What gear should I put in my turkey hunting vest?

Having a turkey vest in the spring woods makes for a convenient way to transport your turkey hunting calls, essential hunting gear and a way of packing out your harvested gobbler. The padded seat on a turkey vest is a bonus too!

Banner: Storm is an avid turkey hunter harvesting many species across the United States, including this Osceola that he harvested in Florida. Below: Merriams turkey.

Here is what I like to have in my vest every spring.

1Turkey Calls – I like to carry a variety of turkey calls from friction style calls, such as a box or pot style call with various strikers, to air operated calls like diaphragm calls and some good locator calls that would entice a gobbler into a shock gobble. My locator calls include an owl hooter, red-tailed hawk call and a crow call. Out west you can add an elk bugle and coyote howler to the list, if you’d like.

I think it’s important to carry a water proof type of call or have a call or two that can be operated in snow or rain. Some of the friction calls made nowadays have that capability versus using chalk to keep the call up and running. I carry a pot call conditioning stone, sand paper and green scouring pad to keep my pot calls up and going. Box call chalk is a must if you have the traditional box call (one with no water proofing).

I also carry a fly-down wing, in the back of my vest, for imitating turkeys flying down from the roost at first light.

To learn more about calling turkey, Check out Episode 1 of the Game and Fish Department’s podcast.

2Turkey hunting tools – I like to carry a GPS with land status (and spare batteries), map and compass, shotgun shells for my turkey gun, hunting license and stamps, written permission for any private land I may hunt and a flashlight or headlamp (with spare batteries). I’ll pack a rangefinder, camo gloves and a camo facemask, a sharp knife and a pen with electrical tape or duct tape wrapped around a portion of it.

A few more items that are essential include a small first aid kit, water purification straw or system, space blanket, rope, whistle, signal mirror, water proof matches, small lighter and fire starter material. I will pack snacks and water in the back of my vest for the days hike.
Having a small shear to trim branches for clearing a shooting lane or building a shelter may be a good item to have and a Thermocell may come in handy at keeping mosquitos at bay. I find most of the higher country in New Mexico void of mosquitos in the spring, but if you hunt at lower elevations near rivers or streams or in the southeast part of the United States, it will be a must item to carry in your vest.

3Clothing – I would encourage hunters to dress in layers and pack rain gear in your turkey vest. Make sure to take a jacket with you too, especially if it’s warm on an afternoon hunt its easy to forget one, but temperatures drop fast in the evening time. Have a way to secure these items so you don’t lose them.

4Decoys – Throw in a turkey decoy and binoculars and I will be packing a decent amount of weight. I’d rather have something and not need it, than to need something and not have it.

Good luck on your next turkey hunt and take the time to go through your vest to ensure you have everything you might need.

About Storm Usrey

Storm Usrey is the Conservation Education Manager for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.