by M.D. Johnson

The turkey hunter’s mantra, and the reason behind the creation of the turkey vest, is simple: It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Given that there are approximately 1,001 items of gear available to hunters, it can be daunting 
to figure out exactly what’s necessary for a trip into the woods. Here’s what I carry. Oh yeah, 
I also bring my shotgun and some shells.

1. Cellphone My iPhone is always fully charged and ready for emergencies…and for when I need help passing the time between in-the-field naps. It also takes great photos.

2. Decoys and Stakes I have two Avian-X LCD decoys, with an extra stake, as I’m prone to losing things.

3. Pot & Peg Call I have two pots: a crystal over glass surrounded by purpleheart wood from the now-defunct Backwoods Game Calls and a crystal pot from Freddie Zink. Both play in any weather, sound fantastic, and offer great versatility. I keep two Woodhaven Custom Calls Purple Heart strikers at hand, and a full acrylic striker from Hunter’s Specialties for those rainy mornings.

4. Camo Headnet Mesh is cooler, so that’s what I wear. I like to keep an extra in my vest in case I lose one.

5. Camo Gloves I prefer fingerless or split-finger gloves because I like my bare skin to touch the calls and the gun. As with the headnets, I always carry an extra set.

6. ThermaCell This is the absolute best invention for keeping biting bugs at bay when you’re in the turkey woods all day. The camo holster for the unit includes an extra butane cartridge and three additional repellent pads (

** 7. Locator Calls** I carry a crow call and a Palmer Hoot Tube from Hunter’s Specialties.

** 8. Catchall Bag** I always bring a zip-seal bag with the following: safety pins, tweezers, dental floss, Q-tips, Visine, bandages, 24 inches of parachute cord, aspirin, Rolaids, a pencil, wet wipes, Carmex, and a small pair of nail clippers.

** 9. Pocketknife or Multitool** I usually have both. I keep a folding blade in one of the shell loops and a sheathed Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier ( in an inside pocket.

10. Pot Call Conditioners A conditioning stone from Hunter’s Specialties makes touching up the crystal easy. I also like to carry a small square of Scotch-Brite pad, which I use to keep my striker tips clean.

11. Water A 16-ounce bottle of water, because turkey hunting’s thirsty work.

12. Toilet Paper I store the better part of a roll in a zip-seal bag; finding suitable leaves in the dark can be tough.

13. Diaphragm Call The only diaphragm I use is a Primos A-frame Triple Bat Cut. The call is versatile and, despite being a triple-reed, easy to use

Click here for Phil Bourjaily’s list of the 25 Best Turkey Guns Ever Made