Just Starting Out? Checkout Our Turkey Hunting Gear List

02/2024

Turkey hunting is both exciting and challenging. It’s not just about heading into the woods and hoping for the best. Success in turkey hunting requires skill, patience, and, most importantly, the right gear.

We’ve put together this gear list specifically for beginners. Our goal is to help you get started with confidence, knowing you have everything you need. From the basics of camouflage to the specifics of choosing the right calls and decoys, we’ll cover the basic gear that every new turkey hunter should start with.

This list is your starting point. Gobble, Gobble.

Hunting License and Permits

Before you can even think about stepping foot in the turkey woods, there’s one step you need to take care of: obtaining your hunting license and the necessary permits. This isn’t just a formality—it’s a legal requirement.

Across the country, requirements vary by state. Some states might allow you to purchase a license online, while others require you to visit a local agency. Similarly, the cost of licenses and permits can differ, as can the specific types of permits you need. For example, in some areas, you might need a separate turkey permit in addition to your general hunting license.

It’s essentially about legality; hunting without the proper license or permit can result in hefty fines and legal trouble. And the funds from your license and permit fees go directly into conservation efforts. They help maintain the habitats and populations of the turkeys you’re hunting, making sure that future generations can enjoy this activity just as much as you intend to.

Hunter Education Requirements

Many states also require hunters to complete a hunter education course before purchasing their first hunting license. These courses cover everything from firearm safety and wildlife conservation to ethical hunting practices and basic skills. The goal is to make sure all hunters have the knowledge they need to hunt safely and responsibly.

Some states offer these courses online, while others may require in-person attendance. The age at which you need to complete hunter education can also vary, so it’s important to check the specific requirements for your state.

To find out exactly what you need to do to get your hunting license and any required permits, visit your state’s wildlife agency website. They’ll provide all the details on licenses, permits, hunter education requirements, and any other regulations you need to know about.

Camouflage Clothing

When it comes to turkey hunting, the single most critical factor for success is your ability to remain undetected. Turkeys have exceptional eyesight; they can detect movement and nuances in their environment from great distances.

This visual acuity means that blending into your surroundings isn’t just helpful—it’s an absolute must.

Camouflage helps break up your outline and allows you to become part of the natural environment. Since turkeys can see in color and have a wide field of vision, wearing a camo that matches the terrain and foliage of your hunting area is the basic first step in your decision-making process. From dense forests to grassy fields, there’s camo designed for every setting.

Full Coverage is Key

  • Camo Clothes: This includes a camo shirt, pants, and jacket suited to the season. For early spring turkey hunting, consider lighter materials that offer mobility and breathability while still providing enough coverage to keep you concealed.
  • Headgear: As the head and face are often the most mobile and visible parts of the body, getting them covered is a requirement. Camo hats and face coverings, whether printed camo or 3D leafy style, that work with your chosen camo clothing are a good place to start. Face masks, in particular, do a great job of hiding the slightest facial movements, like speaking to a buddy or looking around, that could give you away.
  • Gloves: Turkeys will notice your hands moving, so camo gloves are another element (that won’t necessarily stop a turkey from seeing them move), but will definitely give you an edge before ever being noticed.

Scouting and Testing Your Camo

Before the hunting season begins, take the opportunity to scout the areas where you plan to hunt. This not only helps you familiarize yourself with the terrain and turkey behavior but also gives you a chance to test out your camouflage in the actual environment.

Observing how well your camo blends with the natural surroundings during different times of the day can provide you with critical insights and increase your chances of success when the season opens.

Scouting also allows you to spot signs of turkey activity, such as roosting spots, feeding areas, and travel routes. By understanding where turkeys are likely to be, you can choose your hunting spot more effectively, ensuring that your camo and your tactics are both on point.

Remember, the goal of camouflage is to make you invisible to turkeys, giving you the upper hand. By choosing the right camo and testing it in the field, you’re setting yourself up for a more successful and enjoyable turkey hunting experience.

Turkey Hunting Vest

A turkey hunting vest is a versatile tool that can significantly improve your hunting experience. When choosing a vest, there are several key features to consider, each designed to provide comfort, convenience, and functionality in the field.

  • Cushioned Seat: Many turkey hunting vests come with a built-in cushioned seat or a detachable seat pad. This feature is invaluable during long waits, providing comfort and insulation from the cold, damp ground.
  • Game Bag: An integrated game bag on the back of the vest can help with carrying your harvested turkey out of the woods. But it also doubles as extra storage for gear or decoys.
  • Shell Loops/Pockets: Conveniently located shell pockets or shell loops allow for easy access to extra ammunition. This is particularly useful in moments when you need to reload quickly.
  • Additional Pockets: Look for vests with multiple pockets designed to hold your calls, smartphone, snacks, and other essentials. Specialized pockets, such as those for slate calls, box calls, and strikers, keep your gear organized and accessible.
  • Camouflage Pattern: Maintain that camo consistency between you, your gear, and your environment.

