What's in your turkey vest?
by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., April 15, 2006.)
Admit it. If you're like most turkey hunters, you love gadgets. The proof is in the turkey hunting magazines. Check out the ads and you’ll see stuff that makes sense and stuff that doesn’t. All of it has a believer behind it who knows the market and has a pretty good idea what will lure turkey hunters into parting with their money.
If I were to carry everything
the magazines advertise, I'd need a
wheelbarrow. The list is endless.
Some products are better sellers than others, and they all go from the pages of a catalog or the shelves of a store into a turkey hunter's vest somewhere -- at least until they’re proven to be of little value. I'll be honest -- one of the most memorable low value items ever to occupy a pocket in my vest is the silent dog whistle gobbler locator.
I’m a little embarrassed to say I bit on that one. But you can probably also confess to buying a useless trinket or two that didn’t help your turkey hunting. Fortunately, the dog whistle didn’t set me back much. Unfortunately, it didn't even work on my dog.
Almost all turkey hunters use a vest, especially those who are into gadgets. Vests can be simple and cheap or complex and very expensive. A $20 economy model from Wal-Mart will get the job done, but a $200 luxury version from a specialty catalog has lots of bells and whistles that appeal to many hunters. Vests are like deer rifles; overkill isn’t necessary, and you can get everything you need at a comfortable price somewhere in the middle.
What’s important about a vest is that it keeps all those gadgets stowed away, ready to head out to your favorite ridge to listen for the big thunderbird to sound off. The gear your vest totes to that ridge top is as personal as the vest itself, and no two hunters will agree on its content. Hunters don’t agree even on many common sense items. Not everyone carries a knife. I know because sometimes I don’t carry one when turkey hunting.
If I were to carry everything the magazines advertise, I'd need a wheelbarrow. The list is endless: a locator call, multiple turkey calls, flashlight or headlamp, extra batteries, GPS or compass, snacks, rope or cord, decoys, extra ammo, bug spray, raingear, extra gloves and head net, matches and fire starters, cell phone, emergency kit. Almost everyone agrees that an orange hat and an orange tree band should be on the list for safety -- but other than that lots of stuff should stay home.
Still, most hunters overlook a few things that I consider essential. One is a pair of pruning shears. Nearly every time I sit down to call a turkey I notice a twisted sapling or piece of brush in line with the turkey’s likely approach route. Snapping it off might make too much noise. My pruners make short work of it.
My water bottle is another essential. Too many times I’ve reached a listening spot, heard a gobbler far away on the next ridge, climbed down one hillside in the dark and up another before fly-down time, and watched the gobbler pitch off his roost and head the other way. Then I’ve hiked back down and back up, returning to my truck in time to get to work by 8:00 AM. On mornings like that I’m glad to have 16 ounces of water. A candy bar helps, too.
I also stow a camera in my vest. The best place to take a photo of your gobbler is usually at the kill sight, and if you hunt alone you also need a way to hold the camera. I use an UltraPod -- a lightweight, folding tripod. I can set up the picture and use the camera’s timer to snap a photo.
I also take a few wet wipes or a wet washcloth, sealed in a zip-lock bag. I prefer to pluck and eviscerate after I get home, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get bloody hands while in the woods. Sometimes a turkey whose head is rocked by a load of number 5’s won’t stop bleeding, and I’ll need to wipe off my hands even if I don’t do the field dressing.
Finally, I carry a few safety pins. They come in handy for securing dangling straps, attaching my tag to a gobbler’s leg, pinning lanyards to my vest so they’re not draped around my neck, and making minor repairs.
I could claim I'm not a gadget guy, but I'm still on the lookout for the next great turkey hunter marketing ploy. What's in your vest?