There are many mornings I have set up on a gobbler anticipating his next move, only to find out he changed the script. I will never confess I know exactly what a turkey is going to do. The moment I think I have him figured out, the game always seems to change. When things don’t go my way, it’s important to be able to quickly and efficiently form an alternative plan.
Though the answers are many, I have found a common thread. Always be ready to move to a better advantage point to intercept a gobbler. If I cannot master the initial setup on the fly-down every time, then I need to be ready to adapt as quickly as possible. There are several things that I have learned in order to stay mobile and agile in the hunt.
Being a Minimalist
First and foremost, become a minimalist. With all of the gear available to help me bag a tom, it doesn’t take long to fill my pack to overflow. The hunting industry has made it easy to get sucked into the latest gadget that will make turkey hunting more effective or convenient. If I’m not careful, I have loaded a pack full of conveniences, most of which I cannot even get to when needed.
I have found that it’s necessary to ask myself some questions about what I should purchase as well as what I should pack for the kind of setup I am anticipating. What are the possible scenarios that might play out on the turkeys that I will be hunting? What gear might be critical to have for those scenarios? How can I modify that gear list to only use what is effectively required or what could I strip off should a plan B become necessary?
The first priority item I consider is the gear that I wear - what clothing is going to be necessary for the hunt? When considering clothing, I’m going to make this decision based on current weather conditions to a large degree. However, my biggest strategy will be mobility in mind. I have found dressing in layers and making sure I have a system to pack and unpack these layers as necessary. Taking too many clothes without an adequate system to store removed layers has been my biggest mistake over the years.
In colder weather, I have found base layers to be the key, along with some simple articles to protect my extremities such as a cold weather cap, gloves, and a neck gaiter. Staying away from cotton layers underneath and utilizing under layers of moisture-wicking garments have allowed me to stay warm and dry, even when it became necessary to cover long distances. Spring in the Ozarks typically means wet mornings. I have found my go-to has typically been waterproof outer garments that keep me both warm and dry, particularly when a belly crawl through tall grass becomes necessary to close the distance on a gobbler on a dew-laden spring morning. These kinds of garments are also less bulky to take off and pack in my vest or even tie around my waist if the weather warms as the morning progresses. Clothing will vary dramatically with the climate that I hunt in. However, a system that is both layered and easily packable is key.
Next in my go-to gear is a good turkey vest. Things that I look for in a vest are one that will be comfortable and cool in the hotter-than-normal spring weather, and one that will carry all of my necessities regardless of my setup. Having a vest that will keep articles such as mouth calls, slate calls, strikers, extra shotgun shells, water, and a pocket for a decoy is a must. I try to avoid carrying an extra unattached pack as this becomes difficult to maneuver in a belly crawl across an open field or other tactical moves that may become necessary. I want my essentials attached to me so that they are readily accessible with very little movement as well as safe from becoming lost or damaged.
I have also learned to pay attention to bringing water on my hunts. There have been many hunts I speculated would take me a couple of hundred yards, only to return to the truck a couple of miles later, wishing I would have brought water with me.
A good sling for my weapon of choice also tops the list of priorities. Having a sling for either my gun or my bow coupled with a good vest enables me to carry all of the essentials and still be hands-free to maneuver terrain safely, quietly, and efficiently.
Another tool added to the gear list that is often utilized in my setups is decoys. In ideal situations, more than one decoy is desired. And in later seasons, I have also found tremendous advantages in having moving decoys. With this kind of setup, it often becomes a requirement to utilize an additional bag to store all of my decoys. Having a system of decoys that I can take with me on an initial setup, and then leave or pack one decoy in my vest and leave the bag at a location that I can easily find and pick up on my way back to the truck is extremely advantageous.
A final addition that I have utilized in my hunts on certain setups has been a blind. Choosing a blind that is both easy to set up and easy to tear down is critical in being able to move efficiently should it become necessary. I also spend time in the off-season practicing setting up and tearing down my blind to maintain maximum efficiency from the first day of turkey season to the last. A system to pack a blind is also critical. I have found one of the most efficient ways of carrying a blind is a backpack blind carrier. Having this piece of gear is one of the most convenient ways to pack a blind should the need arise to cover some ground in a short amount of time. In some instances I have even been able to leave the blind behind to pursue a turkey and later return to take it down when the hunt is over.
Even the best of plans can go south in a hurry. Having the option to change plans in a hurry gives you tremendous advantages, and can make the difference between bagging a turkey or leaving the woods empty-handed. Maintaining mobility has helped me be successful time and time again.