Sunday, March 16, 2014

What’s In My Turkey Hunting Vest?

© By Othmar Vohringer

I have been turkey hunting for almost 17 years now, and while some consider me an expert on the topic, I am still learning more every season and improve my equipment. Optimizing the equipment and organizing it in a practical fashion is as important to hunting success as knowing the habits and routines of the turkey.

To get well organized it is in my opinion imperative to have a suitable hunting vest with a variety of designated pockets to store all the equipment one might need in the field. A good turkey hunting vest has to fulfill several requirements: The vest has to fit. Pockets need to be easily accessible, permitting the hunter to stow and retrieve turkey hunting tools with as little movement as possible and without having to avert his attention from approaching birds. Last but not least, a turkey hunting vest has to be equipped with a decent seat cushion and padded backrest to avoid fatigue and sore back when sitting, sometimes for hours, at the bottom of a tree.

What’s in a turkey vest? This is a question I get often and to answer it I will list below what I currently carry with me on a typical turkey hunt. The vest I currently use is the Primos Gobbler ® Vest and it fulfills all my requirements of what I consider a good and practical turkey hunting vest.
  • Hunting License, turkey tags and vehicle keys are stowed safely in a small inside pocket of the vest that can be securely sipped shut.
  • Ratchet limb clippers and a small folding saw. Just in case you have to remove a few branches to get a clear shooting lane.
  • An extra pair camouflaged gloves and a face-mask. I found that these are two items I loose or misplace the most.
  • Decoys. Usually two hens and a jake.
  • Bottle of water and snacks. Even on a daylong hunt I only carry a few chocolate bars and a bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit. This is plenty to get me through the day.
  • Flashlights. Usually I carry a small handheld flashlight and a head mounted light with me.
  • GPS. I consider a GPS a essential tool to find my way around and to log important turkey sign that I encounter during my scouting and hunting trips.
  • Spare batteries for flashlights and GPS. Especially when you out all day from dawn to dusk away from civilization you do not want to be caught with dead batteries.
  • Small pocket folding knife. Every hunter should always carry a good quality knife. A good knife serves many purposes in the great outdoors.
  • A roll of toilet paper. Toilet paper has many uses not only the obvious.
  • A small box of wet wipes. After flied dressing turkeys wet wipes make a quick cleanup of hands and knife without having to use water.
  • Binoculars. My favourite is the Swarovski 10 x 42 that I use for all my hunting.
  • A slate and class pot call. I always carry several strikers made of different wood and other materials. This lets me create different tones with one and the same call.
  • Two paddle box calls. No turkey hunter should leave home without these time tested calls.
  • A set of mouth diaphragm calls. Diaphragm calls are very useful for close calling. However, it needs many weeks, even months, of practice to get good at it. Purchasing such calls well in advance of turkey hunting season and practice often is the key to good calling with diaphragm calls. 
  • Turkey locator call. My favourite is the crow call because crows exist everywhere and they are neither competition nor a danger to turkeys.
  • Federal Premium Mag-Shok high velocity turkey shot shells. Always make sure you pattern your shotgun, using different load/choke combinations to get the best pellet spray pattern that works for your gun.
  • First Aid kit. I never go out without carrying a small first aid kit with me. Nature is full of small accidents waiting to happen, be that a small cut, wood splinters or blisters on the feet, a first aid kit will help to lessen the problems.
This may seem a lot of gear to carry but believe me; as you gain turkey hunting experience the amount of hunting equipment increases accordingly. Could you do with less equipment? Absolutely! There have been times when I just took a call or two, a few shells and the gun. However if you plan an all-day hunt (where legal) a few hours drive from home you don’t want to shortchange your options by not having all the equipment you might need.

To get the most out of a turkey hunting vest it is important that you do not just stuff everything into the pockets as it comes. Plan what goes in which pocket. For example; I am left handed, this means that my most frequently used calls are all stored in pockets on the left side of the turkey hunting vest. It is best to load your vest with the equipment you need, sit under a tree like you would on a turkey hunt and practise a few times getting equipment in and out of various pockets. Do that until you found a system that suits you and lets you “work” the vest without having to look or concentrate where or what you need. While hunting all your attention should be on the hunt not on what you need and in which pocket it is.

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