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Hope springs eternal in the mind of the average turkey hunter, who anticipates this season will be the best yet. He won’t hit a bad note on the call, won’t be spotted because he’s wearing the wrong camo clothing, and certainly won’t miss a shot. At least that’s the scenario that plays out in his mind, though gobblers have a way of wrecking the best of plans.
Typically, hunting and shooting a wild turkey is a one-on-one sport that pits a stealthy hunter against a smart tom. Our fathers made due with a shotgun loaded with lead shot, a basic call, and duds gleaned from the Army-Navy surplus store. Today, we have all kinds of advantages in pursuit of gobblers, and oftentimes need them to close the deal on a spring longbeard.
1. Primos PhotoForm Jake
It’s amazing what modern technology can do with photographs. Primos Hunting’s new PhotoForm Jake Decoy is a case-in-point. Through a proprietary process that’s apt to see a lot more use in the coming years, Primos developers printed a jake’s photo over a molded foam body and head. The result looks exceptionally real and the finish doesn’t have the weird “shine” that some decoys have. Bottom line, a lot of gobblers are going to get fooled by the PhotoForm Jake this spring. Comes with a steel rod that allows the decoy to swivel 180 degrees without spinning. MSRP: $79
2. Mossberg SA-410 Turkey
The pump-action .410 Mossberg introduced last year to turkey hunters is being joined by a semi-auto version. As others of its ilk, the Mossberg SA-410 Turkey should appeal to those hunters tired of being pummeled in the shoulder by a heavier gun, or who want to introduce youngsters to the sport without overpowering them.
The Mossberg is equipped with an extra-full choke tube and fiber-optic sight. The ghost-ring sight is mounted at the back end of the vent rib and is adjustable. There’s also an optics rail on the receiver. The gun is coated in original Mossy Oak Bottomland camo. MSRP: $735
3. Hunters Specialties Strut Spring Yelper
Newcomers will find it’s not easy hunting with a box call. If a gobbler is coming, but needs some reassuring conversation from the hen you’re pretending to be, it’s hard to juggle the gun and the call at same time. The HS Strut Spring Yelper is equipped with a spring device that repositions the lid after each time you swipe it. So, you’re able to work the call smoothly with one hand. MSRP: $20
4. Tetra AMP Series
For the hearing-challenged, or the times when gusting winds make you wonder if that distant sound was made by a gobbler or a milk cow in distress, Tetra’s custom-molded ear buds can help. Developed by a pair of Nashville doctors, the Tetra earpieces have been pre-programmed to identify, capture, and amplify the sound of a wild turkey near or far, but muffle gunshots so you don’t get “rung.”
Two universal-fit models are available and retail for $699 and $999, respectively. Custom-molded models sell for $1,099 or $1,599 per pair. The same technology has been incorporated into ear buds for deer, duck, and elk hunters.
5. Indian Creek Black Diamond Strike Choke
In the past couple of years, .410s loaded with TTS (Tungsten Super Shot) have taken the turkey-hunting world by storm. Indian Creek Shooting Systems has introduced a new Black Diamond Strike in .410. It’s available for most popular shotgun models and retails for about $70. The Missouri company knows how to make turkey chokes. A few years back it set a Still Target World Record. Indian Creek also has 10-, 12-, and 20-gauge chokes.
6. Remington 870 .410
The big gun manufacturers didn’t waste any time introducing new 3-inch .410 models since ammo companies started loading TSS rounds. Remington’s latest is a Model 870 .410 Turkey clad in Realtree Timber or Mossy Oak Obsession. Optimized for turkey hunters, the .410s have extended removeable extra-full chokes and TruGlo dual-color fiber-optic sights fore and aft. The rear sight is mounted on a Picatinny rail, which can accommodate red-dots for better accuracy with such a diminutive load. MSRP: $699.
7. Nomad Leafy Wear
Nomad Leafy Wear is fairly lightweight and ideal for warm-weather hunts. Available in Mossy Oak Obsession, the pants sell for about $100. Nomad also introduced a Stretch-Lite shirt with an MSRP of $70. The long-sleeved shirt comes in Mossy Oak Green Leaf or Obsession. The back is perforated to keep you cool.
