March 05, 2022
It had been a slow morning; and as I walked along the hedgerow toward my truck, contemplating my next move, a thunderous gobble sounded off. He was obviously close — less than 200 yards or so — but from the direction his gobble came from, I knew he was off limits.
I had asked the landowner more than once for an opportunity to chase toms on his little quarter section of turkey paradise, but it was clear from his response both times that it wouldn’t happen in this lifetime.
The other issue was the wide creek sandwiched by thick cover that separated the public and private land. Although I had deflated a few toms on this piece of public dirt in the past, it’s no secret that even hot gobblers are hesitant to breach such obstacles at times. But with nothing to lose but time, I quickly made plans and popped up a ground blind, and then went to work.
For nearly an hour we went back and forth, and I bet that I must have sent him at least a hundred call sequences, and as if on cue, he responded nearly every time. Although I had yet to get a visual on the gobbler, it was obvious he was interested. As the minutes ticked by, he inched closer, but it seemed like the creek was a brick wall between us.
Contemplating this stalemate, I decided to make a move and edge my setup to where the creek’s hairpin turn jutted deeper onto public ground. I couldn’t get through my first calling sequence before his rattling gobble echoed in my direction, and before I knew it, he winged across the creek and landed less than 20 feet from my decoys. As he strutted facing away, I came to full draw and quickly made the final move in this spring chess match!
Wild turkeys don’t traditionally qualify as big game, but when everything comes together in tough conditions, they certainly have a way of delivering big hunts, and this one proved it. Not only did it verify it can happen even when the chips are down, but it also proved that having the right gear can make all the difference.
When it comes to bowhunting turkeys, functional blinds are obviously a critical part, and at just 16 lbs. and a footprint measuring 75" square, the Rhino 180 ($250) from Rhino Blinds is one to consider. Covered in Realtree’s EDGE camo, it features a unique two-way mesh material on two sides that allows you to see completely through the blind while preventing toms and other game from seeing you inside. It also has adjustable silent-slide windows on three sides for 270-degrees of shooting, and is equipped with an oversized zipper-less door for quiet entry and exit.
Browning has also become a player in the hunting-blind arena, and their Evade ($380) is a good example. It’s equipped with silent-track windows on all sides, and is constructed from a rugged 600D polyester fabric with a black interior. My favorite concept is its large double-door design with magnetic door closures, so big guys like me don’t have to contort themselves when climbing in.
With its pentagon-shaped footprint, the Pro Series Extreme View ($220) from Ameristep offers 37% more floor space than similar hub-style blinds and is also equipped with a one-way mesh material in the window section to provide a 360-degree view without actually opening any of the 12 windows. The silent window covers can be easily adjusted for shooting opportunities, and with its 77" shooting width and full-size door, it can easily host multiple hunters.
For the run-and-gun turkey hunter looking to save weight and also be concealed, ALPS (alpsoutdoorz.com) gives you the three-sided Dash Panel Blind ($120). This single-hub gem can be adjusted from 40" to 80" and is equipped with their Silent-Trac window system. When you couple this with their Vanish Folding Chair ($100), you’ll be low enough to stay hidden behind the 54"-tall blind but up off the ground enough to easily draw your bow.
Another portable folding chair is Muddy’s Tripod Seat ($50). It has a padded seat with a contoured backrest constructed from a rugged water-resistant fabric and steel folding frame.
When comfort outweighs a run-and-gun approach, it’s hard to beat Millennium’s G100 Shooting Chair ($225). At just over 7 lbs., it’s not a huge burden to carry like other high-end blind chairs, and with 5" of adjustability (13" to 18" seat height), it will fit virtually any bowhunter.
Decoys are the next box that needs to be checked off, and luckily for us, there is no shortage to choose from. For those of us who prefer a lightweight, packable option while still requiring highly realistic faux birds, the new Photoform Strutter ($130) and Hen ($84) series from Primos is one for the shortlist. Using a proprietary process, they take an actual image of a strutting tom and hen and print it on lightweight 3-D molded foam, which enables you to collapse and fold them for storage in your pack.
Adding to their flock of lightweight and extremely portable decoys, Montana Decoy introduces the new Wiley Tom 3D ($130). Developed using their realistic HD photo of an actual wild turkey, it’s designed for use either as a full-bodied 3-D strutter or 2-D deke, depending on what the situation calls for. You can replace the printed fan with a real one by using individual tail feathers, making it easy to replace damaged feathers as the season progresses. Best of all, its trifold design is easy to pack, and when you add their Miss Purrfect XD Hen ($80) to the mix, you’ll have the complete package.
Sometimes, having a decoy that’s a little different from everything else hard-hunted toms have seen can be the ticket to a punched tag. Take the new blow-molded Avian-X HDR Feeding Hen ($150), for example. Like their entire HDR series, it has a hand-carved look and feel, with lifelike paint schemes that scream realism. Add to this the relaxed posture of the Feeding Hen, and a pressured gobbler will likely feel the coast is clear when he sees it.
Although I love the taste of wild turkey, the real reason I hunt them is the interaction between hunter and game, and there’s nothing that gets you neck-deep into the process like Ultimate Predator Gear’s Turkey Stalker ($85). These lightweight (less than 11 oz.) tom-foolers, with their shoot-through design, mount to your bow, so you can become one with the turkeys and stalk in close when all else fails. They are available in Eastern and Merriam’s/Rio models.
Turkey calls are a dime a dozen, but if there’s one style that will cause me to head back to my truck if I forget it, it would be a handheld slate. The ease of use and realism makes even an average caller sound like a champion, and the Drury Outdoors Signature Pot Call ($50) from Hunters Specialties is a good example. Built with a native sycamore pot and a select grade of anodized aluminum, it can deliver high-frequency locating calls, as well as soft and seductive yelps, clucks, and purrs.
Putting good use to diaphragm calls is a must for bowhunters, and the Signature Series 3-Pack ($30) from Zink will give you options. With three different reed designs, they deliver vastly different sounds that range from clear, extra raspy, or something in-between.
Including a gobble call to the mix a few years back really added a dose of realism and aggressiveness to my setups, especially early in the season. It’s something you should try if you haven’t, and the Thunder Shaker Gobble ($16) from Flextone makes it easy. Simply give it a shake, as its name suggests, to produce true-sounding gobbles that will grab the attention of nearby toms.
Sometimes, it’s not until the back half of the turkey season before it all comes together, and that can make for buggy situations, especially when you’re hunkered in a blind. Thermacell’s MR300 Hunt Pack ($30) creates a 15' mosquito-repellent bubble to make those hunts more bearable. It offers a better on/off switch than its predecessor, and also features a re-engineered grill, quiet ignition, improved ergonomics, and an accessory mounting system.