Jim Braaten

Jim Braaten lives near Kenyon, Minn., and has been an avid outdoorsman for more than 35 years. He lives on the family farm that was first settled by his ancestors 152 years ago. He has been an outdoors writer and photographer, and he owns a business producing and marketing calendars.

Gearing up for gobblers; don't let equipment choices confuse you

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: March 5, 2010 - 4:52 PM

Walk the isles of most outdoor sporting goods stores these days and you’re apt to see an abundance of turkey hunting gadgets. Indeed, the choices between game calls, choke tubes, ammunition, decoys, hunter blinds, and so on, can leave a person quite perplexed, if not downright dizzy from the entire shopping experience.

No doubt about it turkey hunting has become a goldmine for outdoor product marketers. With product options galore, the wannabe spring turkey slayer is bombarded with choices surrounding nearly every aspect of the hunt.

Yet, the successful turkey hunter needs to put all of this into proper perspective. With Minnesota’s first turkey hunting period about five weeks away, the decisions you make now in choosing the correct gear could ultimately determine your success in the field.

Here’s some quick pointers to keep in mind as you gear-up for the spring turkey hunt:

  • Pick the best calls for you. Remember, it’s better to master the use of a few calls than to be mediocre with an assortment of calls in your vest. Practice, practice and do more practice before heading out to the woods. There’s a reason contests exist to determine turkey calling champions. Making the right sounds to lure in that gobbler IS that important.
  • Weigh the options of using a decoy. Some hunters swear by them, yet other hunters will swear at them. The key to employing a decoy in your hunt has more to do with your setup location and whether or not you need a visual attractor (as an adjunct to your calling). My personal take…when hunting public lands I ALWAYS use them if for no other reason than for safety. On public lands you don’t always know who else is in the woods. Unfortunately, yes, I have experienced someone shooting at (via stalking) my decoys and much preferred decoys shot than to have them shooting at the sounds being made near the base of the tree.
  • Pattern your shotgun (or practice with your bow). Seems rather fundamental, but if you’re hunting with a shotgun you need to pattern your gun choosing the best ammo-choke combination. Same goes for hunting with a bow. Hone your shooting skills and practice with the equipment you plan to use in the field. You work hard to get a turkey into shooting range…it makes no sense to miss the shot or worse yet, cripple a bird.
  • Consider a fully enclosed game blind. I’ll be honest, I’ve shot more turkeys by not using an enclosed game blind than by using one. That being said, the common use of fully enclosed game blinds is a rather new strategy turkey hunters are now employing. Back 15 to 20 years or more ago portable blinds were not readily available. The point is game blinds can be used with great success, but are not always a turkey hunting necessity. In fact, some hunters like to be very mobile in their hunting strategy moving with the birds. For this type of hunter some compact material serving as quick cover may be the better option.
  • Don’t forget about your comfort. Much like deer hunting, turkey hunting can be a game of patience. Along with being patient can mean sitting in awkward or stationary positions for a long duration of time. If you sit on the ground consider a good pad or low-lying chair designed for turkey hunting. The goal is to be able to sit without sacrificing blood circulation. When you start losing your comfort is when you also start losing your focus on the hunt.
  • Take along handheld pruning shears. The best spot to sit might just have an obnoxious sapling growing right there. The handy device can also aid in opening a quick shooting lane.
  • Always keep your safety in mind. If you bowhunt, pack along a first-aid kit. Razor-sharp edges on your broadheads demand this extra step in hunter safety preparation. Another piece of equipment I always consider while turkey hunting is the use of safety glasses. A good pair of ANSI Standards rated glasses can be a wise investment both on the shooting range and in the woods while turkey hunting. Not only can this pellet-deflecting eyewear possibly save you in case of an accidental shooting, but if you use clear lenses, like I do, it also saves your eyes from sharp branches poking you when walking into the woods during low light.
     

Bottom line: Don’t let the myriad of turkey hunting equipment options confuse you, especially if you’re new to the sport. TV hunting shows and videos will lead you to believe you need this particular call or that type of camo pattern to be successful. Don’t fall prey to all the marketing hype. Head to the turkey woods with a solid game plan incorporating ONLY the equipment you really need for the experience.

Did I miss something? Drop a comment below and share your thoughts on what equipment you think is necessary to succeed as a turkey hunter this spring.
 

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