The 2018 Turkey Hunter’s Holiday Gift Guide
Items to fit all budgets for the turkey-hunting fanatic on your shopping list
Good news for you. Steve from Human Resources has taken the lead on this year’s office Christmas party, and is planning to cook his “world famous” winter quiche. All you have to do is show up in a reindeer sweater, sip some eggnog (without getting sloshed), and politely answer your coworkers when they ask if you “caught anything” this past fall.
Actually, it’d probably be wise for you to call in sick. Just tell Steve you have a case of the avian flu. It’s not a total lie, since the start of the New Year does begin the countdown to spring turkey season, and the anticipation for that is kind of a sickness. About the only way to treat it is to stock up on new gobbler gear. The items on this list are good. I’m a turkey nut beyond curing, and have personally used every one of them.
My ideal turkey gun is a do-it-all semi-automatic 12-gauge with a synthetic stock. I use my SBE2 for everything from doves and teal to geese, coyotes, and, of course, gobblers. I don’t think a finer, more reliable autoloading shotgun platform has ever been made, but for one flaw: the Benelli “click,” which can happen when the gun’s bolt is either closed quietly on a shell, or slightly bumped out of battery. I’ve seen it save the life of a longbeard.
The lack of that “click” is perhaps the SBE3’s most talked-about feature, but there’s more to it than that. I got the chance to really wring this gun out on a high-volume waterfowl and dove hunt in Argentina last summer. It’s a little trimmer, a little more comfortable, and it kicks less than the old No. 2. It is exactly what a model upgrade should be—and I’m saving my pennies for one now. One word of caution for turkey hunters, though: This gun is designed to shoot a few inches high, out of the box. My old SBE2 does as well. I’ve never had a problem with that because I aim for the wattles, but it’s something to keep in mind.—Price: $1,800
I’m frequently amazed at how many turkey hunters don’t carry binoculars. I think they’re indispensible, particularly if I’m hunting any sort of open country, from cattle pastures and food plots for Easterns and Osceolas to prairie or senderos for Merriam’s and Rios. Save a little coin on the custom calls this year (I promise the turkeys won’t care), and spring for a good pair of binos. You’ll be shocked how often you use them. It’s deer season as I write this, and I’ve hunted all fall with this pair of binoculars (mine are 8x42s), and have found them clear and reliable in all kinds of conditions. First light. Last light. High humidity. Rain. Snow. Dust. They work, and I’ve come to trust them.—Price: $1,300
The first turkey call I ever owned remains one of the best. It was a Lynch Fool Proof; the iconic, one-sided wooden box call that’s been around since 1940. Dad got it for me for Christmas when I was in middle school. I used that call to kill my first turkey, and no telling how many others after it. The call was in my vest when I finished my first Grand Slam. It seemed to make birds gobble when nothing else would. My buddy once dubbed it the “VooDoo Box.”
A few years ago in Nebraska, I was hurrying to set up on a late-afternoon gobbler, and accidently sat on and broke that call. I could’ve cried, but fortunately, they still make them. At less than $40 on Amazon, it might be worth it to get two.—Price: $45
Most turkey hunting clothing is lightweight. Trouble is, it’s chilly enough for long underwear on many spring mornings. Made from Merino wool, this jacket is warm, not too heavy, and breathable. I can roll it up and stick in a vest no problem. But it also has nylon outer panels on the chest and shoulders for weather resistance. It won’t provide the waterproofing of real rain gear, but it works in a pinch during those pop-up spring showers. This one has become a go-to garment for me in cool weather, regardless of what I’m hunting.—Price: $200 to $225
Odds are, any creek you need to cross en route to a gobbling tom will be rain swollen, and for that, knee boots are the only way to go. I’ve been using this pair (the non-insulated version) from Rocky for the past several months, and I love them. They have a neoprene upper with rubber soles, and beefy seams. They’re not as comfy as a good leather hunting boot, of course, but no knee boots are. These are competitively priced, too.—Price: $80 to $140
Colonel Tom Kelly’s masterpiece, first printed in 1973, remains the benchmark commentary on turkey hunting. You can get the Kindle version on Amazon, but every gobbler nut ought to have his or her own printed copy.—Price: $37
World-champion taxidermist and fellow turkey nut Cally Morris introduced me to these simple seats years ago, which have folding legs and nylon webbing around an aluminum frame. They’re inexpensive, and I’ve now had mine for a long time, with no signs of wear on it. If I plan to be waiting a tom out in his strutting area—or bowhunting without a blind—this seat comes with me.—Price: $25
I put a lot of time and money into my food plots, and they’re as beneficial for turkey hunting in the spring as they are for deer hunting in the fall. For a perennial plot that’s long-lived and attractive to wildlife, you can’t do much better than a blend of ladino clover and chicory. Though I get much of my seed from the local co-op, I have been using this blend from the Whitetail Institute the past couple years. I can honestly say that the germination rate is better and the plants are bigger (soil testing, lime, and fertilizer being equal, of course). Come February or March, frost-seed a bag of this into an existing food plot. I bet you see good results.—Price: $35 to $130
For more Holiday Gift Ideas, see our Holiday Gift Guide.
Carlson’s Longbeard XR is, for the money, the best turkey load on the market. According to me anyhow. I shoot my gun’s favorite—a 3-inch, 1 ¾-ounce load of No. 5s—through this choke in my Benelli, and it’s simply devastating on gobblers. I’m not sure what Carlson’s does to make this tube work so well with this load, but it does. The tube is stainless steel with a .665 constriction in 12 gauge. (Twenty-gauge tubes are also available).—Price: $35