Spring fever has set in and you find yourself itching to get back out into the woods. Typically, in the past, you have only ventured afield to hunt whitetail deer…but as luck would have it, a buddy of yours invites you out for a turkey hunt. You instantly accept the offer despite never having hunted this fine feathered creature. Time to gear up, but what exactly do you need? Read on for our suggestions on items to consider to best prepare for your upcoming adventure!
More often than not, conditions are going to be cool and wet, so now is (maybe) not the time to drag your coveted “safe-queen” through the woods. Shotguns that have synthetic stocks are preferable for ease of cleanup, since you will most likely be dealing with damp and muddy surroundings.
Ensure you have a way to attach a sling to make it easy to carry through the woods, add in a turkey choke, and be sure to cover any shiny metallic surfaces with black or camouflage tape…you don’t want to twinkle like a Christmas tree in the woods as the sun peeks over the treetops.
Choose ammunition that matches what your shotgun is designed to fire, paying special attention to gauge, shotshell length and shot size. A popular tip amongst hunters is to purchase a few different options then take them to your local range to “pattern your shotgun.”
To do so, create a large target from butcher paper or cardboard, then draw a 3-inch circle in the center. From a distance of 40 yards, take a shot at the bullseye, then examine where that shot pattern landed. Repeat the process with different ammunition types as well as varying the distances at which you're shooting. This process should help you settle on a load that you feel certain will provide a clean and humane kill on that one gobbler.
Dressing in layers is a must, because as the hours roll on you will find yourself warming up as the sun reaches higher in the sky. The last thing you want is to break out in a sweat when the temperatures are still close to freezing, then be unable to remove an article of clothing (that’s a recipe for hypothermia, which you absolutely can get in springtime).
Moisture-wicking options are quite handy, as are a good pair of hunting boots. Just like your tops and bottoms, your boots should keep your feet comfortable and dry, as well as protect them from the elements. Those living in snake country may want to consider a pair of boots that extend towards the knee to help guard against a cranky rattlesnake or water moccasin.
Give the old peepers a chance to see that turkey before you hear the first "gobble gobble." Unless you find yourself hunting in the densest of woods, a binocular with good light transmission and clarity will help you find a tailfeather peeking out from behind a tree stump. Be sure you choose one that you're confident won't fog up during the varying weather conditions, because nothing is worse than quickly grabbing your glass to get a better look at a potential target to only see a thick, impenetrable haze.
Think of your hunting blind as a mini refuge from the elements in the middle of the woods. They’ll also help disguise small motions and gaps in your camouflage. Blinds can be found in all shapes, sizes and camouflage patterns. Find one that is easy to set up, because you’ll probably be doing that in the dark. The lighter the better, and bonus points if it comes in a case with backpack-style straps, or is easily strapped to your hunting pack.
Calling in wild game is an art, but few things are more rewarding than working your call and having a wild turkey respond. Turkey calls come in lots of shapes and sizes, with even more varieties when it comes to the sounds that they produce and the types of turkeys they are meant to attract. Regardless of the call you choose, be sure to do your research and watch videos on how to properly use your new tool, as well as practice at home before the day of the hunt. If you don't put in the work ahead of time, you run the risk of sounding like an injured duck playing the kazoo in the middle of the woods, which will amuse the turkeys as much as your fellow hunters.
If you find yourself posted up against a tree, a simple pad of some sort will work great to provide a bit of comfort while the hours roll on. If you are using a ground blind, a stool or chair of any sort is essential. Key things to look for when purchasing a hunting stool are comfort and maneuverability. Ground blinds typically have several ports to peer through and take a shot around its perimeter, so be sure that you choose an option that allows you to rotate both easily and quietly. If you can set your blind up ahead of the hunt, the weight of the chair may be less of a concern, but if you are going for lightweight and small, there are simple tripod-style stools that can easily be strapped to your pack.
Nothing is worse than a swarm of mosquitoes or gnats using you as their morning snack while you try to remain still and not disrupt your hunt. Time spent swatting away these pesky creatures can easily cause one to miss out on a nice turkey dinner, so be sure you take steps to prevent this from happening the moment you enter the woods. There are many sprays, creams, and wipes available, as well as portable options that create a bug-free zone around you so you can keep your focus on answering a turkey call or glassing the woods for signs of life.
When it is all said and done, you don't need the fanciest and most expensive gear. The key is to find something that fits within your budget and educate yourself on how to properly use it to the best of your ability. Get back to nature and away from the hustle and bustle of daily living. Take time to breathe, enjoy the fresh air and go into it accepting the fact that even though you may not walk out with your prized turkey, a hunt that leaves you empty-handed is better than a hard day at work. Happy hunting!