The editors at Game & Fish all have noticed that changes in hunting technology over the last generation have made big differences, generally making hunting more pleasurable and helping hunters be more effective.
THERMACELL: Nothing Bugs You
I’ve been on hunts where mosquitos, gnats and other flying pests nearly drove me out of the woods. Sure, DEET has been around a while, but it’s no fun to spray down in that chemical and reapply every once in a while. But then came ThermaCELL. About 12 years ago, a rep from the company revealed this marvel in a board room at Game & Fish, and we all looked at it skeptically. It only took one hunt and one check on the chemical – allethrin — to realize it was a game-changer.
Slip a pad into the small unit, click on, and a heating element warms the pad and releases the insecticide. It creates a cloud that flying insects do not like to penetrate. Relief. You do have to occasionally buy new pads (each lasts about four hours) and a new butane cylinder, but it’s super convenient to clip to your belt and click on when you set up and click off as you’re moving. It really does keep you focused on the birds not the bugs. — John Geiger
Computer Design: What You Can’t See Can Help You
One of the more profound sets of technological improvements in turkey hunting (and, in fact, any hunting involving firearms) is the growing use of computer numerical design (CND) and computer numerical control (CNC) manufacturing. While this technology is not something most hunters ever see, more and more they hold the products of that technology in their hands on nearly every hunt. CNC manufacturing allows for extremely tight tolerances in machined parts — such as the barrels of firearms and choke tubes. This helps companies like Trulock, a maker of high-quality choke tubes, design and build choke tubes for specific applications (like turkey hunting) and even design and build the best chokes for specific loads in specific models of shotguns. Trulock, for example, makes the Longbeard XR series of chokes specifically for Winchester’s line of turkey loads. What it boils down to is that incremental changes in design can be built and tested, then manufactured at extremely uniform and tight tolerances — hunters no longer have to buy a gun or choke tube and “hope that the assembly line was having a good Tuesday.” The result is better shooting, more regular patterns and greater retained downrange energy at more affordable prices from products that once were available only to folks who could afford the handmade work of master craftsmen. So while most hunters will never see a CNC machine, more and more hunters are seeing their tags on turkeys that were possible to kill thanks to this technology. — David Johnson
APPS: Information That Works
Phone apps are like a whole new world of tools that are continually being invented. If you’re a turkey hunter, you really need to get into some of the latest and best apps because they will help your hunting as much as a better pair of boots, a new vest or even a gun. I struggled with apps at first, mostly because when I lost cell signal, which is quite often once you get off the beaten path, then the app could not deliver info, like location. OnX had an excellent solution. When you have signal, download a map of where you will be hunting.
Then, when you lose signal, load up that map from your phone and OnX will show your location using GPS coordinates, not cell or internet signal. Brilliant. A newer app, BaseMap, does the same. Another app, ScoutLook has a unique ScentCone function that shows your exact location, say, in a treestand, and then it graphically shows you where your scent is drifting to, based on local weather conditions. Does it make you a better hunter? Yes. We hunters are always looking for information; that’s part of what hunting is. And these collections of data only help us in the woods. Just make sure your battery is fully charged.Who knows what the next upgrades to these apps will bring. I am excited to find out! — John Geiger
Clothes: Tailored For Hunters
Turkey gear has advanced over the years, but one aspect often overlooked is the clothing, vests and boots we wear into the field. Clothing today is specifically tailored for spring hunters. We have breathable, moisture-wicking tops and bottoms for warm days, and appropriate gear for cooler mornings — and camo patterns to fit spring environments. Clothing with insect repellent bonded to fabrics is available to repel ticks, mosquitoes and other bugs. Boots are lighter in weight, yet more durable than ever. Many are waterproof and offer protection against snakes. Turkey vests have come a long way in terms of comfort, weight and functionality, too. Padded cushions, kickstand frames and increased back support have boosted comfort afield, while pocket placement and design are ergonomically engineered for ease of use. — Drew Warden
Turkey Blinds:Lighter And Faster
A bad setup can make hunting these thunder chickens nearly impossible. Thankfully, blind development has come leaps and bounds. As more hunters desire to become more mobile, blind materials have become lighter and easier to set up. When you hear that bird thunder off in the distance, popup blinds unfold in mere seconds. Materials have also become much more durable.
Blinds can withstand the rigors of the season and remain usable for many seasons to come while keeping you dry and concealed. A high-quality blind will effectively conceal you, allow movement and provide range for a shot. One of the most innovative launches last year was the Primos Double Bull SurroundView blinds. Their unique construction has one-way see-through walls. It’s essentially a blind without a blind spot. Another noteworthy mention is the AmeriStep Distorter. It utilizes kick-out points that, as the name suggests, create a unique silhouette that helps blend into the environment. The GhostBlind Predator is one the of more unique portable blinds that uses reflections of the environment to seamlessly blend into the surroundings. — Laura Kovarik