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Get Organized for Turkey Hunting

Ramblings by John Higley, author badge,
would get a serious case of cabin fever if I stayed inside every time in rained, but that is not in my nature. No matter what, I’ve got to get outside at least for awhile on stormy days. That may mean splitting wood for home use or, because I run a one man landscape maintenance business, a visit to some customers’ yards. There I’ll clean things up, unplug drains and prune roses or small ornamental and fruit trees if necessary.

Recently, getting out meant attending the International Sportsmen’s Expo at Cal-Expo in Sacramento, which was as impressive as ever. Actually, I spoke there a couple of times, which was my excuse for going. The subject was hunting wild turkeys, which shouldn’t come as any great surprise. Hunting turkeys with both shotgun and camera is something I’ve done for more than 40 years, 29 of which I’ve done seminars at ISE shows.

Hunting vest full of supplies, photo by John Higley
My vest for turkey hunting is full of good stuff, all of which will see action during the spring season, and all of which has a specific place in one of the pockets.

By now, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this tirade. Well, because turkeys are on my alleged mind, and the general spring season is due to start a mere two months from now, I think it’s about time to get organized for the hunts to come. No kidding. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared in advance and spending some time getting ready is an enjoyable thing to do, especially on wintery nights when even I stay inside.

I’ll start by digging out the vest I use for turkey hunting, and going over all the gear in it with a fine tooth comb. Anything worn out or broken will be replaced during a visit to the local Sportsman’s Warehouse store, or one of the other sporting goods outlets which are close to where I live.

There nothing wrong in daydreaming about spring hunting scenes like this while organizing your gear during February.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I want to have in my vest when I’m finally heading for the turkey woods:

Calls. Sometimes gobblers respond more readily to one call produced sound than another and that’s why variety is important. Accordingly, I have a half dozen diaphragm mouth calls in a small container, a box call and a pot and peg call with two or three strikers to vary the pitch. I also have locator calls in my vest at all times. They include a raspy crow call, a coyote howler and an owl hooter. Sometimes I add a gobble call, which I use sparingly as a locator and to challenge a standoffish tom to a face-off when hen talk doesn’t work.

In addition to calls, I always have at least three extra shells for my 12 gauge shotgun. And in another space I also have gloves and a face mask. In an inside pocket, that I don’t have to get to until the hunt is over, are a short measuring tape, a small scale (I like to measure beards and spurs and weigh a turkey on the spot) and a small folding knife to facilitate field dressing. Somewhere else handy, I’ll have a call conditioning kit consisting of sand paper, a scouring pad, chalk and rubber bands, which are handy for a number of things such as restraining a box call paddle so it won’t make noise at an inopportune time.

For hiking in the dark, I have an LED head lamp and a small LED squeeze light. The latter light, which casts a small beam only a few feet, saved me from stumbling in the dark at least once when I forgot my headlamp. I also use the dim light when I need to setup close to the roost. Other items include a leather turkey tote, a bottle of water, a snack, toilet tissue and insect repellant (don’t leave home without them). If it’s cold, I may carry an extra layer of camo clothing in the back pouch, and if rain is predicted, a suit of lightweight camo rain gear.

John Higley with his Turkey, photo by John Higley
The end result in having everything you need when you need can lead to a happy ending to a turkey hunt like this. Here Higley poses with a tom he got on timber company land in Shasta County.

If that sounds like a lot, it is, but it isn’t all. Sometimes I tuck a decoy or two in the back pouch (fold up or inflatable), and once in awhile an ultra-light, sit behind rollout blind. And these days, because I bleed easily when I’m jabbed by thorns or punctured by barbed wire, I stick in a few Band-Aids.

One key to making the best use of your vest is to make a list of things you want and check items off as you put them in it. Put the same stuff in the same pocket every time, and you’ll know exactly where to reach for something when you need it.

There you have it. I hope my thoughts will make sense, and that you’ll recognize the value in getting your stuff ready for turkey hunting early. It’s far more enjoyable to organize your things when there’s still plenty of time to do so, instead of waiting until the last minute when panic sets in. Been there, done that, as they say.

Upcoming, I’ll be in Nashville next week to attend the annual Convention and Sports Show put on by the National Wild Turkey Federation. It’s quite a deal with thousands of attendees and hundreds of exhibitors--most of them trying to sell you something you’ve simply got to have for turkey hunting. I’ll share the experience with you when I get back home.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro. His articles have appeared in outdoor magazines hundreds of times and his columns appear regularly at Higley has written four books the latest of which “Successful Turkey Hunting” was published in May, 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing in New York. This hard cover, full color book is being sold at Barnes and Noble Book Stores and on Amazon. Autographed copies are available direct from John Higley, P.O. Box 120, Palo Cedro, CA 96073. Cost is $28.95 postage paid.

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