With the spring turkey season in April, now is a good time to thoroughly inspect your turkey vest to ensure you have all the essentials for a successful spring hunt.
Turkey vests have evolved over the years. Once just a vest with pockets, modern turkey vests have slots, holders, closures and storage to hold everything an avid turkey hunter could need. The modern turkey vest makes it easy to organize, carry and ensures you have everything you need in an accessible location when it’s go time.
The modern turkey vest is designed for those who use multiple calls. Being proficient on a couple of different calls has its advantages. I use my diaphragm mouth calls the most. A big advantage of a mouth call is they leave your hands free. I have a half dozen diaphragm calls that make subtle yelps, cackles and purrs and take up little space in a turkey vest, but they must be kept organized and handy. Diaphragm calls typically come in a plastic container that I put in a small pouch in a zippered vest pocket. In that same pouch, I put chalk for my box call and the strikers I use for my friction call. I also have a piece of sandpaper to rough up the surface of the friction call. Many hunters will use a mouth-call wallet to store and separate the various diaphragm calls they carry.
My vest has an oval-shaped pocket for my friction call. The pocket has an elastic loop and a hook it attaches to keep the call close at hand and dry. Keeping a friction call dry is important. They won‘t work if they get damp. Friction calls are outstanding for cutting and purring. I can work the friction call while I’m calling with my diaphragm call. It’s usually more than a strutting gobbler can stand.
I’m not very proficient on a box call, but it’s probably the best call for a beginner to start out using. Box calls are easy to use and can make a variety of turkey talk in the right hands with practice. My vest has an elongated pocket the box call slips into and is held securely in place with a flap and an elastic band that connects to a hook to hold the call in place, so it’s not chirping when you want it silent.
I also have a gobbler call in the vest. I don’t use it much. I usually don’t have to, but I have it as a last resort. I keep it in one of the large, zippered front pockets.
Besides turkey calls in the vest, I have other locator calls. Locator calls cause turkeys to shock gobble to reveal their location and are used to pinpoint where birds are. I have a crow call and an owl hooter. If one doesn’t get a response, the other one usually does. Those go in one of the zippered front pockets, too.
You must be covered head to toe in camouflage if you’re serious about killing a wise, old tom. I have a pair of camouflage gloves in my vest and another pair in my jacket. One pair is the fingerless variety. I also carry a face mask in my vest, though the cap I wear has a built-in face mask. The cap is older than dirt, but I know if I have the cap, I have my face mask. Sometimes I wear a different cap, though, so I know I always have a face mask in my vest. It comes in handy if your hunting partner forgets his. Gloves and face masks can go in an inner pocket.
My turkey vest has a sizeable game bag I have no problem filling up. In the game bag, I keep a folding saw to clear shooting lanes and annoying branches. The game bag is perfect for carrying decoys. I carry two flocked, collapsible decoys and the stakes – one jake and one hen. That’s usually enough. I also have a separate mesh bag that contains a hen, jake and a strutting gobbler, but I find the jake and hen pair usually does the job.
I carry a portable blind in the game bag. MAD makes the blind. I’m not sure they’re still in business, but I love the blind. It’s lightweight and has three stakes, two of which telescope to form a V. You can rest your gun right in the center and make slight adjustments on an incoming gobbler without being seen. Having the blind to support your gun in the ready position is a huge advantage, too.
I keep a blaze-orange piece of cloth in the game bag for safety. The cloth snaps onto the back of the vest when I’m carrying a bird. I also carry a game strap in the game bag, making it easier to carry a heavy gobbler out of the woods.
Odds and Ends
Additions to the vest include a small pair of binoculars and a pair of pruning shears. The binoculars are perfect in the field for scoping out distant gobblers and their harems and keeping track of where they are entering and exiting the field and roosting. The pruning shears are ideal for quickly removing limbs blocking or obstructing your view.
Make sure you carry bug spray. Bugs aren’t usually a problem early in the season, but later they can be a pain. It’s impossible to sit still if you have a cloud of skeeters or black flies tormenting you. I put the bug spray in an accessible inside pocket.
The vest I use has a convenient little molded pocket that holds three 12-gauge shells. Those are the ones that go in my gun every morning. I carry a few additional shells in an inside pocket.
You can’t sit still if you aren’t comfortable. One of the most admirable qualities of a successful turkey hunter is patience. It’s hard to be patient if you’re not comfortable. My turkey vest has a thick, foam seat attached to the back of the vest that you can easily deploy to sit on. A comfortable seat is mandatory. If your vest doesn’t have one, be sure to bring one. Newer vests even have padding that supports your back. The only bad part about that is if you get too comfortable, your snoring may scare the turkeys away!
Make sure your vest has wide, padded, adjustable shoulder straps and an adjustable sternum and waist buckle to help distribute the weight. Most modern turkey vests have a mesh pocket perfect for a water bottle.
Other than a little luck, a well-stocked and organized turkey vest will tip the odds in your favor for a successful hunt this spring.