The Best New Turkey Hunting Gear for 2018
Our experts pick the raspiest calls, best shotguns, most lifelike decoys, and best hunting tools for turkey season
Let’s be honest, most new turkey gear is pretty much the same as the old turkey gear. But not all of it. Each spring, a relative handful of companies rolls out a smattering of products that are actually innovative, or truly unique, or just plain better than what you have now. That is what’s in this roundup: a ground blind with one-way see-through material that you can peer out of but turkeys can’t peer in; a breeding-pair decoy that’s so realistic you almost have to cover your eyes; a new turkey load that’s as hard to miss with at 5 yards as it is deadly at 50 or more. Plus, we tested and selected the sweetest-sounding new calls of 2018, including a pair of surprisingly affordable custom yelpers. If the turkey hunting this year half as good as the new crop of gobbler gear, you’re in for a great season.
The latest from custom call maker Patrick Urckfitz was my favorite new box call. I love its classic, natural sound. Purpleheart over walnut, the Rubber Necker is loud enough when it needs to be, but mellow and convincing for close-in work. Because it’s a one-sider, it’s hard to make a bad yelp on the Rubber Necker. It’s also hard to beat this price for a custom box. —W.B.
The SurroundView 360 is fully wrapped with a panel of one-way see-through material. That means you can see out, but turkeys cannot see in. It’s a big deal. Not only are there no blind spots with this blind, but whereas most pop-ups shutter you from the outdoors, this one pulls the spring woods right in, so you can enjoy it all. —D.H.
DSD Mating Motion Pair
$300 • Dave Smith Decoys
The Mating Motion Pair combines a jake decoy and a laydown hen, in a breeding pose. But there’s more: A pull-string sets these two birds in motion—yes, that motion. I don’t know what’ll happen when day breaks and Tom looks down from a limb to see Jake and Henny doing this, but I sure want to be hiding in the bushes to find out. —W.B.
Strut Commander Voodoo and Sandman Mouth Calls
$9 each • Strut Commander
The ghost-cut Voodoo starts with a piercing, clean high note and drops into a loud, henny yawp—perfect for making far-off toms give it up. (It makes a killer kee-kee run too.) Once your bird shuffles in closer, switch to the Sandman (shown). This triple is easy-blowing enough for purrs, whines, and do-whits. It’s a closer. —D.H.
I know, it has the look of a cheap gizmo, but this remote-controlled strutter stake works well and can definitely help you kill more longbeards. You just set the stake up, top it with any hollow-body strutter decoy, sit back, press a button, and your fake starts spinning in half turns, clockwise and counterclockwise, very much like the real thing. Runs on four AA batteries. —D.H.
You know what I want in a turkey vest? As little as possible. No rods, frames, or orthopedic cushions. In fact, I’ll often just throw some calls and shells in a fanny pack and go. That’s why I like this vest so much. There are days when I do need the extra space that a vest affords—and on the days that I don’t, I can simply remove the detachable front accessories pocket and carry that with its built-in shoulder strap. —W.B.
White River Small Game Knife
$165 • White River Knives
F&S editor-at-large and knife nut T. Edward Nickens put me on to this little gem. The 2.6-inch full-tang blade is CPM S35V powder-made steel. The handle is maple and black Richlite. The modified drop-point design makes for a highly maneuverable blade that’s well-suited to a range of tasks, from field dressing to skinning, breasting, and caping. Do you need a $165 turkey knife? Of course not. But if you’re a knife junkie who wants a dedicated gobbler (and small-game) blade, this is a beauty. —D.H.
Winchester SX4 Cantilever Turkey
$1,070 • Winchester
Winchester’s Super X4 is a trim, easy-handling, and soft-shooting gas gun at a fair price. I’d gladly hunt with the standard version, but this NWTF Turkey edition is a little snazzier. It has a 31⁄2-inch chamber, adjustable fiber-optic sights, an optic rail, and a Mossy Oak Obsession finish. A portion of the sale of each gun goes to the NWTF too. —W.B.
Pecker Wrecker Aluminum
$55 • Pecker Wrecker Calls
The latest in Kevin Farr’s lineup of custom pot-and-peg calls isn’t just another aluminum screamer. Yes, it screams when you want to get loud, but the call’s stoned-aluminum surface has a little grab, giving you more control for clucking, purring, and soft yelping. You expect a handmade call to have a little extra turkey in it, and this one does, with great tone and rollover—all at a very fair price. —D.H.
This is a new reaping decoy. Incidentally, Avian X also markets it as a way to display a fan and beard in your house. To which I say: Oh, perfect, I needed something to go between my leg lamp and my collection of diorama wall clocks. Anyway, what matters is that as a decoy (not as décor), this thing looks awesome. Almost two-dimensional, it’s lightweight and compact and has a carrying handle. Once it’s decked with a real fan and beard, it’s as convincing a reaper decoy as you’ll find. Makes a fine stationary strutter decoy too, with included stake. —D.H.
David Halloran Ebony/Walnut Checkered Box
$130 • David Halloran Calls
First, this is a gorgeous call—a heavy-in-the-hand short box that pairs a Macassar ebony paddle and a black walnut box, both with decorative checkering and a satin finish. More important, when those two hardwoods meet, this call jumps to life, with a tone that’s sharp and shrill but still all turkey. It’s my favorite new box call for 2018. —D.H.
On the heels of Winchester’s 20-gauge Long Beard XR turkey load debut is Carlson’s new 20-gauge Long Beard tube. Available for most popular guns, it’s ported with a constriction of 0.568, and is purpose-built for the new Winchester load (though it’ll work fine with other turkey loads too). If you’re among the growing number of hunters loading up with yellow shells, this is a combo to try. —W.B.
Federal’s 3rd Degree—which uses three types of pellets to produce more forgiving close-range patterns—is my go-to shell for thick woods. I’ve also seen enough birds killed with 3rd Degree at 40-plus yards to know that the “load for any distance” claim isn’t hype. Now, Federal has replaced the Heavyweight pellets in 3rd Degree with denser Heavyweight No. 7 TSS, and swapped in a new wad that plays nice with ported chokes. —W.B.
These boots feel like lightweight tennis shoes with aggressive soles and waterproof construction. I like the 8-inch noninsulated version, but you can get the insulated version if you’re prone to cold feet. Usually, the stench from my boots could be classified as a chemical weapon, but the Vaprtreks have a ScentBan feature. I won’t say the boots don’t smell at all, but Michelle lets me bring these in the house. —W.B.
GPO Passion ED 8×32
$400 • GPO USA
By combining German engineering with more-affordable Asian glass, this new company is earning a reputation for producing premium optics at midrange prices. I love an 8X compact for turkey hunting, and this one is comfortable in hand, has impressive resolution and low-light performance, and offers some nice pluses you don’t always see in this price range, including a durable magnesium body, locking aluminum eyecups, and a lifetime warranty. Also available in 10×32, 8×42, and 10×42. —D.H.