A well-chosen turkey hunting vest not only keeps you organized but also ensures you have everything you need at your fingertips, allowing you to focus on the hunt.

Boots and Socks

You may find yourself traversing a variety of terrains, from wet marshlands to rugged, snake-infested territories – a good pair of boots should be on your list.

  • Waterproof Boots: Wet feet can ruin a hunt quickly. Look for boots with a breathable waterproof membrane for the best combination of protection and comfort.
  • Snake-Proof Boots: In areas where venomous snakes are a concern, snake-proof boots provide an extra layer of safety. These boots are designed to withstand snake bites, offering peace of mind as you focus on your hunt.
  • Insulated Boots: If you’re hunting in colder climates, insulated boots will keep your feet warm and comfortable. The level of insulation needed will depend on the temperatures you expect to encounter.
  • Breathable and Moisture-Wicking Socks: Pair your boots with breathable, moisture-wicking socks. These socks draw sweat away from your feet, keeping them dry and reducing the risk of blisters. For colder weather, consider wool or a wool blend for warmth and moisture management.

Choosing the right boots and socks can make a significant difference in your comfort and endurance in the field, allowing you to concentrate on the hunt rather than your feet.

Turkey Hunting Blinds and 3D Camo Ponchos

While camouflage clothing is fundamental, adding a hunting blind or utilizing a 3D camo poncho can significantly enhance your concealment, making it even harder for turkeys to spot you.

Hunting Blinds

Blinds offer an excellent way to stay hidden while providing comfort and mobility within your setup. There are various types of turkey hunting blinds, from pop-up blinds that can be set up quickly to more permanent structures that blend seamlessly with the environment.

The key advantages of using a blind include:

  • Concealment: Blinds hide movements, such as drawing your shotgun or adjusting your position, which might otherwise spook a turkey.
  • Comfort: They provide shelter from the elements, allowing for longer, more comfortable sits.
  • Versatility: Blinds can be placed in strategic locations where natural cover is sparse, giving you the best vantage point for your hunt.

When selecting a blind, think about size and portability, especially if you plan to move locations frequently.

3D Camo Ponchos

For hunters seeking a more mobile and expedient option, 3D camo ponchos are a good option.

These lightweight, wearable pieces of camouflage offer several benefits:

  • Quick Concealment: Easily thrown over your existing camo gear, a 3D camo poncho adds another layer of disguise, mimicking the textures and patterns of the natural environment. This can be particularly effective in areas where setting up a blind is not feasible or if you need to change locations quickly.
  • Field Expedient Blind: A 3D camo poncho can act as a mobile blind when propped up by a couple of sticks, allowing you to blend into the background wherever you go. This is especially useful for run-and-gun turkey hunting tactics where mobility is key.
  • Ease of Use: Unlike traditional blinds, there’s no setup or teardown time with a poncho. It’s as simple as wearing it or taking it off, making it ideal for hunters who prefer to keep gear to a minimum.

Whether you opt for a hunting blind, a 3D camo poncho, or a combination of both, the goal is to enhance your concealment and comfort in the field.

Turkey Hunting Shotgun & Ammo

One of the most important decisions you’ll make revolves around your choice of shotgun and ammunition.

**This is just a fast fact area that covers these basics; further, more in-depth coverage of shotguns, ammunition, and chokes will be published soon. We will update this area when that is live.

Choosing the Right Gauge

The gauge of a shotgun refers to the diameter of the barrel, which directly influences the size and pattern of the shot spread. In turkey hunting, the 12-gauge and 20-gauge shotguns are among the most popular choices, each with its unique advantages.

  • 12-Gauge Shotguns are widely regarded as the standard for turkey hunting. Their popularity stems from their versatility and power. A 12-gauge can effectively deliver a dense pattern of shot at the extended ranges turkey hunting often requires. Its ability to handle heavier turkey loads makes it a go-to choice for many hunters seeking reliability and effectiveness.
  • 20-Gauge Shotguns have gained a strong following for their lighter weight and reduced recoil compared to their 12-gauge counterparts. With advancements in ammunition technology, 20-gauge shotguns have become increasingly effective for turkey hunting, offering sufficient power with the added benefit of easier handling. This makes them particularly appealing to younger hunters or those looking for a more manageable shooting experience.

Ammunition: Turkey Loads

Turkey loads are shotgun shells specifically designed for the pursuit of turkeys. These loads typically feature a dense packing of shot to ensure a tight pattern at longer distances, increasing the likelihood of an effective shot.

