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Gearing down for Gobblers

By: Matt Lindler

The hardest part of being a beginning hunter is figuring out what you need to get started. There're many products out there that claim to make you a successful hunter overnight.

Turkey and deer hunters will buy almost any gadget to improve their odds of bagging a trophy. But, sometimes, the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) will prove to be the best route.

There have been recent advancements in hunting tools, which can make getting around the woods a bit safer and easier, such as GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and laser range finders for more accurate reading of distances. But, if you bought every hunting gadget out there that boasts to "Bring in the Big Ones," you could easily spend thousands of dollars. Plus, learning to use a compass and topographic map as well as learning to judge distances goes a long way in making you a better woodsman.

Unlike white-tailed deer hunters in the Southeast and Midwest, who mainly hunt from tree stands, turkey hunters have to move around a lot to find birds. The more stuff you've got to tote through the woods, the harder it is to move quietly and ultimately kill a bird.

Being a fairly new turkey hunter, myself, I fell for those alluring ads in hopes to bag a record tom in my first season. As I've grown as a turkey hunter over the past couple of years, I've taken advice from some of the best turkey hunters in the country and now leave those gadgets and gimmicks at home.

Most longtime turkey hunters will tell you that you need only five things to kill a longbeard:

1) A vest – A turkey vest is a must for any turkey hunter. Specially made for turkey hunting, these vests have all kinds of pockets for stowing away your gloves, calls, extra shot shells and a snack. Plus, the padded, fold-down seat helps keep your behind from falling asleep while you are set up on a gobbler.

2) A turkey call – The type of turkey call you carry doesn't matter, as long as you can make realistic turkey sounds with it. Some people carry four or five different turkey callers, for those hard-to-call birds. One is usually enough to get the job done, though. Box and push-pin calls are the easiest to use for a beginner.

3) A gun – A 20-ga. or larger shotgun is preferable, but a properly-placed .410 can be effective at closer ranges. There's no need to go out and buy an expensive gun to start. An inexpensive, accurate single-shot or pump shotgun will do the job as well as any finely-finished semi-automatic.

4) Effective camo – Good camouflage is critical in the turkey woods. There are virtually hundreds of different camouflage patterns on the market today. The best camo is the pattern that most closely resembles the area you hunt. Turkeys have great eyesight, about 10 times better than humans. Make sure you have every part of your body covered in camo, including your hands, face and arms. Wear dark socks, too.

5) A lot of patience – Patience is a turkey hunter's most important asset. Being able to sit still, listen carefully and adapt to the events of the hunt will make you a better hunter and a better woodsman. Study your quarry before the season. Find the places where the turkeys love to go and set up there. Call a few times every 15-20 minutes and wait.

There are a few other items that are often helpful on an all-day turkey hunt, such as toilet paper, a snack and water, a good pair of binoculars, a compass and a whistle. These things will get you out of about every pickle you could get into. Plus, a good set of rain gear will keep you dry.

Though there is quite a market for hunting tools, gadgets and gear, these five little bits of advise should help you be better prepared to hunt longbeards than any gadget you can buy.

Plus, they will take you from a beginner to a skilled, seasoned hunter in only a few years. As you grow as a woodsman and a hunter, you can add the gadgets here and there to enhance your outdoor experience, but never feel like you have to be rich to hunt America's grandest game bird.



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