The holidays are approaching, and nothing says Thanksgiving like the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven. In states that have a fall turkey hunting season, many sportsmen like to bring home their own hen or gobbler for the holiday table.
Killing a turkey is no simple task. These birds are notorious among hunters for being difficult to lure and tricky to take down. To get the most from the experience, make sure you go in well-prepared with all the hunting gear you’ll need for a safe and successful hunt. In addition to your shotgun and shells, here is some of the hunting equipment you should place on your checklist:
- Head-to-toe camouflage. Turkeys have excellent eyesight and are highly skittish, so the slightest hint of color or movement can scare off your prey. Camouflage is essential in order to get close enough for a clear shot. Make sure your entire body is covered, including your head, face, and hands. Many hunters even wrap their guns with camouflage tape. Wear pants that are long enough to tuck into your boots, and whatever you do, don’t wear any red, blue, white, or black, even on your socks and undershirt, as these are the colors of a wild gobbler and could cause another hunter to mistake you for prey.
- Blaze orange cap or vest. With your camouflage on, you can stalk the woods, virtually invisible to your prey’s eye. Unfortunately, that means you’re also virtually invisible to other hunters. Most turkey hunting accidents occur because one hunter mistakes another for game. Wearing fluorescent orange while walking around can drastically reduce the likelihood of injury, and in some states it’s even required by law. It’s also a good idea to place an orange band around the tree you’ve chosen as your calling point.
- Hunting lights. Many turkey hunters prefer to start well before sun-up, while the birds are still roosting, which makes a good light a necessary part of your gear.
- Comfortable cushion. You’re going to be sitting for a long time, and it’s imperative that you remain still. Fidgeting because the ground is too hard could cost you a kill. Bring a camouflaged cushion or stool to help ensure you don’t spook any gobblers with uncomfortable shifting.
- Turkey calls. Turkeys are highly vocal, which makes turkey calls an important part of the hunting strategy. One common tactic for fall turkey hunting is to scatter a flock and then try to call them back individually. Many hunters prefer to use a mouth call, which sounds when air is blown through it, but it’s helpful to have several different types of calls on hand for a variety situations. On windy or rainy days, the noise from a box or friction call will carry farther. You should also have a plastic bag on hand to keep your calls from getting wet.
- Bags for dead game. You’ve sat patiently beneath your tree, carefully lured a gobbler to you, and fired the winning shot to take him down. The adrenaline is pumping, and you can’t wait to get home and show off your prize. Don’t spoil the accomplishment by getting shot at by another hunter who mistakes your dead bird for a live one! Bring a bag for carrying your game out of the woods – preferably in blaze orange.
- Hunting knife. Hunting knives are universally useful, particularly if you plan on field dressing your kill. Unless you wish to have your turkey mounted by a taxidermist, it’s a good idea to cut open the carcass and remove the internal organs as soon as possible in order to preserve the meat. There are many different types of hunting knives to choose from, so find the one that best suits your needs.
Having the right equipment can go a long way toward making your turkey hunt a success, rewarding you with both the pride of having taken down one of these magnificent creatures and the enjoyment of devouring it during your holiday celebration.
~Nicole Krueger, 2009