Along with my mouth calls, a sweet David Halloran slate-over-glass pot call, and a lightweight run-and-gun turkey vest, my most essential turkey tool includes a bright, compact binocular.

If that surprises you–if you figured I’d cite a shotgun or a special choke constriction or a decoy–then you probably aren’t killing as many gobblers as you should. That’s because you’re not seeing them.

The basis for using optics in any hunting situation is that you can’t kill what you can’t see, and acute vision is especially important in the spring turkey woods, where you need the ability to scan distant field edges as well as close-quarters woodlots and leafy brush.

As a Western hunter, I rely on big 10×42 binoculars for spotting elk, antelope, and mule deer. But my reliance on optics doesn’t diminish in spring turkey season. The only thing that diminishes is the size of my bino.

I rely on an optic that provides a view way out of proportion to its size. The compact, double-hinge 10×25 shirt pocket binocular — I’m using a Bushnell Legend Ultra HD this season — weighs less than half a pound and easily slips into a vest pocket. But its bright glass allows me to classify turkeys when they’re too far for my eyes to see, and more than once this year it has informed me of the approach of a gobbler that I couldn’t see through the tight underbrush.

I’m also a big fan of slightly larger binoculars, especially the 8×32 configurations. What’s important is that your turkey bino is light and compact enough to go anywhere, but dependable enough to endure getting soaked by spring rains, knocked on rocks and tree trunks, and bright enough to resolve details in the half-light of morning, when turkeys are either making or breaking your hunt.

But here’s the biggest reason to carry compact hunting binoculars when you turkey hunt–they will keep you from making a fool of yourself (read my turkey stalking post here).