What’s in Your Turkey Vest?

By: Todd Davis
By: Todd Davis

If you are like me, there are two reasons that drive you to hunt. First, is the thrill of the hunt, matching wits with a quarry that has a definite advantage over the hunter. The second is an excuse to buy new hunting stuff. My wife seems to think I reverse the order of these reasons every chance I get. Of course, that is denied vigorously but this time of year there is always something my turkey vest desperately needs. While making room in my turkey vest for my new mouth call, I wondered, what’s in everyone else’s turkey vest?

I just couldn’t stop wondering what other hunters keep in their vest, so I decided to take inventory of what is in my own turkey vest. This is way too dangerous to do in front of your spouse; I highly suggest a secluded spot to begin your inventory. I have an easy-to-get-to pocket on the front right of my vest with a  box call, two slate calls, and three strikers. There is also a scratch pad for the slate. The other large pocket on the right front keeps my ThermaCELL, shotgun shells, turkey tote, and a cheap predator call. I have never used the predator call…but I always seem to find a spot for it. On the inside right pocket, I keep my favorite mouth calls, Zyrtec for my allergies, and a pen for my tag. On the inside left pocket, I keep my gloves and a face mask. In the back game pouch, I keep my two hen decoys along with my Jake decoy. At one time I kept a first aid kit, but it seems to be missing. One more thing to buy for my vest!

Found a secluded spot. Now, what do I have in my vest?
Found a secluded spot. Now, what do I have in my vest?

I realized that the inventory I carry may not suit everyone, so I contacted Wildlife Biologist Tom Hughes of the National Wild Turkey Federation. I asked Tom, “What is in your turkey vest? Tom’s essentials are his calls, shells, and ThermaCELL. He is particularly fond of his friction call, and he considers it essential. His shotgun patterns best with 3-inch shells, so he keeps plenty of those. Tom is from South Carolina; in South Carolina, it’s “carry a ThermaCELL or get carried away.” The two items that Tom carries that are considered his “nice to have” items are his ratchet cutters and turkey tote. Ratchet cutters can cut that branch from poking you in the back or make a quick and quiet blind. Since Tom hunts well off the beaten path, a turkey tote makes carrying a large Tom a long distance much easier. I asked Tom what was his “got to have” item in his turkey vest and his answer was shotgun shells. Too often fellow hunters leave their shells at home, and Tom has saved a hunt more than once by carrying a few extra.

Comfortable and ready to start calling in the birds.
Comfortable and ready to start calling in the birds.

I also spoke with Pete Mueller of National Wild Turkey Federation and asked Pete, “What’s in your turkey vest?” Pete is a public land turkey hunter and has a different perspective than those who own or lease hunting property. Pete’s essentials are his ThermaCELL, cell phone, diaphragm call, box call for later in the day, and snacks. He also considers a phone app called Hunt app essential. It is GPS type phone app that keeps him within the public land boundaries. Pete’s nice to have items are a pad to sit on and owl hoot call. Pete had to think some, but his “got to have” item depends on what he is hunting with. If he is using a shotgun, his always makes sure there are shells in his vest. If he is bowhunting, he makes sure his range finder is in his vest. Knowing the correct yardage is vital to bowhunting if you are off just a few inches you may not get your bird.

Since I love to watch the Drury Brother’s hunt turkey on TV, I reached out to Mark Drury to see what he carries in his turkey vest. Mark’s essentials are his mouth call, box call, slate call and a hen decoy. It makes sense if you watch his show; Mark does a lot of running and gunning to locate a willing gobbler. Carrying these simple four things lets him travel light. Mark’s, “Nice to Have” items are a saw, ratchet cutters, turkey fan, Mad Max Blind and a range finder. This too makes perfect sense for those days you need to set-up and stay a while. Last I asked Mark what the single most important item in his vest is, and Mark considers his Mad Man Mouth Call the most important. It seems everyone has a special place for their go-to call in their turkey vest.

Take what you need, know what you are doing, be patient and don't miss and this is what you get.
Take what you need, know what you are doing, be patient and don’t miss and this is what you get. What’s in your vest?

Up until now I thought my turkey vest complete, but after talking to Tom and Mark, I realize I am only scratching the surface. Of course, things vary depending on the type of country you hunt but never pass an opportunity to buy more stuff. Thanks to Tom Hughes and Mark Drury it will be easier to convince my wife I need to add more gear to my turkey vest!

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