Karen’s Little Helpers

Hunting season essentials for when you’re not hunting

Every spring I refine my packing list as turkey season progresses. I leave behind the items I don’t use, like that second slate call that sounds similar to the first one. And add those things I really missed on the previous hunt, as in a could’ve-really-used-that-in-a-torrential-downpour rain suit.

I get by with a little help from my ear buds...and these other handy items.

This year, however, I built a list of things that are my must-haves during hunting season for when I’m NOT hunting. Stuff that comes in handy on the road, in the air and back at camp.

Enough yakety-yakking about ‘em, here’s my list of Karen’s Little Helpers…

EAR PHONES
I’m not lying, every flight I was on this spring had an irate baby on it. EVERY FLIGHT. I don’t shoot icy stares at the parents. Heaven knows that could be me one day. But there’s something about a kid crying “Mommy” that wrecks my nerves. I can’t tune it out … unless I crank up the tunes. A special thanks to Ozzy’s “Momma, I’m Comin’ Home” and the Judd’s “Mama He’s Crazy” for helping drown out the yelling. I simply pretended the screaming little banshees are backup singers.

FLIP FLOPS
Looking down at my feet right now, I’m in desperate need of a pedicure. Why? They spent six weeks in a pair of hunting boots. My tootsies require fresh air, so I pack a pair of platform flip-flops in my bag and wear them whenever I’m not hunting or on the gun range. They also come in handy when staying at more “rustic” camps. I’ll wear them in the shower or even just to keep my feet out of the dirt I just tracked in. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with making a fashion statement.

AN AUX CORD
You travel with me? You’re gonna rock out. I spent hours DJing my way up and down interstates this spring, having a one-woman karaoke party. I simply pump my music through vehicle speakers with that swanky little cable and sing my heart out. Two of my favorite memories from this spring were a direct result of having my tunes ready to roll at the right time. 1) Watching my guide, Jimmy Wright, shake his grove thang to “Baby Got Back” after he sent out a locator call to stubborn Merriam’s in New Mexico. 2) Seeing Under Armour’s Mark Estrada show off his mad air guitar skills to .38 Special while driving to the Oklahoma City airport. Priceless.

$20 IN CASH
This is one I learned the hard way. Cruising up I-77 in West Virginia, there were not one, not two, but THREE toll booths between me and my destination. I’m all about handing over the $2 a pop it takes to help them pave roads, provide scholarships or whatever the money is used for. But I only had $5 cash on me, and it put me in a pickle. Here’s an insider tip, they’ll let you through for $1.95 when you start scrounging for pennies in the cup holder.

CELL PHONE CAR CHARGER
Yes, I’m one of THOSE people who messes with her phone while waiting for a gobbler to show up. My iPhone is how I stay in touch with all of you. Facebook, Twitter, checking blog comments, that sort of thing. It is also my lifeline to my family. Having zero bars forces nature time (which really is great), but running out of battery is self-inflicted torture. Since hunters spend a good amount of time in trucks, I always bring along my charger to keep the juice flowing. And, yes, I still make a point to take in the view, stop to smell the roses, stuff like that. I also snap a picture of them and share them with you. That’s why you’re here, right?

Six things you didn’t know about champion caller Mitchell Johnston

Mitchell Johnston really emerged on the turkey hunting scene when he took home the title of 2010 Grand National Senior Division Calling Champion. It wasn’t an overnight achievement; he’s been calling competitively for more than a decade, winning more than 30 contests from the local to national, even world levels.

But there’s more to Mitchell than mouth calls and kee kee runs.

His closest friends call him Mitch. Sarah and Cadence call him Daddy. And fellow champion caller Mark Prudhomme says the guys on the circuit know him to be as passionate about turkey hunting as he is devoted to his family.

You can learn a lot about a person by spending hours with them in a blind. I learned that if Mitchell Johnston (right) was a cookie, he’d be chocolate chip. And his friend, Cornbread, would be oatmeal. Not that any of that matters…

I got a crash course in Mitchell by spending two days with him in his hometown of Purlear, N.C. You learn a lot about a person by staying in his home with his family. You learn even more spending hours upon hours with him in a hunting blind, along with one of his closest friends (named Cornbread).

