Decoys are looking more like the real thing, calls are getting easier to use, and ammunition makers are loading shells to kill turkeys at unimaginable distances. You might be thinking, that was the same thing they said last year. Well, this year manufacturers are still on track to continue making the best turkey gear hunters have ever packed in their vests. And considering the supply chain ups and downs and lockdowns of the past 12 months or so, that’s pretty impressive. Whether you’ll soon find yourself belly-crawling across a cornfield to shoot a gobbler or sitting in a ground blind waiting for a tom to close the distance, there’s something here for you.
Avian X HDR Strutter
Avian X decoys have the three defining characteristics of all great turkey fakes: They look great. They cost an arm and a leg. And they are totally worth it. If you are serious about killing turkeys, you need to bite the bullet and shell out for high-quality dekes. The new HDR Strutter definitely fits that description, with its impressive detail and iridescent paint job, but it can actually save you some money, too—because it is really several decoys in one. With two removable heads and an adjustable tail fan, it can switch from a passive tom to an aggressive one or to a jake to fit different hunting situations. You can also remove the primary-wing-feather sections to make it easier to transport, or swap out the tail and wing sections altogether for the real thing. And just because I would lose all those extra parts in the course of one morning’s hunt doesn’t mean you will. The new HDR Strutter comes with a handy carrying bag to keep everything in one place. —Dave Hurteau
The Primos Double Bull Stakeout Blind
Double Bull made a splash a few years ago with their SurroundView one-way, see-through blind material. The idea is that you can see out, but turkeys can’t see in, and in my experience it works. That doesn’t mean you should do your morning calisthenics behind it. I’ve heard reports of folks getting busted from behind the stuff, but if you’re reasonably careful, you won’t. And to me the upside is huge: I hate being confined in a blind, and SurroundView pulls the woods right in and keeps you from craning to peer out little windows all morning. This new 5-window, 3-Panel Stakeout version weighs only a tad over 8 pounds with a carrying bag, making it easy to tote, and it sets up in jiffy. —D.H.
Sitka Mountain Optics Harness
For the run-and-gun, minimalist turkey hunter, this binocular harness is a good buy and could even work in lieu of a vest. The main compartment is big enough for a variety of binocular sizes, and it has a magnetic lid that will hold itself open. It has two side pouches that can hold mouth calls, pot-call strikers, or a knife. There are also roomy, removable side pouches on either side of the main compartment, attached via molle webbing. If you don’t like them, you can take them off or swap them for a different kind of pouch, but I found them to be big enough for a rangefinder or a pot call. If you attach Stika’s bear mace holder instead of one of the pouches, the harness could probably even hold a box call. Another nice touch is the built-in lens cleaner stashed in a pouch within the main compartment. Sitka really thought this thing through. —Matthew Every
DeadEnd Roadblock Slate Call
I am a huge fan of DeadEnd’s mouth calls, made by champion caller Mitchell Johnson. This year, the company has a pair of new pot calls, and I especially like the Roadblock Slate, which is slate over glass set in a cherry pot with a purpleheart striker. What I like is how versatile this call is. It’s just what you want from a classic slate when it comes to making soft, natural-sounding yelps, clucks, and purrs. Yet it’s loud enough to coax gobbles from far-off toms. Just as important, it’s easy to make all the calls on this pot. In short, it’s a no-brainer slate that’ll make just about anyone sound like a real turkey. —D.H.
Nomad Pursuit Convertible Turkey Vest
As a rule, I don’t like turkey vests. The maximalist sort of vest that fits 30 pounds of gear and comes with a full pantry is a burden I don’t want to carry in the spring. And the minimalist vests tend to have so few pockets that, besides the seat, it’s like having no vest at all. What the point? Might as well just snap a pad to your belt. But this new Nomad Pursuit is a nice in-between option. It’s lightweight and trim, yet it has enough pockets to make it worth wearing. It’s set up well to carry the essentials—calls, water bottle, Thermacell, and cell-phone. There’s also a handy roll-top game bag for carrying a decoy in and a gobbler out. And if half way through the hunt, you wish you weren’t wearing a vest, well, no problem, because this one quickly converts to a fanny pack. —D.H.
