, based on the author's experiences afield with masters of the sport over portions of four decades. In the final analysis though, the information comes from my personal choices of gear.
Every vest should contain certain items. Some relate directly to the game being hunted. Others should be carried by anyone venturing into remote areas. Let's start with specific tools for turkey hunting.
Calls: While most hunters have a "go to" call, a versatile hunter carries a selection including at least three of the five general categories of calls: suction yelpers, slates and other friction calls, boxes, diaphragms and tube calls. Bring locator calls, with at least two of the myriad selections available-crow calls, owl hooters, hawk calls and coyote howlers. I also carry protection for calls in case of inclement weather.
Shotshells: I use Remington high velocity magnums. I like the Wingmaster HD in a 3-inch load with 1 5/8-ounce of No. 6 shot. I get a good velocity out of it -- 1,225 fps.
Insect Repellent: Think mosquitoes, black flies, ticks, and other bothersome critters. A Thermacell unit with spare wafers and propane unit is a must for me. Some type of "turkey tote" (unless your vest has a capacious carrying pocket) along with an orange bag or flagging to safely carry out a gobbler. My tow is a home-made one using a leather strap.
Compass and GPS: They'll help you avoid getting lost, but they also are useful in coursing distant gobbles or finding your way to a roosted bird in the pre-dawn darkness.
Binoculars: A lightweight pair will do, but they are essential. Even in terrain that doesn't afford along-range vistas, binos will help you see a turkey before he sees you.
Knife: I have a vintage Barlow two-blader folder that has special meaning to me. It was a gift from my 101-year-old father many years ago. He saw to it that his sons and grandsons each had a pocket knife, which he called "the ultimate woodsman's tool."
Other good ideas include water, a flashlight, batteries, a first-aid kit, a cigarette lighter and trail mix.
STILL HAVE ROOM?
There are lots of accessories a hunter who loves gadgets can stuff his vest. Those maximalists who go overboard in this regard sometimes look more like a pack mule. The list which follows is by no means complete, but it does reflect my personal preferences from years of turkey hunting and close observation of successful hunters.
READ: Gearing Up For Gobblers
Decoys: Some folks are absolutely committed to these items of visual deceit; others feel they scare off about as many gobblers as they draw within range.
Gobble tube or shaker: Use with caution and forethought, especially on public land. But these devices can bring in a territorial tom at a trot.
Gun rest or strap-on pad: Wear one around the leg on which you prop you gun. Or choose a monopod or bipod, either attached to your barrel or separate.
READ: Four Expert Tips On Turkey Hunting Situations
Turkey wing: Perfect for fly-down flapping or to scratch gently in leaves to simulate a gobbler's wings dragging the ground while strutting.
Pruning shears: Useful for clearing limbs and brush in the way of your gun swing. Also good to cut vegetation for a blind. Personally I wouldn't be without them; others consider clippers an extravagance.
Portable blind: For those prone to fidgeting o
r who are chronic wiggle worms, a blind is a real plus. A piece of camo cloth will fit the bill.
Spare headnet and gloves: Both items are easily lost, and most experienced hunters carry extras.
Cushion, pad, or portable seat: Today I don't enter turkey woods without my handy little folding stool. But I hunted for years without this lightweight blend of comfort and convenience. Many vests have a fold-out seat built into them, and most have some type of back padding.
Cleaning kit: Remington makes a dandy one for upland game. It includes game scissors, gut hook and knife. H.S. Strut offers latex gloves that are likewise quite useful.
Large Zip-lok bags: These are good for protecting calls in inclement weather and make a perfect receptacle for organ meats when you field dress a turkey.
Range finder: If you have trouble judging distance, using this device when you set up can help avoid the misery of a shot taken at too great a distance.
Krazy Glue: I've used it for a variety of in-the-field repairs to calls. But it's also come in handy in many other ways, like the time a sling swivel broke in the middle of a turkey hunt. Of course, duct tape is a good idea as well.