My recent turkey safari to South Dakota was colder, and with worse weather, than most deer hunts. When hunting the Great Plains in spring, I’ve learned to be prepared and usually take my fall deer gear, especially if the duds are new and untested. Thanks to some cool new products, I embraced the crazy times afield and took a great Merriam’s in the process. Here are seven cool products I investigated that proved their mettle.
ScentBlocker Tree Spider Bibs: Camo bibs are usually associated with very cold weather and tree-stand hunting, so I wondered if the new Tree Spider gear would be uncomfortable, noisy, and hot. Just the opposite. Some days I walked five miles in a morning or afternoon and quickly noticed how comfortable and quiet they were. I commented to my hunting buddy that there was no “swishing” as I walked. Deer hunters will love the aspect of a beltless, buckle-less, built-in safety harness with a 40% increase in scent absorption. You’ll also find that this gear breathes, insulates, and keeps moisture at bay. I was very impressed. www.robinsonoutdoors.com
Irish Setter ExoFlex Boots: Tall rubber boots are traditional for deer hunting as well, yet they can be chilly in cold weather and difficult to take off at day’s end. With the ExoFlex boot, all of that worry goes away. Despite standing and walking in snow, my feet never got cold, even wearing just a single pair of wool socks. The “flex” feature allows you to take off the boots without the need of a winch. Snow melted, streams rose, and I forded one stream so deep I was afraid to look down, yet my feet stayed perfectly dry. www.irishsetterboots.com
ScentBlocker Downpour Jacket: A waterproof jacket is a must for any deer or turkey hunt. I used the new Scent Blocker Downpour jacket as an outer layer and as a hunting top in my few hours of warmer weather. Although I didn’t hunt in a pouring rain, it handled snow, wind, and cold very well. Most importantly, it breathed under continued mobile conditions. The two side pockets were great for gloves and large enough to carry my box caller. Used in conjunction with the Tree Spider bibs, I will use this combination on fall elk hunts. www.robinsonoutdoors.com
Nikon 8.5×56 Binoculars: Not to be a broken record, but binoculars also are usually considered big game gear. I love these Nikons. Merriam’s travel miles and miles during an average day and the best way to hunt them is to first locate a strutting tom or flock and then try to get to where they’re going. At times I could glass turkeys a mile away with little or no refocusing from objects glassed 100 yards in front of me. The binocs were bright and extremely clear. www.nikonsportoptics.com
AimPoint Red Dot Sight: Turkeys are just as easy to miss out West as they are in the East — perhaps even easier, because you may see a gobbler approach for hundreds of yards as your heart pounds and you try desperately to estimate range over flat terrain. The easiest mistake is to shoot quickly and not put your cheek on the stock, which generally results in one elevating the front sight, and firing right over that standing duck’s head. Add to that the fact that some shotguns tend to pattern high — a double whammy of missing. One of the best solutions for turkey fever is a red dot, zero-power scope. I was lucky enough to have one during my second evening of the hunt, when a parade of turkeys came right to my location. Luckily the biggest Merriam’s tom was second in line, and as it strutted away from the group, I pulled the trigger. www.aimpoint.com
Quaker Boy Vest: For western turkeys, most hunters usually use a turkey vest or a daypack, since gear is needed for an entire day. The best thing about a vest is developing a routine using your gear. You’ll need three types of callers to be effective: slate and peg, a box, and a diaphragm. A good turkey vest will keep them organized so that you can reach for whichever call you need and know it will be there. The vest has dedicated pouches for boxes, slates, pegs, diaphragm callers, chalk, and shot shells, with larger inside pockets for gloves, head net, and more. The back pouch is large enough to carry a decoy, water bottle, lunch, and a raincoat. A medium backpack will carry the same gear, yet you may have to rummage around to find a particular item, and sometimes in a hurry. www.quakerboy.com
Hornady Turkey Loads: We were lucky enough to have Monty DeBoer from Hornady Ammo in camp, and he brought several boxes of their new turkey loads in #4, #5, and #6 shot. I watched him pattern his shotgun at 40 yards using #4 shot and the pattern was impressive. Ironically, that same evening, he lured three gobblers into 40 yards when a rival showed up and the four birds did battle, well out of range. He was able to lure the lone bird to 56 yards, where it lost its second and most critical battle of the day. www.hornady.com