Gear Up For Turkey Hunting On The Move

Trekking across terrain while hoping to call in a springtime noisemaker is fun. That is unless you don’t have the proper gear, and then it’s miserable. Make this spring your best, and consider Haugen’s top-tier run-and-gun gear for the on-the-move shotgun hunter.

by Scott Haugen

A stiff breeze from the snow-capped mountains brought the windchill well below the forecasted 27 degrees Fahrenheit. These weren’t typical conditions for early-season turkey hunting. I was glad I was dressed warm and in a ground blind — at least for the first hour.

Scouting revealed a monster Merriam’s roosted on the distant ridge. Come daylight, I was ready, blind situated in the sagebrush, a hen decoy 20 yards in front.

The tom pitched out of the roost as planned. It strutted and gobbled less than 100 yards away. Figuring the hunt would be over in minutes, I began calling. The tom showed no interest. Soon, the longbeard was following a hen straight away up a mountain resembling mountain goat habitat rather than turkey terrain.

I started up after the birds, intent on getting ahead of them by ascending another draw. That wasn’t happening. My thick, insulated rubber boots, bulky clothes, and lack of water quickly made me realize this hunt was over. I wasn’t prepared to go mobile.

I’ve been hunting turkeys throughout the West for 38 years. Covering ground is my recipe for success, and being mobile is a key ingredient to this hunting style. 

Whether you’re hunting in mountainous terrain, amid rolling hills, or even in river bottoms or farmland, staying on the move is often the key to consistently filling turkey tags all season long.

No matter how good the decoys look or how amazing your calling sounds, sometimes turkeys don’t want to play. To swing the odds of success in your favor, approach turkey hunts as you would a big game. This means preparing ahead of time and hunting on the move.

Better Boots

Mobile turkey hunting starts with  gear, specifically boots. Healthy feet are everything for hunters on the move, and the new Ursa ES boots by LaCrosse are tops. ES stands for Early Season, and these are an excellent fit for spring turkey hunting. They feature a built-in GORE-TEX waterproof liner and exceptional gripping soles, are lightweight, breathable, and offer impressive support. They’re more like wearing athletic shoes than hunting boots. Plus, you get the bonus of upper and lower ankle support. Little break-in time was required, and I’ll be wearing these boots this fall in the big game woods, too.

 

Turkey Clothing For The On-The-Go Hunter

As for clothing, there are lots of options, and I’ve tried many of them over the years. This season, I’m sticking with what I’ve found to serve my on-the-move approach best. Sitka’s Equinox Hoody and Pants are my top choice for spring turkey hunting. They’re lightweight and breathable, yet mosquitos won’t penetrate the fabric. Plus, the fabric and design keeps disease-causing ticks off. The Equinox line is ideal when hunting in moist habitats, damp woods, and creek and river bottoms where you might cover miles in the morning.

Sitka’s Core Merino is worth checking out for a base layer. This isn’t your average Merino wool clothing. It’s specifically designed with a synthetic interior to move moisture on those cold mornings, meaning you can cover ground, sweat and stay comfortable. Don’t let the lightweight, streamlined design of this base layer fool you because it simply rocks!

For added warmth, I like Sitka’s Jetstream Jacket, as it’s light, packable, and efficient for on-the-move hunting. Where I hunt, it’s usually wet in the morning woods, and their Dew Point Jacket and Pants keep me dry. I’m often hiking in the pants all morning long, and this lightweight rain gear is built to reduce weight, and the zipper placement is perfect for allowing heat to escape as needed.

The Turkey Tool Belt is new to the Sitka lineup this spring. Big, bulky turkey vests can be cumbersome for mobile hunters, and many hip-style packs don’t withstand the rigors of what we demand or have the pockets we need. 

With the Turkey Tool Belt, you get solid construction, including buckles that won’t slip. There are more than enough pouches to hold and that gear secure. The belt also sports a removable seat pad that’s quick to engage. Unclip the pad, spin the pack to the front for easy access to calls, and start calling.

Self Care Is Essential

Hydration is essential when turkey hunting on the move. The water bottle holder pouch in the Turkey Tool Belt is removable and can be positioned on either side. When a hot drink is preferred on cold mornings, YETI’s 12 OZ Rambler Bottle fits perfectly and keeps drinks hot. The 20 OZ YETI Yonder water bottle is excellent for those late-season, warmer days. Both containers are compact. They don’t get in the way and hold enough to keep you hunting in comfort.

 Great Glass

I do a lot of glassing when turkey hunting, so I like compact binoculars. I’m picky when it comes to optics. When I got Maven’s B.3bino’ in a 10×30, their clarity instantly impressed me. Their weight is appealing, and the easy-to-rotate eye cups stayed in place through continued use.

I took the binos scouting for turkeys and wore them often when running trail cameras, where I’m always looking for wildlife in the woods. I love the B.3s and will use them on multiple turkey hunts in various states this season.

Calls!

As for calls, I like having one loud box call that penetrates dense forests and carries across canyons. I also want a quieter box call, two slate calls with at least three strikers, and a mix of diaphragm calls. One glass and aluminum slate allows various sounds at various pitches and volumes. Having multiple strikers expands the versatility of the sound you can produce.

For the past two seasons, I’ve relied on the Slayer Calls line of turkey diaphragms to help fill all my tags. In fact, on most hunts, these were the only calls I had with me, as traveling with minimal gear was a top priority. The durable diaphragm calls produce an incredible array of hen and tom sounds.

New to the Slayer turkey call lineup this season are even more specialized diaphragm calls. I do a lot of turkey photography, and before hunting season even kicked off, I’d called in dozens of toms with these new calls. I love the tape, reeds, and durability of these diaphragm calls, and their sounds are crisp and easy to control.

Just One Decoy

Sometimes, I go without a decoy when running and gunning for turkeys. In rugged, brushy habitat, it’s often better not to have a decoy as it keeps an approaching tom on the move, searching for the source of the hen sounds. When I do use a decoy, it’s usually a single hen. 

The new Final Approach Live Breeder Hen immediately caught my attention. Its true-to-life posture, quality paint, and affordable price make it a no-brainer. The first time I used it in pre-season photo shoots, 11 toms came to it on the first three sets. It’s light and easy to carry in the thin bag it comes with.

 

Sling & Shells

Upgrade the shotgun you choose for turkey hunting on the move with a sling. More time is often spent hiking than being set up and calling. A shotgun sling will free up your hands, which is nice when hiking steep hillsides and packing out a tom on cold mornings.

 

As for loads, I’m a big fan of Tungsten Super Shot (TSS). Sizes 7 and 9 are efficient in a 12 gauge, 20 gauge, or .410. These smaller diameter pellets are very dense, and more pellets per shell over standard-size shot equates to increased hits. I’ve been impressed with both Hevi-Shot and Apex Ammunition TSS loads.

With the proper gear and being ready to tackle challenging terrain, now’s the time to take your turkey hunting game to the next level. By approaching it like a big game hunt, you’re on the right track to experiencing what turkey hunting on the move is all about.

Tested: Steiner Predator 4S 4-16x44mm
Glassing for Spring Success
Tested True: Tricer’s-AD Tripod, LP Head, and Bino Adapter
Late-Season Turkey Moves

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