  • Lead Shot has traditionally been the go-to for turkey hunters due to its high density and ability to maintain tight patterns over distance. However, environmental concerns and regulations in some areas have led to the rise of alternative materials.
  • Non-Lead Options such as tungsten, bismuth, and steel are becoming more popular in regions where lead is restricted. Tungsten, in particular, offers a high density closer to that of lead, maintaining effective patterns for turkey hunting while adhering to the regulations in areas that have rules about the use of lead shot.
  • Shot Size For turkey hunting, shot sizes like #4, #5, and #6 are common choices. They provide a balance between density and penetrating power, ensuring the shot can reach the vital areas of a turkey at various distances.

 

It’s about finding the right balance that works for you—considering factors like recoil, handling, effective range, and the specific hunting conditions you’ll face. Experimenting with different shotguns and loads during practice sessions can help you understand their patterns and performance, enabling you to make an informed decision.

Turkey Calls

Mastering the art of turkey calling is a core skill in turkey hunting, serving as the bridge between you and these wary birds. Calls are used to imitate the various sounds turkeys make, such as yelps, clucks, purrs, and gobbles, with the goal of attracting them into range.

Types of Turkey Calls

  • Box Calls: These are among the most user-friendly turkey calls, making them a favorite for beginners. A box call produces sound by dragging the lid across the surface of the box. With a little practice, you can produce a wide range of turkey sounds. Box calls are known for their volume, which can be advantageous on windy days or when trying to reach distant turkeys.
  • Slate Calls (also known as pot calls): These calls consist of a circular slate (or similar material) over a pot, which is played by stroking a striker across the surface. Slate calls offer a great deal of control over the volume and pitch, allowing for the production of very subtle, natural turkey sounds. They are excellent for close-range calling but require a bit more practice to master.
  • Mouth Calls (diaphragm calls): Mouth calls are placed inside the caller’s mouth and produce sound when air is expelled over a reed. These calls are the most challenging to learn but can be the most effective once mastered. They allow for hands-free operation, which is a significant advantage when a turkey is in close range and you’re preparing to take a shot.

 

 

Tips for Beginners on Learning to Call

  1. Start Simple: Begin with one type of call—many recommend a box call due to its ease of use—and focus on producing a few basic turkey sounds like the yelp and cluck.
  2. Practice Regularly: Consistency is key when learning to call. Practice regularly, and try to mimic real turkey sounds. Listening to recordings of real turkeys can be incredibly helpful.
  3. Seek Feedback: If possible, practice with an experienced turkey hunter or in front of someone who can provide constructive feedback. They can offer tips to improve your calling technique.
  4. Use Instructional Videos: There are numerous online tutorials and videos that offer step-by-step instructions for using different types of calls. These can be a great resource as you’re learning.
  5. Field Practice: Try using your calls in the field (outside of hunting season, to avoid confusion). Pay attention to how animals and possibly turkeys react to your calls. This real-world practice can be invaluable.
  6. Patience and Persistence: Learning to call effectively takes time and patience. Don’t get discouraged by initial difficulties. With persistence, your calling skills will improve.

 

Mastering turkey calls not only increases your chances of attracting turkeys but also enhances your overall hunting experience by allowing you to interact with these fascinating birds. Start with the basics, practice consistently, and gradually experiment with different calls and sounds as your confidence grows.

 

 

Turkey Decoys

Decoys visually attract turkeys to a specific location, often within shooting range. These tools complement your calling efforts by providing a visual cue that convinces a turkey there are other birds in the area, which can be particularly effective during the breeding season when turkeys are more likely to approach another bird.

Decoys work by exploiting the social and territorial behaviors of turkeys. During the spring breeding season, male turkeys (toms) are on the lookout for hens, making hen decoys highly effective for attracting them. Similarly, the sight of a rival tom or jake (young male turkey) can provoke an aggressive response, enticing a dominant tom to come closer, either to court what it perceives as a hen or to confront a rival male.

Types of Decoys

  • Hen Decoys: These are the most common type of turkey decoy and can be used to simulate a variety of scenarios, from feeding to breeding. Hen decoys are particularly effective in the spring when toms are actively searching for mates.
  • Jake Decoys: A jake decoy can be used to incite jealousy and provoke a dominant tom into approaching, under the guise of driving away a younger rival. This type of decoy is often used in combination with a hen decoy to simulate a breeding scenario.
  • Full-Strut Tom Decoys: These decoys depict a tom in full breeding display and can be very effective at drawing in dominant toms looking to challenge a rival. However, they can also intimidate less dominant birds, so their use should be strategic.
  • Feeder Decoys: Feeder decoys mimic turkeys that are feeding, presenting a relaxed and natural scene. These can be particularly effective when placed in a visible feeding area, suggesting safety and attracting turkeys through the promise of food.