The random stuff I took away from our hours of conversation ranged anywhere from silly to serious. And each little nugget of personal info combines into who Mitchell is today.

Somebody call 9-1-1! Mitchell and Karen are on call! We stopped by the volunteer fire department where Mitchell Johnston lends some of his rare spare time. Did you notice it’s the Champion Fire Department? Get it? He’s a champion caller? Work with me here, folks.

Everyone, meet the real Mitchell:

  1. He called in his first turkey at age 16 — a jake he shot with an old Ithaca.
  2. His wife, Ashley, killed her first buck the evening he proposed to her, which threw a loop in his special dinner plans. But it all worked out. They’ve been married for 9 years now.
  3. Mitchell entered the work force as a high school math teacher. He also coached baseball and tennis. But teaching left him trapped in a classroom when the turkeys were gobbling outside, so he left to pursue another passion as a firefighter.
  4. He delivered his first daughter, Sarah. The doctor knew he was a trained EMT and asked if he’d ever delivered a baby before. Mitchell hadn’t. “Well, right now’s a good time to practice,” said the doctor. So Mitchell went from not even wanting to be in the room to delivering her.
  5. He and Ashley named their second daughter, Cadence, after the rhythm of sounds a turkey makes.
  6. His family wasn’t at the NWTF Convention when he won his Grand National title. But he called Ashley from the stage to tell her the news. (He still tears up telling the story of his win.)

More important than what I found out about Mitchell is what he wants you to know about him.

“It’s true my family and my faith are my priorities in life,” said Mitchell. “It’s also spot on that turkey hunting is my passion. Winning calling contests and now having my own line of hunting calls and products is a dream come true for me.”

One day Mitchell hopes God blesses his company, Dead End Game Calls, to be successful enough to make a living for his family while doing what he loves, which is calling in old gobblers to his gun and helping others do the same.

Want to try a Dead End Game Call for free? Here’s your chance. Mitchell is giving away calls to six lucky Keeping Up With Karen followers — five of his Roadkill Mouth Calls and one Roadblock Slate Call. Go to www.deadendgamecalls.com and click on the Contact Us link. Fill in your name and e-mail address, and write “Keeping Up With Karen” in the subject field. Then feel free to leave Mitchell a nice little message if you want. Everyone who does this by May 31 will have his or her name in the pot for the chance at one of the six calls.

Mitchell says watch your mouth (calls)

I spent two days with 2010 Grand National Senior Division Calling Champion Mitchell Johnston in his hometown of Purlear, N.C., this spring. The idea was for us to kill a turkey or two and for him to make me a better caller.

We had our work cut out for us on the turkeys, which weren’t gobbling, as well as the calling lessons. Let’s just say you won’t find me on the calling competition stage any time soon.

But we did have a breakthrough — I learned to make a somewhat, sort of turkey sound using one of his Dead End Game Calls mouth calls. It was light years beyond the mutant bumblebee hums I’d achieved before.

Champion caller Mitchell Johnston makes a mean turkey call — mean on the turkeys, but easy for us to use. You have a chance at a free one. Just scroll down for details.

I tried his Roadkill Mini-Me (youth model/smaller frame) Batwing 3 cut and actually sounded like a hen, albeit one with a high-pitched, super raspy voice. (Surely, a few toms out there that dig that kind of talk.)

I think my humble achievement was due to Mitchell knowing how to make calls. He crafts each one by hand, using the same latex tension as on the calls he uses to compete (and win) contests.

According to Mitchell, it takes less air to make his mouth calls sing, which I was grateful for, since I’m going to need a lot of practice. My little ol’ lungs can only handle so much abuse.

The same goes for a mouth call.

“When a mouth call is not properly cared for, it can lose its effectiveness and overall tone and volume,” said Mitchell, who gave me these tips to help our mouth calls perform to their full potential as well as give them increased longevity.