Filson Bird and Trout Knife
Nobody needs a turkey knife. Whatever knife you happen to have will probably do. But, when someone makes one this good-looking, you just want it. Made entirely in the US, this new little slicer from Filson has a 3-inch clip-point blade that’s just the right size and shape for cleaning game birds and fish. The Micarta handle scales are all but indestructible, and the 440M steel—a new high-carbon stainless that’s touted as an upgrade from 440C—is supposed to be very corrosion resistant and easy to sharpen. (I haven’t had my test model long enough to comment, but it does come with a fine edge.) At just 2 ounces, you’ll hardly notice you’re carrying it—except when you need it, and you pull it from its included leather sheath, and you say, “Damn, that’s good-looking turkey knife.” —D.H.
Lowa R-8S GTX Patrol Boots
Before I’d buy an expensive shotgun, rifle, bow, or any other pricey piece of gear, I’d invest in a sturdy pair of waterproof boots. I expect these to be just that. I haven’t had a chance to try the R-8S GTX Patrols yet, but they’re in the mail, and I can’t wait for them to arrive. Every pair of LOWAs I’ve owned, I’ve loved. These boots look to be lightweight, waterproof, and sturdy. They’re built to specifications that allow soldiers to use them instead of their standard-issue boots, meaning these boots are built to go to war. I’m sure they’ll last for more than a few turkey seasons. Stay tuned, as I will update this review after I get a chance to take them on a hunt or two. —M.E.
Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS 3-Inch, 2-ounce 12-Gauge Load
Federal has rounded out their 12-gauge TSS offerings this year with a 3-inch, 12-gauge load packed with 2 ounces of both No. 7 and 9 shot made of a tungsten alloy that is 22 percent denser than standard tungsten and 56 percent denser than lead to kill turkeys deader than ever. This new load offers a heavier payload than previous 3-inch offerings, and while you get yet another ½-ounce of shot from some 3½ versions, I’m not sure why you’d need to when this one will already flatten turkeys from farther away than most people care to shoot, for a few bucks less. These are still almost $15 per shot, but you can take some solace in the fact that a portion goes to the NWTF. —D.H.
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Benchmade 15500 Meatcrafter
I don’t usually like a big knife for breaking down game, but the Meatcrafter is exceptional. It isn’t a field-dressing knife but more an all-purpose butcher knife that will make you want to throw your other butcher knives in the trash. The blade is thin, flexible, and very sharp, which is great for cuts that require a little maneuvering like removing a turkey breast. It’s big enough for slicing deer and elk steaks or quickly rendering said turkey breast into friable chunks. Because of the way the blade is curved, you can even rock the knife on a cutting board to make thin slices of veggies. It’s a good fillet knife for big fish, too. And it has an orange handle, so you won’t lose it. —M.E.
Maven RF.1 Rangefinder
For those who hunt turkeys with bows, or who want to dial in the pattern of their shotgun, a rangefinder like the RF.1 will come in handy. I first had a chance to use this rangefinder on a bowhunt in Nebraska while we were chasing muleys and whitetails. The rangefinder has two modes, Field for wide-open spaces, and Forest for dense cover. Because Nebraska has a mix of both kinds of habitat, I had a chance to use it in both scenarios, and it ranged targets flawlessly even in situations with light cover like branches and foliage. Side-by-side with my other rangefinder, it was more precise, which is important for close distances. The glass is clear and the display is illuminated. You can choose from five different reticles and five different brightness levels. The RF.1 is a solid investment and a quality optic for any kind of hunting. Get it for turkeys and keep it for big game later in the year. —M.E.
Wrecking Machine Smoke Show Box and Achilles Crystal Calls
I usually limit myself to one favorite new call per company for these roundups, but I can’t make up my mind here. I really like both of these. Wrecking Machine is a fairly new call company (established in 2019), and they’re off to a fast start. The Smoke Show is a great-looking box that produces high-pitched, rounded yelps and sharp cutts and clucks. With a really good box call, you can do nothing more complicated than swing the paddle open and slide it closed—and a perfect two-note yelp will jump out. That’s what you get here, and the bottom of the call is contoured in a way that makes it very comfortable to hold, even with light pressure. By the same token, the Achilles Crystal does what a good glass or crystal pot call should, too. When you lighten the pressure with both your pot and striker hands, the call comes alive and starts screaming. You can soft-call on this pot, but it really shines for striking far-off or windy-day birds. To my ear, the pitch is just right for piercing yet realistic-sounding yelps. And while its looks won’t bring any more birds running, this is a well-crafted pot with a tight wood-to-surface fit and a nice finish. —D.H.