 

 

Strategies for Placement

  • Visibility: Place your decoys in a location where they are easily seen from a distance. Open fields, clearings, or the edge of woods are ideal.
  • Realism: Arrange your decoys to mimic natural turkey behavior. For example, a hen looking towards a jake or tom decoy can suggest a breeding scenario. Make sure the decoys are facing in a direction that makes sense for the situation you’re trying to simulate.
  • Safety: Always consider your safety and the safety of others. Place decoys in a way that any turkey approaching them will not also bring hunters into the line of fire of each other.
  • Wind and Movement: Some decoys are designed to move slightly in the wind, mimicking natural movements. Ensure your decoys are positioned to take advantage of this feature without spinning unnaturally.
  • Approach Path: Think about the path a turkey will take to get to your decoys. Place them so that an approaching turkey will present you with a good shot angle, considering both the direction and distance.

Using decoys effectively requires a blend of understanding turkey behavior, the hunting environment, and the specific phase of the breeding season. Experimenting with different decoy types and configurations, while adapting to the day’s conditions and turkey responses, will help you refine your strategy and increase your chances of a successful hunt.

Optics

In turkey hunting, as in many forms of hunting, the use of high-quality optics can significantly enhance your ability to locate and harvest game. Binoculars and rangefinders are two pieces of optical equipment that serve crucial roles in this endeavor, each contributing in unique ways to your hunting success.

Binoculars

Turkeys are well-camouflaged and often difficult to spot with the naked eye, especially in dense woods or across wide fields. Binoculars allow you to scan a larger area more effectively and spot turkeys at a distance without disturbing them. They are particularly useful in the early morning hours when turkeys are moving off the roost and during mid-day when identifying distant movement can make the difference between a successful hunt and a long day of waiting.

It’s also important to be able to distinguish between hens, jakes, and mature toms, both for legal and strategic reasons. Binoculars give you the clarity needed to make these distinctions from a distance, ensuring you target the correct bird according to your hunting objectives and local regulations.

And, they help you verify that your movement toward a turkey or a calling location is safe and that you’re not mistaking another hunter for game or vice versa.

When choosing binoculars for turkey hunting, consider models with a good balance between magnification and field of view, as well as those that perform well in low-light conditions. A magnification of 8x to 10x is generally sufficient for turkey hunting, providing a wide field of view to scan large areas without sacrificing too much detail.

Optional: Rangefinder

A rangefinder can be a valuable tool for turkey hunters, particularly those using bows or wanting to ensure their shotgun patterns are effective at a given distance. Rangefinders measure the exact distance to your target, allowing you to know the precise distance to a turkey. This can help you decide whether a shot is within an effective range, reducing the likelihood of wounding a bird.

Alongside, by measuring distances in different directions from your setup, you can place decoys at distances that are known to be within effective shooting range, making it easier to judge when a turkey is close enough for a shot.

General Woods Safety Tips, Gear & Tools

When heading into the woods for turkey hunting or any outdoor activity, certain safety gear and tools are indispensable for ensuring a safe and successful outing. Beyond the specific gear for turkey hunting, there are general items that every outdoors person should carry to be prepared for various situations.

  • Hunting Knife: Primarily used for field dressing your turkey, it’s also invaluable for tasks like cutting rope, trimming branches for a blind, or preparing food. Choose a knife that is durable, holds its edge, and fits comfortably in your hand.
  • First Aid Kit: Always carry a basic first aid kit equipped with supplies to handle minor injuries or emergencies. Your kit should include items like bandages, antiseptic wipes, blister prevention, and any personal medications. A well-stocked first aid kit can be a lifesaver in the outdoors.
  • Backpack or Daypack: To carry all your gear, a good backpack or daypack can be handy. It should be large enough to hold your safety equipment, extra layers of clothing, water, snacks, and other essentials, but comfortable enough to wear for extended periods. Look for packs with multiple compartments to keep your gear organized and easily accessible.
  • Sunscreen and Insect Repellent: Apply sunscreen to exposed skin to prevent sunburn, and use insect repellent to guard against ticks, mosquitoes, and other pests. Consider treating your clothing with permethrin for added protection against ticks.

Turkey Hunting Safety Tips

  • Identify Your Target: Before taking any shot, be absolutely certain of your target and what is beyond it.
  • Awareness of Hunting Zones: Know the boundaries of your hunting area and be aware of any other hunters who may be sharing the space. Respect designated no-hunting zones and private property boundaries.
  • Inform Someone of Your Plans: Always let someone know where you will be hunting and when you expect to return. This simple step ensures that should anything go wrong, help knows where to find you.

Carrying the right safety gear and tools, coupled with a mindful approach to hunting practices, ensures not only your safety but also the safety of others in the woods. Being prepared allows you to focus on the hunt and enjoy your time in the great outdoors with peace of mind.

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