1. Keep calls out of sunlight. (ex. Do not place them on the dash of your truck.)

2. Let the calls air out in a shady area, preferably at room temperature.

3. Place the calls in the refrigerator after it has dried out. Many callers and hunters do this, however, I do not. I simply place my mouth calls on top of a cabinet, entertainment center, etc., let them dry out overnight, then close my call case. (Why the high location? To keeps my kids from getting their hands on the calls.)

During my couple days with Mitchell, I got to make my own mouth call. Can you guess which one is mine? It sounds about as good as it looks. (Making a call ain’t easy, people.)

4. Begin using the calls before going into the area you are hunting, which will help separate the latex reeds if they are stuck together. If the latex reeds are still stuck together after a period of time, pull the latex apart by pulling the top reed towards the closed end of the horseshoe frame. Use extreme caution in doing this, because it can tear the latex and ruin the call altogether.

Just so you know, Mitchell has been using some of the same mouth calls for nearly seven years. Talk about rockin’ oral hygiene!

Don’t forget these TLC rules of mouth calls. Yours might last long enough to be an heirloom to pass on to your children. On second thought, that’s kind of nasty. I recommend bequeathing one of Mitchell’s box or slate calls instead. Your kids can thank me later.

Want to try a Dead End Game Call for free? Here’s your chance. Mitchell is giving away calls to six lucky Keeping Up With Karen followers — five of his Roadkill Mouth Calls and one Roadblock Slate Call. Go to www.deadendgamecalls.com and click on the Contact Us link. Fill in your name and e-mail address, and write “Keeping Up With Karen” in the subject field. Then feel free to leave Mitchell a nice little message if you want. Everyone who does this by May 31 will have his or her name in the pot for the chance at one of the six calls.

So spread the word, little birds!

A hunting couple’s love note

Some men tuck mushy cards in their wives’ suitcases when they travel. Others surprise the loves of their life at the airport baggage claim, grasping a dozen roses in their eager hands. Both are gestures of romance that don’t really fit into the Lee-Davis lifestyle.

But I don’t need cards or roses to know my husband, CJ, loves me.

I might, however, be a bit more needy.

My new red dot scope came in while I was turkey hunting in New Mexico. CJ loves me so much, he took it to the range and sighted it in for me. Then he left me careful instructions so I wouldn’t screw up his handy work.

CJ left for Kentucky to hunt turkeys before I returned home from New Mexico. Then I headed for North Carolina (to hunt turkeys) before he returned, so there was no time for airport surprises or card shop visits.

Besides, I don’t think Hallmark makes a I-do-this-because-I-want-you-to-kill-‘em-dead-and-make-me-proud card.

Instead, I got a neat piece of notebook paper with the sweetest scrawling.

No hearts, no flowers, no problem. My man says "I love you" by keeping me shooting straight.

In case you can’t read his handwriting (no worries, I have a hard time too), here’s what it said:

FOR DOT SITE
-       Large dial on top turns it on & controls brightness
-       Battery is located under the top of big dial as well
-       Make sure you turn it off when not hunting & make sure you turn it on when you set up
-       Trust me center is the one in the middle of the dot sight
-       Without it being on it will not work
          Best of luck
          Love, CJ

He left the note on the guest bed, next to my freshly sighted in Remington, along with two baggies of shells marked #1 and #2 (in order of the best pattern, if you haven’t already figured it out).

CJ wants to see me succeed in all I do. He’s always there to help me when he can. And I do the same for him. That’s what works for us.

He wanted me to point out, however, that while I think his detailed notes are sweet, I don’t always follow them. I forgot to turn off the scope after my last hunt, which sucked the battery dry.

I have a feeling my next “love” note might take on a firmer tone. Perhaps I need little more tough love than the ooey-gooey kind.

 

Treat your taste buds (and wild turkey) right, they deserve it

Nothing caps off a long day of hunting better than a heaping plate of stick-to-your-ribs food. Like meat, some kind of starch, with a vegetable or two thrown in to make your momma happy.

Chef James Africano, you had me at goat cheese. This picture just doesn’t do the dish justice (and tells me I need to upgrade my phone). Your eyes are feasting on root beer and jalapeno braised beef short ribs over goat cheese polenta.

