Bowhunting turkeys differs from bowhunting deer because, plain and simple, turkeys aren’t deer. Although both hunts require similar gear, remember the three p’s – plan, pack and perform – to ensure you bring turkey hunting’s difference-makers.
Jeff Budz hunts turkeys relentlessly and owns Tag It Worldwide. As of March 2019, he’s completed two world slams, one U.S. Super Slam, eight archery grand slams and 100 grand slams through the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Wild Turkey Records program. Here’s how the NWTF defines its “slams”:
- Grand Slam— All U.S. subspecies: Eastern, Osceola (or Florida), Rio Grande and Merriam’s;
- Royal Slam— The Grand Slam plus the Gould’s (Mexico and small parts of the Southwest);
- World Slam— Royal Slam plus the ocellated turkey (Mexico and Central America);
- U. Super Slam— Harvest one turkey subspecies in every state except Alaska.
In other words, Budz has hunted and harvested hundreds of turkeys. We interviewed Budz to learn how he packs to succeed during turkey season. His key tip: Consider everything.
“I like to overthink everything I do so I don’t get to the end of the hunt, day or season and think, ‘I wish I would have …’” he said. “Preparation is more important than any item you pack.”
While planning your adventure, consider where you’re going, what you need, and how to avoid wasting time, money and energy. Pack accordingly. You must bring everything needed to perform while hunting.
Budz urges first-year turkey hunters to not buy everything at once. Create a budget and buy only what you can afford. If you want to splurge a bit, buy a turkey vest, good chair and must-have equipment the first year. In Year 2, buy quality hiking boots and knee-high rubber boots. In Year 3, buy a waterproof suit and high-quality binoculars.
To create a packing list, view the items below. Budz packs everything listed, but considers some items “must-haves” and others “optional.” You don’t need every item to hunt turkeys, but study your options to decide which gear makes hunting more enjoyable.
– License: This is the most important item. Don’t leave home without it, and print multiple copies. Carry the license at all times, and stash a copy in your vehicle in case you lose your primary copy.
– Gun or Bow? Decide whether you’ll bowhunt or gun-hunt turkeys. Carry a bow, arrows and broadheads; or a shotgun, choke tube and ammo. Whether you use a bow or shotgun, bring a carrying sling.
– Camouflage clothing: Pack thermals if it’s cold. You’ll always need socks, pants, and long- and short-sleeve shirts. Dress in layers to best manage your comfort.
– Hat, gloves, facemask and other accessories: Turkeys have phenomenal eyesight, so always wear a camo hat, gloves, facemask and neck gaiter.
– Boots: “If your feet are cold and miserable, you’re done,” Budz said. Get warm, comfortable, waterproof boots. Northerners often need insulated boots, while Southerners often need snake-proof boots.
– Water: Stay hydrated by drinking water. Carry one or two water bottles, and stash extras in your vehicle.
– Snacks: You’ll burns calories, especially if cruising and calling. Pack apples, carrots, crackers, sandwiches, protein bars and other foods to stay energized.
– Chair or cushion: Budz said turkey hunters must sit still and be comfortable in a blind or against a tree. Cushions, backrests and lounge chairs make long sits tolerable.
– Turkey calls: Choose a box call, slate call, diaphragm call or all three. Practice before the season, and bring the calls you master.
– Decoys: Find a lightweight decoy that’s easily packed. A breeding pair, such as jake and hen, create realistic scenes to attract jealous toms.
– Knife: Carry a sharp knife to field dress your bird.
– Map and compass: Keep both handy to stay oriented and find your hotspots.
– Bug protection: Ticks and mosquitos can ruin hunts. Use Permethrin and bug spray or a Thermacell to repel these nuisances.
– Toilet paper: You never know when you must go.
– Flashlight: This handy tool helps you navigate the woods in darkness.
– First-aid kit: Matches, bandages, latex gloves and other safety items are essential.
– Blind: If you’re antsy, a ground blind helps conceal your movements. Some blinds, like the Shootout, stand 7.5 feet tall, allowing bowhunters to stand to shoot.
– Optics: Use binoculars or a spotting scope to locate and identify distant birds. Budz considers them optional, but you’ll spot more birds to pursue, and some binos double as rangefinders.
– Coolers: Keep food and beverages cold, and preserve your gobbler’s meat.
– Locator calls: Enhance your calling with owl, crow, coyote or other locator calls to shock toms into gobbling.
– Rain gear: Pack rainwear to stay dry and warm if the weather worsens.
– Chapstick and sunscreen: Protect your lips and skin from harsh winds and UVA rays.
– Plastic bags help organize small items, protect toilet paper, or store turkey meat.
– Ibuprofen combats headaches and body pains. Pain relief does wonders for your attitude and well-being.
– Cough drops: Staying quiet is crucial. Coughs can scare prey and allow animals to pinpoint your presence.
– Hand pruners: Cut vines, branches or saplings that block your bow or view.
– Camera: Take pictures to capture memorable hunting moments.
– Tripod: Set up a tripod to record hunts hands-free.
– Rope: Pack rope or strong cord to secure gear, hang a gobbler or rig a clothesline.
– Rubber bands: Use them to secure box calls, put hair into a ponytail, and make other quick fixes.
– Satellite communication devices: These devices help you navigate big woods, communicate with loved ones, and summon help should you get lost or injured.
Budz said anyone can succeed at turkey hunting if they prepare, pack carefully and put in the time. Visit an archery store to gear up and practice shooting. Good luck this season!