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The Roving Sportsman… Time to Check Your Turkey Vest

March 20th is finally upon us — the official first day of spring! In just over four short weeks, the Pennsylvania Youth Turkey Season will occur — Saturday, April 20 to be exact, and the following Saturday, April 27, will begin the month-long Spring Gobbler Season! With that in mind, this would be a great time to do a pre-season check of your equipment.

First, empty out all of the contents of your turkey vest, as well as the items in a fanny pack if you use that as well. This is the time to verify the integrity of your calls, gadgets, and gear that you count on when you are in the woods. Service any items that need so to make sure they will work as desired when called upon during the hunt. Chalk your box calls, scuff up the surface of your slate calls, lightly sand the tip of the strikers, and put a drop of oil on your pruning shears or folding hand saw.

If you asked a dozen or so different turkey hunters what they feel is important to have in their vest, you would, no doubt, be surprised at the variety of answers. There are some things, however, that most would agree upon.

A variety of turkey calls is important. Most hunters have their favorite go-to type of call, be it the box call, slate call or mouth call. When considering the box call, there is the standard length call and one that is called the long box. Most hunters rely solely on the standard size call, but when you are hunting in more open areas where you need to project the sound as far as possible, the long box call will project further, especially in windy conditions. (I know of a man who would carry a dozen box calls into the woods wrapped in a small blanket. He would extract the first call, make a series of yelps and clucks with it, then listen for a response from a gobbler. If he heard nothing, he would return the call to the blanket and take out the second one, again running a series of turkey sounds with it. He would go down the line until one of the calls elicited a response and then continue using that call to lure the gobbler into range! Old gobblers can be pretty finicky, and this hunter’s technique often proved that a slight variation in pitch or tone from a particular box call would do the trick, while others may not.) My suggestion is that carrying two different box calls might be a wise idea!

The same is true of slate calls, or pot calls. They tend to produce slightly different sounds, as does one that has a glass insert instead of slate. The glass call is a good choice for rainy weather or days with heavy humidity. They really don’t take up a lot of room in your vest, so have at least two with you. Similarly, with the strikers, multiple ones will help in producing slightly different tones. A variety of mouth calls should be in your vest, for the same reasons.

Most successful spring turkey hunters will take along one or two locator calls, for the times when you don’t want to imitate a turkey, but rather want to hear if there is a gobbler in the area. The sounds produced by a crow call, an owl call or a coyote call will often make a gobbler “shock-gobble” in response.

Gadgets and gear that are available to turkey hunters seems endless, but most hunters agree on several items. A small set of binoculars can be very useful in spotting a gobbler before he sees you. A pair of clippers or a folding hand saw will enable you to clear limbs that interfere with your line of vision or clear an area of small seedlings so that you will have a comfortable place to sit.

By all means, please include a ThermaCell insect repellent device in your vest. No, I am not paid to say so! Over the years, many times I have been very thankful that I had mine with me, as the sun began to rise and the mosquitoes began to buzz about, starting up the ThermaCell repelled the blood-thirsty little bugs within minutes and allowed me to enjoy the day!

Checking all of the contents of your vest now will allow you sufficient time to repair or replace items as necessary, before you reach for something on the morning of your hunt, only to find out it is not there or is not working!

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