Even “minimalist” turkey hunters typically have more gear than they can stuff into their pants pockets. And a well-designed turkey vest is still the most convenient way to carry our tom-smashing tools. Much like a trusty call or a comfy pair of well-worn boots, a turkey vest is personal—it becomes an extension of the hunter.
My spring turkey season usually commences by joining a group of hardcore turkey hunters for an early hunt in eastern Nebraska. This year we all donned new turkey vests, conducted a practical field test (we hunted hard out of each vest), and shared notes over a fresh gobbler dinner. Here’s a review of the six vests we hunted in to help you make the right investment and cash in on the dividends of spring.
Primos Gobbler Vest Gen 2
Hunter: Luke Koch—“I always have too much stuff. It has so many pockets and there’s a function for every pocket.”
You won’t have to leave any of your favorite calls back at camp if you’re wearing this vest. With four molded pockets for pot calls, one armored box call pocket, and two easy-access chest mouth call pockets, you can hit ol’ tom with an orchestra of turkey talk. There’s even a special pocket for decoy stakes.
Luke is a tall and slender fella, but even with the smallest size available (M/L) he was swimming in this vest without a thick stack of under layers. The elastic chest buckle was too loose to help matters. If you select the Gobbler Vest Gen 2, consider going a size smaller than normal.
Available in Realtree Xtra Green, Mossy Oak Greenleaf.
- HITS: low price, plenty of pockets/storage
- MISSES: loose fit and lack of back support
- $100, Primos
ALPS OutdoorZ Grand Slam
Hunter: Josh Dahlke—“This is the best turkey vest I’ve ever encountered. It has everything I need. The kickstand frame allows me to hit the deck and set up on gobblers quickly, anywhere.”
ALPS knocked it out of the park with the Grand Slam. It has just enough storage space for calls and accessories to chase gobblers all day. Comfort is the keyword: Its metal kickstand frame combined with a padded back rest and thick seat cushion make it the La-Z-Boy of the turkey woods. Want to go light? The kickstand frame can be removed in seconds.
My only annoyance with the vest is the magnet system on the seat cushion/game bag. Magnets are a nice thought, but the ones on this vest are easy to knock loose and difficult to stick back together when running and gunning.
Available in Mossy Oak Obsession, Mossy Oak Bottomland.
- HITS: comfort, durability, versatility
- MISSES: seat storage
- $180-190, ALPS OutdoorZ
Banded Turkey Vest
Hunter: Lee Conner—“I really like that it’s lightweight and water resistant. When you’re sitting in the pouring rain the vest doesn’t get soaked, and it doesn’t take long to dry out when you’re slogging back to the truck.”
Banded has a strong following among waterfowl hunters, but this year the company has branched out from greenheads and honkers to gobblers with a new turkey hunting line of gear. The Banded Turkey Vest is well designed, with specialized storage for calls and common accessories including flashlight and knife pouches.
The Rip-stop polyester fabric makes it abrasion proof and water resistant, but on the flip side it makes the vest noisy when sitting on the memory foam seat. Lee complained of loud squeaking when trying to adjust his position while waiting on leery longbeards.
Available in Mossy Oak Bottomland, Mossy Oak Obsession, Realtree EDGE.
- HITS: durable and water resistant
- MISSES: noisy when seated
- $150, Banded
Hunter: Andrew Clifton—“The Thermacell holder is great. There aren’t mosquitoes here in Nebraska in March, but as soon as I get down South in a couple of weeks, I imagine it’ll be quite useful.”
NOMAD launched just 3 years ago, but the brand has quickly become a household name in performance hunting apparel. The new NWTF turkey collection includes the Mg (Meleagris gallopavo) turkey vest. It was built with input from turkey hunters, guides and outfitters such as Mike Tussey—a top name in the Florida Osceola turkey hunting scene. The Mg has pockets in all the right places, including an external pocket for easy access to your bug-busting Thermacell device.
While the seat cushion is thick, Andrew noted it lacks structure for enduring comfort. He also had trouble with the single button snap popping open on the pot call pocket.
Available in Mossy Oak Bottomland, Mossy Oak Obsession, Mossy Oak Greenleaf.
HITS: smart storage and ergonomics MISSES: uncomfortable for long sits $130, NOMAD
Tenzing TZ TR18
Hunter: Pete Osterman—“I was really happy with the overall structure and design of this vest. I just wish the legs were built better.”
Tenzing holds a strong reputation among big-game hunters attributed to its high-quality hunting packs, so 4 years ago the brand decided it was turkey time. Today, you’ll find three different turkey vests from Tenzing, including the TZ (Tenzing) TR18 (Turkey Recliner 2018).
The predecessor of the TR18 was released in 2014, but word spread among turkey hunters that its “recliner” legs were prone to breaking. That issue was supposed to be resolved in this updated model for 2018, but unfortunately that was not the case with Pete’s new vest. While loading and testing the TR18 at home before heading to Nebraska, Pete snapped the internal locking mechanism in the left leg, rendering it inoperable. In the meantime, consider their “classic” TV14 turkey vest for reliable performance.
Available in Realtree EDGE, Mossy Oak Obsession.
- HITS: lightweight, exceptional back support
- MISSES: high price, weak leg design
- $220, Tenzing
Knight And Hale Run N’ Gun 200
Hunter: Scott Bauer—“It’s extremely lightweight, yet it still has an incredible amount of storage. I will probably use this vest all the time, unless I’m planning an extra-long sit.”
Knight and Hale
At less than 2 pounds unloaded, Knight and Hale claims it’s the “lightest turkey vest on the market.” We’re not arguing with that claim. Even when stocked full of calls in its surprising array of pockets, Scott said the vest still felt light and maneuverable. It’s definitely a top-contending vest for those turkey hunting minimalists.
The RNG-200 features a small backpack instead of a game bag, which can make for a long walk out with a longbeard slung over your shoulder. However, the vest does come with two separate sling-style accessories for carrying a decoy or a dead bird.
Available in Mossy Oak Obsession, Realtree EDGE.
- HITS: adjustability, tiny profile for ultimate mobility
- MISSES: no game bag
- $90, Knight And Hale