What's In Your Turkey Vest?

There’s almost no limit to what you could take on a turkey hunt, but there is a law of diminishing returns where hauling too much stuff takes away from your effectiveness and enjoyment. The challenge then becomes a balancing act between what you need and how much you want to tote into the woods. That task is made much easier by wearing a vest, and what follows is a list of the essentials and a few very handy non-essentials you’ll want to consider putting in that vest.

Obviously, you need calls, and what you bring will depend largely on personal preference. If you can master them, diaphragms are the optimal choice because they take up almost no space and allow for hands-free calling. One is good but two or three are better as gobblers can sometimes be fickle in how they respond to different tone, pitch and raspiness.


The same is true of friction calls so multiples is also beneficial. Most hunters carry one box and at least one slate or pot and peg call; I carry two of the latter. My primary is real slate, preferred for its pure tone. The secondary is some type of synthetic, which yields a higher pitch, and will work when wet. I also carry three different strikers for different tones and circumstances, including at least one synthetic for hunting in the rain. A couple more options are a crow call and owl hoot for striking a gobble and a gobble tube.

Calls need occasional conditioning so you’ll need a few maintenance items, all of which will fit neatly into a snuff can. The list includes chalk for your box calls and small patches of sandpaper and scrub pads for your slates.

As most hunts begin before daylight, you’ll need a flashlight. Thanks to modern technology, we now have lithium-powered LED lights that are smaller than, and weigh less than a roll of quarters. Headlamps are a better option as they free your hands for carrying guns and gear and fending away branches. A spare battery or two is also a good idea.


For so many obvious reasons, you should consider a compass as an absolute necessity. And what do you do when you don’t trust your compass? Check your spare. A handheld GPS unit used to be an alternative option, but smartphones now provide most, if not all the same functions, and you can use them to capture photos and video. And, you can use apps like OnX to enhance your hunt.

Every hunter carries a knife, but some type of multi-tool is a better option as it has multiple implements that could come in handy to dislodge jammed shells, adjust box calls and more. Though not essential, a set of ratchet pruners can come in pretty handy if you have to fashion a makeshift blind or quickly clear a shooting lane.

Next come the creature comforts, including a small water bottle and a light snack like energy bars or bite-sized candy bars. A length of toilet tissue or some moist wipes in a Ziploc bag is not a bad idea either.

A couple obvious necessities that should go without saying are shotshells and your license and any required permits or tags. Still, it’s a good idea to put them on your list as they are occasionally forgotten. You might find a pen or pencil handy to fill our your tag, and an electrical “zip” tie to affix it to your bird.

Speaking of being forgotten, I usually carry an extra face mask and pair of camo gloves. They weigh next to nothing and take up almost no space; but could save your hunt, or your companion’s hunt.

Last but certainly not least are decoys. With all the other stuff you’ve loaded into your vest, you’ll want to keep the weight down. And should your hunt end successfully, you’ll want as much space as possible in the game pouch. That makes collapsible, 2-D or 3-D decoys the clear favorite. A trio like Montana Decoys’ Fanatic, Dinner Belle and Spring Fling will suit most situations. You may want to substitute a Jake-Purr-fect if you’re concerned about intimidating subordinate toms, or a Wiley Tom is you intend to do some reaping. Or bring all five. And if you prefer 3-D decoys, bring a couple Miss Purr-fect hens.

That about covers the gear you’ll need, or want under most circumstances. There’s plenty more you could bring but if things go well you’ll be carrying an extra 20 pounds out of the woods so keep it light.

Note: Parts of this blog were excerpted from the Author’s book: Pro Tactics: Turkey Hunting, available at www.bobhumphrey.com.

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