8. Dave Smith Ocellated Decoy
Native to the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, and parts of central America, the ocellated turkey resembles a cross between a macaw and a Rio Grande turkey that just came from a paintball match. Dave Smith makes some of the most detailed decoys you can find, and didn’t disappoint with the DSD Ocellated, though it’s not going to see much action north of the border. It was primarily made for outfitters booking trips to ocellated country, but if you have a wild hair to head south, pick one up. MSRP: $400 (jake); $330 (hen), or $600 for the pair
9. Ogie Mask
Ogie Mask keeps your ears warm and protected from shotgun blasts. Made of a blend of polyester and Spandex, the mask has ear flaps that can be raised or lowered as needed. Otherwise, the mouth and nose are covered, but the material is elastic enough that a hunter will have no problem luring gobblers close with a mouth call. Two models in Ogie camo are available—one for warm weather and the other is a thicker version for cool mornings. MSRP: $30
10. LaCrosse Alpha Agility
Unless you have a gobbler roosted close, killing an old tom is going to take some work. In such instances, good walking boots like the LaCrosse Alpha Agility might be the best insurance you have against sore feet. Made of a space-age material that’s light and waterproof, the non-insulated version weighs only 2 pounds per boot. There’s wicking material in the footbed to keep your toes from getting clammy and the kickoff heel plate makes it easier to remove the boots. At 17 inches high, they will get you across shallow creeks without filling your boot with water. Available in Realtree Edge or Mossy Oak Greenleaf. MSRP: $130
11. Apex Ninja
Apex Ammunition has developed devilishly lethal TSS loads, which have caught on among waterfowl, turkey and predator hunters. Everything from .410 to 10-gauge is available in a variety of shot sizes. A very lethal Ninja 3-inch .410 load of 8½-shot is the latest. At $35 for a box of 10, they aren’t cheap, but are handloaded (the loader’s initials and date of loading are on the box flap) and have gained a reputation among turkey hunters for being extraordinarily effective. An increased payload of 7/8-ounce gives the .410 load a bit more zip.
12. Woodhaven Custom Calls Ninja
Woodhaven Custom Calls is cross-promoting this call with Apex and its Ninja line of shotshells, Woodhaven introduced a lineup of pot calls, box calls, diaphragms, and even a tube call. The Red Ninja Glass pot call is packaged with a Surface Saver lid, a pair of strikers and a conditioning kit. The Red Ninja sells for $100 and is made in the U.S.
13. CVA Scout
CVA is known for its muzzleloading rifles and handguns, but the Scout is a .410 single-shot turkey stopper with a JEBS extra-full choke, Durasight scope rail, sling swivels, and matte barrel. It’s clad in Realtree Timber. Not that a .410 has much kick to it, but the Scout also is outfitted with CVA’s CrushZone recoil pad. The gun weighs 6 pounds. MSRP: $400
14. Pack Rabbit Stalker
Hunting packs range in price from cheap to expensive, but they’re all designed to do the same thing: lug stuff around in the woods. Pack Rabbit’s new Stalker is versatile, so it can be used for a variety of hunting pursuits. It’s a two-part system designed to handle any load. Use one or both pieces for turkey hunting. Made of a 600-denier polyester with premium components, the back-loading pack ($300) provides 500-cubic inches of storage space. Better yet, it’s set up for a hydration system and has a stout exoskeleton frame that unfolds to reveal a low-profile seat. The Chest Vest front pack ($140) provides a similar amount of space, but it’s divvied up into various compartments that will haul all of the sundries a turkey hunter is likely to need.
15. Turkey Assassin
A portable “blind” that attaches to your gun, the Turkey Assassin is a camouflaged nylon material stretched over an umbrella frame. Weighing less than a pound (it opens in seconds), the screen has a sight window and shot window. Open up the Assassin, hunker down behind it on the ground, poke your gun or arrow through the slotted window and it’s lights out for an unsuspecting gobbler. A hook-and-loop strap and rubber saddle holds the gun barrel or bow stabilizer steady for the shot. Available in various camo patterns, including Mossy Oak Obsession and Country. MSRP: $20.