Must-Have Gear for Western Turkey Hunting

Before you point your compass west for a turkey hunting adventure, it’s probably time to reevaluate your choices in gear for western turkey hunting

by Jace Bauserman

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Jace

Most western turkey haunts are far off the beaten path, and hunt destinations are measured in miles, not acres. If you want to stretch your legs this spring and go walk-about for a pure Merriam’s gobbler, these gear grabs are a must. Here is some great gear for western turkey hunting.

Having the right gear is crucial for all hunts, but especially in the wild West.

Having the right gear is crucial for all hunts, but especially in the wild West.

Western turkey adventures aren't easy. Be prepared.

Western turkey adventures aren't easy. Be prepared.

Many doctors declare a specialty. Most start in a general field of medicine and often opt for a particular craft like hematology, orthopedics, or hepatology. Many doctors I spoke with say they love all areas of medicine and love helping people but have found they’re better in a specific field.

I’m not comparing turkey hunting to being a medical doctor, although sometimes it feels like killing a tom might be as difficult. I want you to know that I love all types of hunting, but western turkeys are my specialty. I cut my teeth chasing western birds, Merriam’s in cedar-sprinkled canyons and rough mountain terrain. During my 20-plus years of western turkey hunting, I’ve developed a must-have gear list, and if you have hopes of pulling the dupe on a white-tipped fan this year on public ground, this gear will help you be safe, comfortable, and successful.

I’m not comparing turkey hunting to being a medical doctor, although sometimes it feels like killing a tom might be as difficult.

Turkey hunting boots: Gear for western turkey hunting

Western Turkey Hunting Boots

When hunting the West, say no to rubber boots. You’ll often walk miles in rocky, steep, unforgiving terrain. My boot go-tos are Kenetrek’s Corrie II Hiker and Zamberlan’s Baltoro Lite GTX. Yes, both are a tad pricey, but you should spare no expense when it comes to your feet, especially when hunting the West, and these boots double as great early-season fall hunt boots.

The Corrie II features lightweight Grapon outsoles to boost traction, and at 7 inches tall, these boots feel remarkable on the feet. I applaud the feather-light leather and nylon lace-to-the-toe uppers with added ankle support. Plus, they last. These boots are ready to answer the go-anywhere call every time you lace them up.

Zamberlan’s Baltoro Lite makes you feel light on your feet and provides excellent traction and remarkable ankle support. If you loved the Baltoro 1000, you’ll cheer the Lite. The boot was specifically designed for extended backpacking and hunting trips in rugged country, and the Gore-Tex Performance Comfort membrane promises a waterproof and breathable boot.

Merriam's turkeys sound different. Use calls that can mimic their accents.

Merriam's turkeys sound different. Use calls that can mimic their accents.

Western Turkey Hunting Calls

Picking the right calls to talk business to turkeys can be intimidating, and a million of them are on the market. When hunting the open West, you want the sound to carry, so having a box call you can crank up, and a powerful pot call (glass is good) that will ring is a must. The SlingBlade Box Call and Raspy Old Hen Glass Pot call from H.S. Strut are two great choices. Both are easy to master, produce excellent sound quality, and can be used to reach out and ring a gobbler’s ears and finish him when he closes the distance.

The Raspy Old Hen Glass Wild Turkey Call comes with a quality carbon striker (peg) and H.S.’s tried-and-true double-reed Raspy Old Hen Premium Flex diaphragm call, which is great for hands-free calling. I also like using purpleheart and hickory strikers with this slate. The SlingBlade features one-sided construction to ensure foolproof open and close operation, so it won’t cluck in your vest as you move down the trail.

The AvianX Jake: Gear for Western Turkey Hunting

Western Turkey Hunting Decoys

Out West, especially when hunting open locations like a sage-dappled flat, mountain meadow, or a grassless cow pasture, decoys are critical to success. I’ve had incredible luck with various decoy types and brands, but when running, gunning, and covering country, I tote Avian-X’s LCD Laydown Hen and LCD Quarter-Strut Jake. Both fakes are incredibly lifelike, collapse, and can be re-inflated via a tire-valve-like tube. Avian-X designed the Quarter-Strut Jake to be 15% smaller than an actual jake, which cuts down on weight and makes the imposter irresistible to flog, especially when he’s hovering over an LCD Laydown Hen.

