2016 was a banner year for turkey hunting gear heads who are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest gobbler-getting gadget. Manufacturers outdid themselves with the release of a plethora of new calls, turkey hunting ammunition, shotguns and other wizbangs.
I have to admit, my co-workers coined me “Inspector Gadget” nearly two decades ago, and it was for a good reason; I enjoy new tech, new guns and anything with bells, whistles and switches. Now, I don’t believe the hype that these things will make me a better hunter or will guarantee I get a world-class longbeard every trip afield; it’s more that I appreciate innovative minds, creativity and the thought processes behind developing a new tool or technology, especially it if is useful.
When evaluating the 2016 products offered by a selection of manufacturers, many of them partners of the NWTF, I looked at several criteria: Is it really something new, or is it putting a new face on an old product; what does it bring to the mountain of other hunting gadgets that makes it stand out; is it durable; does it do what is promised; and in which direction could it evolve into something even better?
I’m just a lone hunter with my own preferences, experiences and abilities. You may have a different opinion of the same product. Experience them for yourselves to see if you agree.
Vests, optics and blinds galore; that’s what 2016 was made of.
I hunted in Browning, ALPS OutdoorZ and Double Bull blinds, which are all of the highest quality, mostly using Primos Trigger Stick shooting rests. I prefer to hunt outside of a blind, but some outfitters and circumstances required me to shelter-up. Any of these blinds are worthy of the money.
The ALPS Grand Slam Turkey Vest made its debut in 2016, and was popular among those hunters in our camps who had the opportunity to test it. Being 40 pounds heavier at the time than I am today, I couldn’t wear the vest comfortably, but ALPS is addressing that with a newer release this year that accommodates larger-framed hunters. Its kickstand design allows you to have back support away from a tree in situations where you have good back protection, but can’t get right up to the trunk. Innovative pocket configurations, including a dedicated smartphone pouch, a removable mouth call container and thick seat cushion, garnered top marks.
Bushnell made a big splash with their Trophy, Trophy XLT and Trophy Xtreme scopes, binoculars and range finder lines last year. The biggest news was the introduction of the unconditional lifetime warranty on most of Bushnell’s optical products. A bold statement, and a testament to the continued quality improvement in Bushnell’s optics.
And finally, I was able to test several electronic hearing enhancement and protection products, including ProSound’s H2P (MSRP $299) in-ear units, molded Soundgear Custom-Fit (MSRP $1,200) units as well as their in-ear Instant Fit (MSRP $399) products. You’ll hear more about these in an upcoming feature, but I will say that all of these products performed as promised and increased my ability to hear gobbling and yelping at a distance and instantly cut off at the sound of the shot to protect my ears. White noise was contained in these newer units as opposed to older technology, and digital enhancements dialed up high-frequencies to match average hearing loss patterns found among sportsmen and women. So, while these units are not tuned to a hunter’s specific hearing loss, the majority of users will find improvement in their ability to hear a wider range of frequencies. Depending on your needs and budget, I’d recommend any of these units for old and young hunters, alike.
With some many great new products in 2016, it’s hard to imagine what they’ll come up with for 2017. Whatever it is, though, I’ll be ready to give it a try and pass along my honest opinion.