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A Few of Our Favorite Things -- Part One

We all have favorite turkey hunting gear. Maybe it's a well-worn shotgun that shoots right where you point it every time. Or it might be a box call that seems to automatically make perfect yelps because you've used it for so many seasons. Indeed, guns and calls are part of the trade. Without them, you wouldn't be hunting.Then there are those other things that fall into the broad category of "accessories." You know, those little extras that are just so handy, so cleverly made, just so darn cool that once you use them you wonder how you survived before you found them.

Sure, you could hunt without some of your favorite stuff, but would you want to?

I asked some of our Turkey & Turkey Hunting contributors to think about a couple items that have become part of their standard equipment. I was looking for items they wouldn't consider leaving home without. Maybe some of their answers will give you an idea for a new must-have item to fit into that empty vest pocket this spring.

Scott Bestul
"I hate most headnets," confesses longtime T&TH contributing editor Scott Bestul. "As an eyeglass wearer, I view them as turkey hunting's necessary evil. They mess with my glasses when I pivot my noggin. They steam up my specs on a warm day. They bunch up around my face, obstruct my peripheral vision and put me in a bad mood. Some are so bad I want to leave them at home and take my chances that a gobbler won't spot my shiny cheekbones and sparkling lenses."

Bestul changed his attitude when he tried the Double Bull Ninja mask. "I don't know the material they use, but it fits my face like a glove, rotating when I move my head, rather than sticking against it," he explains. "My glasses don't fog, and it's darned comfortable, even when the temps soar. Even better, I can find my anchor point when I decide to tote my bow instead of my 870."

The Ninja features camo on one side for regular back-against-a-tree setups, and black on the other for hunting from a blind. Bestul is a turkey fanatic by spring but turns into a whitetail junkie in fall. Bow-hunting turkeys is his way of combining the two.

Like others who have taken up this challenge, the search for the right broadhead is a never-ending quest. "I resisted expandable broadheads for years. But when South Dakota bow-hunting guide Dave Keiser told me to buy Rage broadheads before visiting him for a Merriam's hunt last spring, I caved," Bestul says.

"Keiser told me he had recovered every turkey his clients had ever shot with a Rage. Since Keiser's clients kill dozens of toms a year, I heeded his advice ... which paid off when I killed my tom on the second morning of my hunt."

The Rage comes in two- or three-blade models, and either works great on gobblers, though its wise to check your state's regs before buying (the two-blade design is illegal in South Dakota, for example). Rage broadheads feature a cut-on-contact tip and rear-opening blades that fully deploy upon entry.

"They hit turkeys and other game hard and leave a heckuva hole," Bestul adds. "This means you recover the birds you hit, which — as anyone who's bow-hunted gobblers can attest — is a very big deal indeed."

Jim Casada
Jim Casada, T&TH's editor-at-large, says he wouldn't think of heading into the woods without a flashlight and some back-up batteries. Like much of today's gear, even something as simple as a flashlight has evolved into a specialized tool. Such is the case with Surefire lights, which boast rugged aluminum casings and long-life LEDs instead of fragile, weak bulbs.

"Ideally you never have to click a flashlight on in the turkey woods, but the distance between ideal and real can be a mighty big one," Casada says. "My light of choice is a compact little SureFire, which takes a single 123A 3-volt lithium battery and comes with a handy slide clip that holds it handy in a shirt pocket. It has a button at the end that can be pushed for a flash of illumination and disappears as soon as you release it.

"On the other hand, if you are walking out of the woods in pitch black dark long after having roosted a bird, it can be turned to give constant illumination, which is amazingly bright."

Another of Casada's favorite items has to do with comfort. "My days of probing for every rock, root or stick with my derriere while I set up are in the past," he says. "I carry a handy little folding stool made by Hunter's Specialties. It comes with a handy carrying strap and when folded rides easily next to my hip.

"Mine is gussied up a bit with an inflatable cushion so that my old bones rest a bit easier. The combination of comfort and a few inches of elevation from ground level make a real difference. If you use one of the self-supporting vests that allow you to sit easily without a tree at your back (and I do), all that is necessary when you have to set up quickly is to pop open the seat, sit down and ready your gun."

Brian Lovett
Contributing editor Brian Lovett, whose newest book, Hunting Pressured Turkeys, is a comprehensive collection of no-nonsense strategies for taking on tough longbeards, is an admitted gear addict.

"My turkey vest is always jammed," he says. "Every morning, I make sure it's stuffed with one or two box calls, at least three friction calls, three or four strikers, 10 mouth calls and a hardware-aisle-sized assortment of other junk."

But, he says no matter how crammed it gets, there are two other items he never goes without.

"For days when turkeys are henned up or otherwise quiet, the Boss Gobble Call from Quaker Boy is an indispensable locator," Lovett explains. "Often, a gobble or two can elicit a response from a tight-lipped longbeard that ignores hen calling. The Boss's acrylic barrel produces loud, realistic sound. Further, you can work it with one or two hands."

Another of Lovett's favorite must-haves has to do with an aspect of the hunt that we sometimes forget about: how to tote your tom out of the woods after a successful morning.

"My favorite turkey tote is a hand-made model that was a gift from White Oak Plantation guide Al Mattox," he says. "However, commercial models — such as the Primos Turkey Strap — are available.

"Basically, a tote lets you easily transport a gobbler out of the woods. You can secure the bird's legs and head, and then throw the strap over your shoulder, distributing the bird's weight and eliminating the bloody streak a dead gobbler's flopping head can dispense on your camo pants."


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