A lot is to be said about dressing for success.
And, when it comes to hunting wild turkeys in general and spring gobblers in particular, one item of clothing always in style is a vest. Specially designed turkey vests do more than compliment any and all of those fashionable patterns of camouflage clothing from Mossy Oak to RealTree, they are an absolute necessity for carrying everything – and more – that's needed to handle every situation in the turkey woods.
Today, turkey vests are available in a variety of styles and designs to properly fit the frames of every shape and size of hunter, including youth models. Even if an adult will be doing the calling for a licensed Junior Hunter or unlicensed Mentored Youth Hunter who will be afield for Pennsylvania's Youth Turkey Hunt, Saturday, April 24, youngsters should be equipped with a vest that has a comfortable seat cushion attached.
Being able to remain nearly motionless is arguably the key factor to a successful turkey hunt, and a quality seat cushion will help a hunter sit longer without cramping. Even then, a stool with folding legs is a good investment.
Veteran turkey hunters know that selecting a turkey vest with the largest rear game pocket as possible is a wise choice. One of the best is the Strut model by Hunter Specialties because the oversized game pocket allows for carrying a folding-leg stool and is deep enough for the largest gobbler to be completely concealed when being transported from the woods.
While the seat cushion and large game pocket of the H.S. Strut vest are important features, what gives it an edge over many others is that all of its outside and inside pockets and compartments close with zippers or snaps. Two other welcome features are a detachable, looped strap that supports the butt of a shotgun and metal O rings that can be used to attach the lanyard of binoculars.
Now, no matter how many pockets or features of a turkey vest, all are useless unless it is stocked with all the items associated with turkey hunting – from calls to a bottle of drinking water. One of the unique aspects of turkey hunting is that the same gear is required no matter if one will be afield only for Pennsylvania's opening day, Saturday, May 1, or if one hunts through the end of the season, Monday, May 31, or in several states.
For that reason, a turkey vest should be stocked with everything that is needed for a hunt, and those items should remain in the vest the year around. That makes sense for accessories such as calls and other items designed exclusively for turkey hunting, but so should all the gear that could be used in other hunting seasons.
Keep the hat, gloves, facemask and personal items that are carried in the vest strictly for turkey hunting. A sure formula for frustration when setting up on a gobbler is to realize a facemask that was "borrowed" from a turkey vest to use in archery season was not returned.
Here is sampling of the items some well-known turkey hunters carry in their vests:
Troy Starr, president and founder of Valley View-based FearNot Game Calls Camo mask, gloves, orange hat, shotgun shells, insect spray, compass, 3M pad for dressing slate calls, sand paper for dressing glass calls, owl hooter, crow call, peacock screamer, two glass calls, three slate calls, FearNot Flipper, six wooden strikers, one carbon striker, one pushbutton call, box call, six mouth calls, decoy, hunting license, Nikon 8x25 binoculars, folding seat, Travel Baby Wipes, camera, drinking water and map and GPS if in a hew area.
Rob Keck, former CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation Six mouth calls, two box calls, trumpet yelper, tube call, crow call, coyote howler, slate call, aluminum call, glass call, six strikers, ratchet pruners, box call chalk, sandpaper, emery cloth, roughing stone, compass, toilet paper, shotgun shells, binoculars, Theracell, camo face mask, camo gloves.
Don Heckman, Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation Hunting license, pen, green stylus light, small flashlight, five mouth calls, three box calls, slate call, glass call, box call chalk, slate/glass sanders, two strikers, three large rubber bands, shotgun shells, extra battery for Red Dot sight, crow call, owl hooter, NWTF hunt safe green sticker to give other hunters, NWTF wild turkey scoring system ruler, and Pennsylvania Chapter NWTF safety message, NWTF limb prunner, belt knife, folding knife, two pair of camo gloves, two camo head nets, several Ziploc bags various sizes, several twisters, 15-18 inches of green string, two Repel BUG spray small cans, whistle, lighter, cell phone, snake bite instructions, turkey totes, orange band, Zebco weight scale, clip-on compass, temperature scale, camera, water bottle, several candy bars, toilet paper, several sheets of paper towels, basic first aid kit and Chapstick.
Ironically, according to research by the National Wild Turkey Federation, it was not until the 1980s that turkey vests began to gain their current popularity with hunters. Much of that, however, can be attributed to the growth of the sport to states north and west of the Mason-Dixon Line.
One more thing, turkey vests are not only useful, they make a great pillow for a mid-morning nap after being in the woods for 5-6 hours while waiting for lock-jawed gobblers to fire back up.