A hunter can easily become enraptured by the expansive aisles winding through Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops. Every piece of gear we could ever want sits idly on the shelves, waiting to be plucked away and hauled off to the woods. Fancy gadgets, the latest technology and space-age fibers abound. When it comes to your turkey hunting gear list, don’t overcomplicate it. Like the saying goes: Less is more.
Since when has turkey calling become so complex? Superior calling may win competitions, but it doesn’t always translate to success in the woods. We’ve heard hens in the woods sound so strange they would’ve been booed off the stage at a calling contest. There are three simple calls to master: the yelp for initially attracting a longbeard, the cluck to entice the tom closer, and the purr to draw him into bow range. Stick with these and you can’t go wrong.
A diaphragm, box or slate call will lure in a tom and are all effective, although each is better suited to varying scenarios. Box calls are loud and simple to use - perfect for a beginner. Slate calls offer a wide range of volume and versatility, while a diaphragm allows hands free operation. A slate and diaphragm is a deadly, simple combination. Use the the slate to draw in a bird and then the mouth call to avoid movement when he closes the distance.
You can sit in the woods and call all day, but if a tom doesn’t have a visual to hone in on, he likely won’t come into bow range. A single hen decoy, and nothing more, can raise the confidence of an incoming gobbler, draw him close and distract him from you. If you’ve got room in your vest, stick in a jake to pair with the hen, a combination that’ll rile up a longbeard looking for a fight.
Drawing back undetected is easily solved with a pop-up ground blind. They set up quickly and collapse just as easily, which makes them sensible even for run-and-gun turkey hunters. Natural blinds constructed of nearby vegetation are just as effective and means you have one less item to lug around.
A blind should be on your turkey hunting gear list, which will keep you hidden while you draw back.
As soon as you hear a gobbler respond to your yelps, set up the blind up and decoy(s). If you’re constructing a natural blind, you’ll want to create it beforehand. You won’t want to miss an opportunity while you’re piling brush together. Keep the sun to your back to prevent light from highlighting your movements inside the blind. Also, ensure there’s a clear line of sight of your decoy spread.
An aggressive cutting mechanical broadhead like the Dueler or Jak-Knife is ideal for turkeys. The fully deployed blades slice through a turkey’s feathers, inflicting major damage to vitals. That large cutting diameter is ideal for turkeys due to the birds’ small kill zone. Just a slight pull when you release your arrow can cause you to miss a gobbler’s vitals.
There’s few things on Earth more despicable than a mosquito. They’re a spring turkey hunter’s worst nightmare. Protect yourself from the maddening swarms with a Thermacell. For protection against ticks and chiggers, treat your clothes with permethrin, which is a insecticide that bonds to fabrics, lasts for several launderings and kills bugs on contact. Spray DEET near your shirt cuffs, belt line and neck as well.
Just because camouflage is at the bottom of this list doesn’t mean it’s least important. In fact, concealment is the most vital aspect of turkey hunting. All of the calling in the world and most realistic decoys won’t help if you’re sticking out like a sore thumb. Make sure you’re covered from head to toe in camouflage - that includes gloves and a facemask.
Keeping these essentials with you throughout turkey season won’t break your back or the bank. You’ll be just as capable of harvesting a gobbler as the guy with the latest bells and whistles, loaded down with more gear than he can carry.