DSD Decoys Posturing Hen
Most marketing slogans are at least half baloney, but DSD’s “The Most Effective Decoys on the Market” is pretty hard to argue with. Outside of custom-made stuffers, DSD’s turkey fakes are about as realistic as it gets, and they really do work. Last spring, I watched two toms continue to close on a DSD Posturing Jake even after F&S senior editor, Matt Every, pancaked the third gobber they’d been walking with. DSD’s newest fake is the Posturing Hen. The company says that its lures gobblers, of course, but that its confident pose also attracts any hens that may have your tom locked down. I don’t know about that. But I do know that this is another super-realistic turkey decoy from DSD that’s bound to work as well as the rest of them. —D.H.
Maven B.3 Compact
Turkey hunting is kind of like elk hunting in miniature. It’s only fitting that the glass required for turkeys should drop a size or two as well. The Maven B.3 Compact gives you everything you need in a package you can easily put in a large pocket or a vest. They’re about the size of a CD case. For those who don’t remember CD cases, they’re about the size of two iPhones side-by-side. But as little as they are, they pack a wallop as far as magnification goes. I’ve been carrying a set of 10X30 B.3s to look at migrating spring ducks. They easily keep up with bigger glass. Maven also offers an 8X and a 6X, and I think the 8X would be ideal for scouting for birds at the end of the day, or watching toms strut from two hedge-rows over. —M.E.
Primos Hen House Series, The Lucy Mouth Call
Primos says that The Lucy is the “All American hen next door.” I have no idea what that means. But I can say that when you put this triple-reed modified batwing in your mouth, turkey sounds come out, almost automatically. If you’re someone who isn’t super-confident with your mouth-calling and you want something that is really easy to blow right out of the case, this is a good one. The tape is very soft and forms to your mouth immediately, and despite it being a triple, it requires very little effort to make good yelps, clucks, and cutts—which is all anyone needs to call in a gobbler. —D.H.
Winchester Double X Diamond Grade .410 Loads
Since TSS came along, everybody wants to shoot a .410. Maybe you do, too, but you don’t want to burn $8 every time you pull the trigger. Okay then, Winchester’s new Double X Diamond Grade High Velocity .410 load was made for you. It is the first and only lead .410 load with legit turkey-killing power out to reasonable distances, and at about $2.50 a shell, it costs a fraction of TSS. The new load packs a 3/4-ounce charge of the hardest (8-percent antimony), roundest, copper-plated 7-1/2 shot around, which the company says results in 20 percent more pellets in a 20-inch circle at 30 yards. Word is they are deadly out to that distance, which is damned impressive for a lead .410. I’ll have a chance to test that soon and will report back. Meanwhile, put the decoys out at 20 yards and be patient. —D.H.
Millennium Field Pro Turkey Seat
Millennium took treestand comfort to another level years ago when it first came out with its ComfortMax mesh seats. Now, with the company’s new Field Pro Turkey model, you can be as comfy waiting out a gobbler in the spring as you are waiting out a buck in the fall. I brought this seat along during the youth season this year, and it kept a 13-year-old girl in one spot for over two hours. That’s impressive on its own, but just as important, this is a really well-made seat: it’s lightweight, sturdy, easy to carry with the provided strap, and comfortable. I am the world’s least patient turkey hunter, but there are some toms you just have to wait out. That’s when I’ll bust out this seat, because I know it will make the wait easier. —D.H.
First Lite Corrugate Foundary Pant and Furnace Zip Off Boot Top Baselayer
Dressing for turkey hunting presents a dilemma: Do you wear long johns for the chilly early morning sit, then overheat when it’s time to run and gun, or do shiver at first light so you’ll be comfortable later on? Thanks to genius-level garment design by the folks at First Lite, you don’t have to choose anymore. When you wear their zip-off baselayer bottoms with the new Corrugate Foundry pant, you can shed your baselayer without taking off your boots or even unbuckling your belt. Waist-to-knee zippers on the pants let you reach in to completely unzip the baselayer legs from top to bottom (think basketball warmups) and pull them out of one open pant leg.
The pants are great all by themselves. Made of lightweight nylon with some stretch, they have four front and back pockets plus double cargo pockets on the front where they are handiest. They have the side zippers for ventilation, waterproofed seat and knees, and they come with suspenders and also removable knee pads in case you need to reap a bird.
Made of merino wool, the boot-length Furnace Zip Off Boot Top baselayer comes down just below the knee. I had the chance to wear them on some late-season waterfowl hunts, and they are very warm. Both pant and baselayer are available in solid colors or camo. —Phil Bourjaily
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