A mechanic working on broken-down automobiles would never get the job done if their tools were spread over the ground or here and there. Instead, they have a toolbox that keeps all their needed tools at a close distance and, more importantly, neat and organized for them to find what they need quickly. The same goes for a turkey hunter’s vest; I have often quoted veteran turkey hunter and champion caller Matt Morrett when prioritizing a turkey vest. He said, “a vest is a turkey hunters filing cabinet.” Those words have long stayed in my mind because they are true. When wearing a vest, hunters have everything they need to get the job done when calling a spring longbeard into close range.
When packing up your vest this spring, many essential items must never be left behind. At the same time, there are a few things that hunters should opt out of packing. Below is an extensive guide to a properly packed turkey vest, giving turkey hunters a significant advantage.
First and foremost, the essential item that every spring turkey hunter should carry in their vest is turkey calls. Many hunters, myself included, have an extensive collection of calls. However, taking every call along would make the hunter look and sound like an old mule hitched to a wagon traveling through the woods on the opening morning of hunting season.
Many hunters carry two or three diaphragm calls when hunting. Three-mouth calls are ideal because they don’t weigh anything, can be used in any weather condition, and keep the hunter motionless. Plus, they sound like a real hen turkey when properly used. Next is a pot-style call, such as the New Zink Calls Thunder Ridge Blaster. A pot-style call creates soft yelps, purrs, and clucks of the wild turkey. These calls have excellent volume and, with the proper striker, can also be used in wet conditions. While mentioning foul weather, a box call, such as the Zink Hick Talker, is perfect for those windy spring days when turkeys have difficulty hearing. The walnut bottom and hickory paddle of the Hick Talker create higher raspy hen sounds that carry excellent through the wind.
The last call that all hunters should have in their turkey vest is one or two locator calls. Locator calls give up a gobbler’s location by shocking them into gobbling at a natural sound. Many hunters carry an owl hooter and a crow call, such as the Hunters Specialties/DOD Crow Call. If your vest is getting too full, narrow it down to only the crow call because it can be used all day.
Mistake: Do not carry a box call in your vest without a built-in silencer to go in between the box and the call lid, as it could result in a squeaky box every time you step, which can spook nearby turkeys.
Besides call pockets, many other pockets are included on a turkey vest. These pockets are for turkey hunting essentials such as gloves, facemasks, and extra shells. Turkeys have some of the best vision of any animal; wearing gloves and a facemask is vital to staying concealed from their eyes while traveling to a call. Plus, they help safely keep all exposed skin hidden from other hunters.
Mistake: Always have an extra pair of gloves and a facemask in your vest. If a glove is lost or a facemask can’t be found, it could ruin the hunt because of a gobbler spotting your location.
As I referred the turkey vest to a mechanics toolbox, it is only fair to list the essential tools that turkey hunters should keep within easy reach. Items such as binoculars and a rangefinder are often needed when hunting. One of the most important tools to keep close is a hand pruner, such as the Hawk Pruner.
A small compact pruner like the ones from Hawk can aid in making a quick ground blind when cover is limited or when clearing those one or two obstacles that could interfere with a shot on a mature gobbler.
Mistake: Using a small hand pruner instead of a saw is much quieter and provides less movement when cutting a quick shooting lane. Turkeys can hear and see much better than humans. A loud noise or unnecessary movement can ruin a hunt quickly.
There are always a few extra items to pack along in a turkey vest that many hunters typically do not consider. Tick spray or a Therma Cell can make a hunt much more enjoyable, preventing the nuisance of itching and scratching that can cause unnecessary movement. Next is an energy bar, such as an Mtn Ops Protein Bar and a water bottle. A protein bar can boost a hunter’s energy quickly and give them the energy they need to keep hunting. The same goes for water; chasing turkeys up and down the hills and woods can sometimes be exhausting. Staying hydrated is vital when hunting for an extended period.
Mistakes: Do not take a plastic water bottle when hunting. They are noisy and can result in nearby wildlife spooking. Instead, carry a durable bottle such as the Yeti Yonder Bottle, which can hold up through the grind of hunting.