If you ever make time to hunt at Vermejo Park Ranch, you’ll find mealtimes are more than pit stops to refuel for the next outing; they are part of the hunting experience. With a menu that includes bison, elk and local produce (including veggies from an onsite garden), Chef James Africano brings the outdoors to each individually crafted plate.

Chef James comes from Colorado but settled in as Vermejo’s executive chef in 2007. He takes traditional ranch meals (meat and potatoes) and turns them into delicious scenery, worthy companions to the amazing peaks, lakes and canyons of the surrounding acres.

He changes the menu weekly, with different specials each night. It’s the perfect plan, because you have the option of digging into the featured item without feeling like you’ll miss out on any of the other ridiculously yummy dishes. It simply gives you something to look forward to the next evening.

Here’s his New Mexico treatment for wild turkey — fajitas! Try it around the campfire or take your skillet inside. It’s a wild fiesta for your mouth!

Grilled Colorado lamb rack. Pan roasted arctic char. Doesn’t sound like your typical hunt camp fare? Tell that to your tummy when you’re finished. I think it’ll beg to differ.

Campfire Wild Turkey Fajitas

Ingredients
1 wild turkey breast (about 1½ pounds)
cut into ½-inch-thick strips
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow onion cut into long strips
1 red bell pepper cut into long strips
1 green bell pepper cut into long strips
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 fresh garlic cloves
juice of three limes
10-inch tortillas (about eight)

Now get cookin’

After cutting the turkey into strips, place in a large container and pour soy sauce and Worcestershire over them. Roughly chop the garlic cloves and add to the soy mixture along with the lemon juice. Refrigerate for four hours.

Warm a 12-inch cast iron skillet over the campfire or medium high heat. Add vegetable oil and wait for it to just start smoking. Remove half of the turkey from the marinade and carefully add to the hot skillet. Brown the first batch of turkey well, remove from the skillet and add the second half of the turkey strips. Repeat the browning process, and add the first batch of turkey back to the skillet along with the pepper and onion strips. Continue cooking for about 8 minutes, until the turkey is cooked through, and the vegetables have begun to soften and brown.

While the turkey and vegetables are cooking, wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and warm in the oven or over coals from the fire. Sprinkle in the cumin, chili powder and cayenne and stir through. Season the fajitas with salt if necessary. Serve immediately with the warm tortillas and condiments of your choice.

Your wild turkey deserves more than an Old El Paso taco kit in a box. Try this campfire fajita recipe by Vermejo Park Ranch’s executive chef. After dinner, you’ll already be in the perfect spot for sharing the story of your hunt.

My condiments of choice? Sour cream, cheese and a boatload of pico de gallo! Sounds great, chef! Thanks for sharing.

And speaking of sharing recipes, I need your camp favorites for my cookbook project. Hey, if Chef James Africano thinks it’s a cool idea, then it’s a cool idea.

So send them to keepingupwithkaren@nwtf.net.

What’s better?

What’s better than finding a shed elk antler while turkey hunting?

 Finding an entire elk skull!

And what’s better than that?

 Finally killing a turkey!

Thanks to Cally and Annetta Morris for asking me to come along with them to the Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico. And a special thanks to Pro Guide Jimmy Wright for hanging with us and working his bahonkus off!

A turkey hunting love story

Spring turkey season isn’t about love. It’s a series of hookups between love-‘em-and-leave-‘em toms and hens stepping up to their motherly duties.

But this week, while hunting at the Vermejo Park Ranch in the mountains of New Mexico, I witnessed a real life turkey hunting love story.

Cally and Annetta Morris invited me to hunt with them at the ranch, all of us guests at the property owned by Ted Turner. And from what I’d heard about the place, the beautiful scenery, the abundant wildlife, I jumped at the chance to be a third wheel.

I’ve hunted with Cally and Annetta of Hazel Creek Taxidermy/Decoys before, and I knew it would be a pleasure (and not the least bit uncomfortable). It seems to me the only thing they love more than hunting is each other. And I’m drawn to that kind of warm fuzziness.

Cally and Annetta Morris LOVE to hunt (and they think each other is pretty special too).

Their relationship is about as far from a turkey courtship as you can get. They’ve been together since before their senior prom, and will celebrate their 23th wedding anniversary this year.