If I’m bowhunting, my top decoy—and I’ve shot charging toms at less than 5 yards with this cloth fake—is Ultimate Predator Gear’s MerRio Turkey Stalker Decoy. No, I don’t use this decoy during open shotgun seasons on public ground unless I know I have a location all to myself, but even then, you should exercise extreme caution. This decoy mounts to your bow, has a shoot-through window, weighs less than 11 ounces, and folds up to an 11-inch diameter in seconds. Slap it on your bow and go looking for a fight.

Use available tools, such as HuntStand, to navigate the hunt.

Use available tools, such as HuntStand, to navigate the hunt.

Western Turkey Hunting Navigation

On any western turkey foray, I download all my maps offline on HuntStand Pro. This way, if I arrive at my hunt locale and don’t have service, I can grab my pre-marked-up maps, which are functional thanks to the app’s innovative design. The HuntStand App shows private and public borders and allows you to scout the hunt area ahead of time via its ultra-clear aerial imagery (I like 3D Map and Monthly Satellite), and the app provides accurate weather forecasts. Many turkey marker symbols like tracks, feathers, strut marks, roosting, and more make creating ahead-of-the-hunt maps and on-the-hunt maps super simple.

I have wandered more than 14 miles from a wilderness area trailhead in search of birds, and on that particular trip (and others), I’ve spent several nights in the spring woods. Be bold and backpack for turkeys, but whether you’re packing in deep or heading to a close-to-home standby, you need Garmin’s inReach Mini 2. Not only does this device allow you to stay in touch with loved ones, but it will also enable them to track your daily movements, and it’s fitted with an SOS button that sends a message to a 24/7 staffed emergency response coordinator when pushed.

How to Bow-Kill a Spring Turkey

Western Turkey Hunting Hydration

I drink a lot of water when turkey hunting. Temperatures can get warm, and your body will sweat when you move from place to place. You want to stay hydrated but avoid packing gallons of heavy water. My remedy for this is Sawyer’s Personal Water Filtration Bottle. This bottle removes bacteria, protozoa, E. Coli, giardia, vibrio, cholera, Salmonella typhi, and microplastics, so you can scoop water up in the bottle and start sipping right away. Flow rates will vary depending on how you treat the filter (clean it), and the bottle will work with Sawyer’s Squeeze Filter and MINI Filter.

What a beautiful sight that only the West has to offer.

What a beautiful sight that only the West has to offer.

Western Turkey Hunting Vests

There are many different turkey hunting vest options on the market, but Tenzing offers some of the best around. The TZ TR18 is one such product. This recliner-style vest increases comfort and makes it easier to remain still for longer, thanks to the patented spring-loaded leg system and padded fold-out seat. This vest also includes 10 compartments, five organizational pockets, and 3,200 cubic inches of total volume. It weighs 5 pounds 4 ounces and comes in Realtree or Mossy Oak camo.

How to Use the HuntStand App for Turkey Hunting

Western Turkey Hunting Camp

If you decide to stay in the turkey woods for a few days, which I highly recommend, especially if combing the Rockies, you’ll need a reliable pack and sleep system. I could write an entire article about my sleep-in-the-woods setup, which I use when hunting elk and mule deer as well, but for this article, here’s my list: Tasmanian 2-Person TentZenith 0° Sleeping Bag, and Swift Air Mat.

The prize after a well-earned western turkey hunt.

The well-earned prize after a hard-fought western turkey hunt.

Western Turkey Add-On Items

There are additional items turkey hunters can bring on their hunt that certainly have a place on the hunt. The West is oftentimes wide open spaces, making it more difficult to judge yardage. This makes a rangefinder, such as the Halo Optics XL450, essential for gun and bowhunters alike.

While not always necessary, a blind can certainly be useful, especially if multiple hunters are on the trip, or if aiding a new hunter that doesn’t sit still very well. Bowhunters also benefit greatly. In these scenarios, an Ameristep blind, such as the FieldView 3, is beneficial.

Of course, every hunter needs a good knife, and Cold Steel has that covered. The Click N Cut Hunting Kit is ideal for virtually all game animals, including turkeys. Carry the items you need for the western turkey hunt. And don’t forget face paint, seat cushion, or game cleaning kit. These have a place, too.

Few things are better than roaming the West with a shotgun or bow in hand, searching for a Merriam’s gobbler. And in most western locations, especially in the rugged Rocky Mountains, you’ll find more turkeys than turkey hunters.

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