The purpose of a turkey vest is to securely, comfortably, and accessibly carry the essentials needed for turkey hunting. In selecting “essentials” there often seems to be a miniature Boy Scout standing on one shoulder telling you, “Be prepared.” While a diminutive chiropractor clicks their pen on the other, reminding you, “Go light.” In between, you end up a quivering, indecisive mess.
Stop worrying; we are here to save your sanity. Don’t leave home without these 15 essentials and prepare to take your longest long-beard yet. Any extra additions are between you and your chiropractor.
Click to see a larger, printable version of the 15 Turkey Vest Essentials Checklist.
A mouth call or two might have you covered, but there are days when nothing but the boat paddle will work. Only bring the turkey calls you are confident with. A piece of sand paper, some chalk, an extra striker, and some spare rubber bands will keep your serenade on key.
2. Mask & Gloves
Include at least one face mask and one pair of gloves. Two is better.
Zip it into an inside pocket before opening morning and leave it there.
Pack three for the gun and two as reserves. If you go through five shells before heading back to the truck, perhaps you need to take a break from shooting at live birds and hit up the range.
It may sound like sacrilege, but you should consider one with a blaze orange handle. Your knife is rarely exposed when a bird is within range and the bright handle keeps you from donating yet another blade to the forest floor.
6. Butt Cushion
The most important factor in killing a turkey is your ability to sit still. You can’t sit still if your rear is going numb. This is such a standard, it now comes built in to most vests.
7. Collapsible Decoys
Turkey decoys have become sophisticated, but simple collapsible or silhouette dekes that easily ride in your vest still earn their keep. They’ll grab a tom’s attention and keep him distracted as you settle the bead on his head. Don’t forget to pack the stakes.
8. Bug Repellent
Remember the importance of sitting still? Buzzing mosquitos and crawling ticks make this impossible. Even if you think you can deal with the itch and annoyance, there’s a very real danger in getting bit by these pests. Mosquitos and ticks can carry West-Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and may even cause you to develop an allergic reaction to red meat. (That’s right, no more bacon!)
Carefully treat your hunting clothing with Permethrin to protect against ticks. Use a repellent spray or ThermaCELL unit to keep irritating mosquitos at a distance.
9. Flashlight or Headlamp
Many hunters swear by a strict diet of moonlight and woodsman ship to make it to their blind. These are often the same hunters that insist the stream crossing was “around here somewhere.” Even if you don’t use it every time, a reliable flashlight or headlamp is an essential piece of gear. It’s still up for debate, but many believe that red or green lights are less likely to spook turkeys on the roost.
10. First Aid Kit
A first aid kit of some kind should always have a place in your vest. You can allow the terrain and extent of your hunt to dictate the necessary survival gear, but keep in mind that no one ever plans on getting lost—until they do. A snake bite kit would also be a wise addition in many parts of the country.
11. Water Bottle or Hydration Pack
You’re going to get thirsty. Mirages of frosty beverages can throw off your aim, and cutting a hunt short to walk dry-mouthed back to the truck is no fun.
12. Compass, Map, GPS
When the fog rolls in even your backyard looks like another planet. Remember that survival gear? Let’s keep it packed away.
13. Toilet Paper
Nature calls—even when you’re calling in nature. Grab a roll of the camo kind and tuck some in your vest. You’ll avoid spooking birds—and other hunters.
14. Dry Socks
Even if you managed to find the stream crossing, dry socks at lunch are huge morale boosters.
Clucks and purrs just don’t sound the same accompanied with stomach growls. Throw in your favorite trail mix, candy bar, or meat snack. Call it cruel and unusual, but there’s something special about chewing on turkey jerky while working a box call.
Bonus: Good Luck Charm
Leave a comment below to tell us what good luck charm rides in your turkey vest … or what you think we forgot!