What makes this couple so special is that they’re together all the time — and they like it. They’ll log about 8,000 miles going to about 7 states this spring alone, hunting and filming for promotional DVDs for the company, giving seminars and spreading general goodwill.

With all that togetherness, surely they know each other inside and out. I decided to put them to the test and have them answer a few Newlywed Game-style questions. Of course, they had to answer them separately. No cheating here.

Let’s see how they stacked up.

What is the exact date of your wedding anniversary?
Annetta: May 18, 1989
Cally: May 18, 1989

(That’s a promising start.)

What was the first game species each of you killed?
Annetta: Cally’s was probably a deer in Missouri, perhaps a doe, since I remember his first buck. And he probably took it with a gun, since he would’ve been pretty young at the time.
          He said: My first kill was a cottontail rabbit when I was 9. That was the first year I was allowed to have a .22 rifle.
Cally: Hers was a turkey. It was the most wonderful day of my life, and I’m not talking about the turkey hunting… (wink, wink). She was 17. We started dating in May, and she killed it that October.
          She said: A fall turkey in Missouri. But he should remember, because he took me on that first hunt.

What would you be doing if you weren’t traveling the county hunting all the time?
Annetta: He would probably want to spend time at the beach.
          He said: I can’t even fathom not hunting, but I would probably be working on our farm and taking Annetta to the beach.
Cally: She would be training her horses and doing girl stuff.
          She said: I would hang out at the beach for a month.

What’s the one song you crank up on the radio when you hear it riding down the highway?
Annetta: He always turns up “Good Girl” by Carrie Underwood (because he knows I can’t stand it).
          He said: “Shotgun Rider” by Dallas Davidson. I crank that one to the roof!
Cally: She’d crank up “Texas Was You” by Jason Aldean.
         She said: “Springsteen” by Eric Church. But he’d probably pick a Miranda Lambert or Lee Brice song for me.

What would be your dream hunt?
Annetta: If money were no object, Cally would get his desert ram, because that would finish his slam.
          He said: I’d want to shoot a 400-inch bull elk with my bow. A close second would be a 190-inch big horn ram.
Cally: Anything by Prada. Just kidding. She’d want to shoot a 40-inch Dall sheep.
          She said: A Dall sheep in the Northwest Territories.

If you were keeping score, Cally had the most right. But it goes to show that if you spend every waking hour together (and those hours start before sunrise), there’s still so much to learn about the love of your life.

But I think Cally and Annetta would agree that’s part of the fun.

How to decoy the right way

If you follow me on Facebook, you already know I’m at the Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico, hunting turkeys with Cally and Annetta Morris, owners of Hazel Creek Taxidermy and Decoys. Of course, we’re hunting over their lifelike creations, hoping to draw a gobbler or two into gun range.

Cally and Annetta have been in the business of preserving hunting memories for more than 20 years. Cally started mounting birds in high school to make extra money, and Annetta jumped into the biz as soon as they said I do in 1989.

Decoys are a more recent offshoot of the Hazel Creek brand, having been around for a decade or so. For Cally, decoys add to the fun of hunting.

Cally Morris of Hazel Creek Taxidermy/Decoys gave a seminar on calling and decoy placement for the turkey hunters at Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico. How will his rules change your decoy setup?

“There’s nothing like the challenge of bringing in a gobbler to within 10 steps and shooting him with a bow,” he said. But to be successful when hunting with decoys you have to know how to use them the right way.

Here are five rules from Cally on proper decoy set up whether you tote a bow or a gun:

  1. Toms most always approach a gobbler or jake decoy from behind, sizing him up to see if he can take him. When shotgun hunting, I set them up facing me for that reason, or broadside, but never facing away. If I’m an archery hunting, I set them up quartering away from me, which presents a good quarter shot.
  2. Don’t place decoys straight out in front of you. Place them at 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock from your setup, especially when hunting the edge of a field or food plot. The goal is for him to reach the decoy setup first, within gun range. He’ll be more preoccupied with the decoys, which will allow you to move on him without getting spooked.
  3. If you only take one decoy out, make it a hen. But be prepared to romance her. You’re in for a slow show. Add a jake to the setup for more of a high-action hunt. It’s like a high school dance. The gobbler is a jock and sees a pretty girl standing alone across the room. He’s wondering if he should go talk to her. Then you put a dweeb (jake) into the mix. It’s going to challenge that jock to swoop in and take her.
  4. Turkeys are claustrophobic. You can’t get a turkey to walk between two turkeys. Instead, it will circumnavigate a setup. Don’t place decoys too close together. Put the gobbler in your kill zone, but keep the hen in your sights.
  5. Shooting sticks are essential when bringing in turkeys close with decoys. They keep your gun steady, at the ready and you from spooking the game. They’re critical for new hunters but still a good idea for experienced hunters who like to bring ‘em in close.

So the next time you carry decoys to your setup, try these tips from Cally. And Cally hopes you give his Hazel Creeks a try. Click here to learn more.

The odd couple of turkey hunting

It’s the makings of good entertainment — with the likes of Sonny and Cher, Dharma and Greg — but how does it stack up in the turkey woods?

On the second day of my Oklahoma turkey hunt, after taking down a longbeard the day before, I was matched up to hunt with David Schluckebier of Remington. Dave is an engineer, serving as a manager for new product development on the ammunition side.

If you’ve kept up with me at all (or know me just because), well, I’m a certifiable goof wad. A creative type. With an imagination that sometimes makes for good writing, and a sense of humor you either get or you don’t.

Dave and I are total opposites. He rides bicycles with his wife; I cruise around the countryside on the back of my husband’s Harley. He’s methodical, and my mind tends to wander without warning. He has kids in college and roundabouts; mine won’t graduate high school until 2025 (Lord willing).

But Dave and I found our unlikely pairing works when turkey hunting. We began our gobbler chasing careers around the same time (roughly 12 years ago), and our skill sets seemed to compliment each other while hunting in Cheyenne this April.

We spent our first morning and early afternoon together team calling, only to bring in jakes and hens by the bucketful. (I’m pretty sure Dave could tell you exactly how many of each from each setup.)

Our afternoon hunt culminated in a gobbler traipsing by us, eyeing our decoys, then choosing to stick with the three or so ladies he had with him, never coming within 50 yards. That’s still a good hunt in my book.

Dave and I stuck together the final morning, not seeing anything broke about our turkey hunting team. We’d found a busy crossroads for turkeys and wanted to see if it would take us down a path to success.

Remington’s Dave Schluckebier and I may not walk similar paths in life, but when it comes to turkey hunt, we’re on the same track.

We set out across a shrubby shallow bowl to our hot spot on a wooded ridge. Or at least that was the plan. We walked until we hit a fence, a literal barbed wire fence, one we hadn’t noticed the day before.

Then I realized Dave and I had at least two things in common: 1. We were lost.
2. We had healthy doses of determination.

After about 15 more minutes of walking, Dave said he’d found our sacred setup spot. I had my doubts but also carried enough respect for Dave to go along without too much argument.

As the rising sun softly lit the sky, I could see we were nestled among the wind-weathered trees, just like the day before. However I still wasn’t convinced we were in the right place.

Wasn’t there more canopy in the forest yesterday?

I didn’t remember that brush to my left.

And I’m pretty sure we were a good 100 yards further away from the ridge’s edge than we were the day before.

But I remained silent, as I watched the fan attached to our strutting decoy wave around like a Southern belle who’s had one too many mint juleps.

I kept quiet, listening to the wind turbines looming over our setup. They seemed to have to work extra hard to cut through the dense, damp air.

I struggled to find a familiar landmark to shout: THIS IS THE AWESOME SPOT YOU WERE IN YESTERDAY!

No matter. If our hunt was to happen here, now was the time.

We kept our chorus of yelps, clucks and a few purrs going. And we called in the same army of jakes that seemed to not want to leave us alone.

After about an hour, we realized it wasn’t going to happen here. I peeled myself off the tree trunk with a slight tinge of smugness. I was right, this wasn’t THE place.

But just as I began to gloat internally, Dave pointed out the matted grass from where he’d sat the day before. Then he pointed out the fallen log where he’d staked the decoy not 15 hours ago.

And I learned a lesson.

Opposite personalities make for good TV and turkey hunting teams, especially when one of the pair knows when to keep her mouth shut.

The stuff of turkey hunting success

My first turkey hunt of the 2012 spring season is what’s known in the industry as a “media hunt.” It’s kind of poor grammar and slightly misleading, since it’s not as if a bunch of writers are let loose in the woods all Hunger Games-like, with the last one standing is the victor.

In reality, hunting product representatives take a group of us media types on hunt and let us use their stuff in the field in hopes we write about it in magazines, blogs, on websites and such. And, darn it, the formula works, because I’m about to tell you what gear helped me kill a turkey in Oklahoma.

Knight & Hale
www.knightandhale.com
If you’ve read at lest a handful of my posts, you know I’m a music buff. And that’s why it was love at first sight with this year’s line of Knight & Hale turkey calls. With names like Witchy Woman (The Eagles!), Bad Medicine (Bon Jovi!) and Metal Yell (sort of like Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”) I knew these calls had to rock.

Since I haven’t yet mastered the mouth call, the mint-flavored Bad Medicine series serves as not much more than a breath freshener for me. But the other two made their way to my turkey vest. I found the push-pull Witchy Woman easy to use and great for soft calling, but not much of a match for Oklahoma’s gusty afternoons. The Metal Yell, however, with its aluminum face, screamed out yelps and clucks that had the turkeys crying more…more…more…

Knight & Hale’s Witchy Woman and Metal Yell are music to a wild turkey’s ear holes.

Under Armour
www.underarmour.com/hunting
This one’s for all you women who can’t find camo that fits and is functional. I say dress like a dude (or at least give the men’s line from Under Armour a try). I was decked out in head to ankle UA — Evolution Heatgear Longsleeve T-shirt, Utility Field Pants and Hurlock Fleece Pullover — and the best compliment I could give it is that once I put it on I never thought about it again. I wore men’s smalls and didn’t even have to have the pants altered for length. For reference, I’m just shy of 5’2” and got a booty (if you know what I mean), and the fit was spot on, even with a base layer underneath. And I stayed out of sight in Realtree AP (www.realtree.com) — a great mix of browns and greens, perfect for a wet Oklahoma spring.

If the fit of the men’s line doesn’t suit your curves, Under Armour Senior Product Line Manager Mark Estrada says they are launching a women’s line of turkey hunting wear in 2013.

Remington
www.remington.com
Remington’s Versa Max was the gun of the week. Its claim to fame is that with its Versaport system it’s as close to a self-cleaning shotgun as you can get. Well, the beauty of a media hunt is that you shoot it for a week, then hand it back for someone else to deal with. The Versa Max’s shortest length of pull is 14.25 inches, about 2 inches too long for my Tyrannosaurs Rex arms, but it got the job done. Paired with Remington’s 3-inch Nitro Turkey load, it blasted the silhouette target on the range at 20 yards and took down an Oklahoma longbeard at just under 40.

Trijicon
www.trijicon.com
I’m all about stuff that makes me as accurate as possible. I feel I owe that to my quarry. Trijicon’s RMR series of sights goes beyond accuracy and could even be considered dummy proof. Simply aim the red dot at where you want to hit and pull the trigger. A lithium battery keeps it lit for 17,000 hours, so there’s no forgetting to turn it on or off. It’s the point-and-shoot of gun sites!

ATSKO
www.atsko.com
One product I didn’t use but wish I had: WATER-GUARD by ATSKO. It drizzled the last day of the hunt, and I ended my morning hunt with waterlogged boots. Have you ever replaced your boot inserts with soggy pancakes? Me neither, but I think I knew what it would feel like that day. Had I not been lazy and treated my boots before I left, my feel would’ve been dry, warm and not spit water as I walked. FYI, three days after the hunt, they’re still drying out in my garage, cursing my name.

So gear up and get out there, my hunting people! Here’s to the folks that make us look good, sound good, as well as stay warm and accurate while chasing turkeys. Cheers!