If you haven’t notched that turkey tag, there’s still plenty of time. However, late-season tactics require specialized run-and-gun gear that allows you to wander far off the beaten path and strike a dance with a savvy gobbler.
by Mark Kayser
I have been on some grueling turkey hunts in my day, and I have also been on some cushy truck hunts. Somehow, the ones that happened by way of late-season desperation and exhaustion stand out the most.
For instance, one year while hunting the Black Hills National Forest, my pals stuck to hunting a small flock of turkeys showing themselves on a forest meadow. Sporadic sightings and fewer gobbles led me to abandon the cozy hunt and dive into the rugged canyon country adjacent to the meadow.
Steep, deep, and scree slopes describe the ascents and descents I tackled to reach my chosen destination. That afternoon, I heard a faint gobble on a rock-strewn ledge. Making my way there took time, and I had to negotiate some sketchy terrain. Finally reaching the small mesa, I glanced through my binocular and spied a single tom wooing a lone hen.
My plan came together quickly. I would crawl closer, using an enormous boulder to shield my form. Once there, calls and my foam decoy would hopefully inch the tom a tad closer to his demise. Although my knee took one for the team with a prickly pear cactus injury, the plan worked, and I was 20 pounds heavier hiking out.
With many turkey seasons winding down, you may be forced to execute a marathon hunt with a ninja-style ending. The following gear selections could put you in a position to fill a turkey tag in before the two-minute warning sounds.
ALPS OutdoorZ is synonymous with hunters for providing innovative hunting products — vests with built-in seats, blinds, chairs, and packs. That is just a start. For your run-and-gun, season-ending strategy, consider the Ambush Sling Pack. It is a front-carrying pack with a minimalist footprint. This pack weighs in at one pound yet has ample pocket space for calls, a Thermacell, a water bottle, and shotgun shell strap loops for a couple of extra rounds you will not need … right?
By shaving extra pounds from your traditional turkey entourage, you can hike farther, move more efficiently and set up in seconds when a gobbler shouts at you from a nearby clump of brush. You will appreciate its slim makeup so much it might just become your predator and whitetail still-hunting partner beyond the spring turkey season.
MONTANA DECOY COMPANY
Turkey decoys today have become works of art. They shimmer, have piercing eyes, and come as hens posturing in various seductive poses.
Unfortunately, most exhibit a bulky structure, making them perfect for moving from a UTV to a position in front of your blind. They do not, however, have a physique for the cross-country turkey hunter.
Move over Mona Lisa, Montana Decoy Company has the ideal decoy to cover the miles. Consider the Miss Purrfect XD Turkey Hen decoy when you leave your truck far behind. This collapsible, 3D, photo-realistic fake weighs 22 ounces. Feathers are cut to create a rippling effect in the wind, along with shadow realism.
The entire decoy fits into a convenient zippered pocket, and when staked, the decoy rocks but does not go into a heart-stopping spin like many competitors. Best of all, the bendable frame of the decoy allows you to position it in a feeding, standing, or breeding posture. Montana Decoy also offers jake, tom, and combo packages to fit all your decoying desires.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HUNTING CALLS
If you elk hunt, you undoubtedly have heard of Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls. Their bugles and diaphragms are legendary in waylaying wapiti. They also manufacture some excellent turkey calls. Go as lightweight as you wish with their selection and your carrying wishes. If you prefer old school, consider their Turkey Strutter Box. This call is as easy to operate as a garden hose, creates yelps, and cuts without hassle.
I prefer to carry a couple of diaphragm calls and a pot-style friction call. The RMHC Hoax pot call is constructed around a cherry wood pot, and friction is created with glass over slate. Strike the surface with the maple wood striker and be prepared for a tom to respond. As for diaphragms, you cannot go wrong with their Sharp Toothed Jack and One Eyed Tweet diaphragm calls. Used together, you will sound like a pair of hens looking for love. And if you wish to lessen your load, stash a diaphragm in your pocket and hit the woods. If you can run a diaphragm well, it’s all you need in most cases.
CVA SCOUT .410 SHOTGUN COMPACT
A decade (or two, but who is counting) ago, I tried tipping a tom over with my childhood single-shot .410 that my grandpa bought for me. Mission accomplished. About a decade ago (yes, I know I am not good at math), I started carrying a single-shot CVA Scout 20 gauge for turkey hunting. It was ideal for my two young kids at the time and my bride. I even loved it because of its lightweight and simplistic nature that mirrors my lifestyle.
I still carry that CVA today, but now I am more inclined to tote their latest Scout .410 Shotgun Compact fitted with the JEBS X-Full turkey choke. With the advancements in TSS shotshells, the .410 delivers a powerful punch to distant turkeys without the abuse of turkey shotguns of yesteryear. The Scout includes an adjustable length-of-pull spacer and CVA’s cushioning CrushZone recoil pad.
Safety is delivered in the break-action design, and the ease in loading and unloading helps accentuate a comprehensive safe hunting tool for anyone. Total weight tallies 6 pounds, and it is legal in 40 states. You do not have to carry a big stick any longer.
Taking off in pursuit of a last-minute tom may require some fancy footwork into the unknown. Make it known by utilizing a proven hunting app. Since you have already spent your allowance on a plethora of turkey gear, consider the free HuntStand hunting app. For the price of scrolling through a few advertisements now and then, you get reliable handheld navigation and a hunting partner all in one. Upgrade to the Pro version for $29.99 or Pro Whitetail for $69.99 annually to unlock even more benefits from your shimmering smartphone pal. HuntStand even offers monthly payments just like your local mortgage institution.
HuntStand delivers vivid satellite images that are never over 1 ½ years old. It provides access to the country’s most comprehensive land ownership database with Pro. All subscriptions are nationwide, including property address, owner name, mailing address, and property area. Best of all, you can save boundaries to your custom maps. Maps include topographical overlays or the Real 3D feature that allows you to fly over your hunting area to survey terrain virtually.
Need a weather check? Detailed, 72-hour weather updates give you hourly information to plan a long hunting weekend. The app also includes a detailed 5-day forecast. Best of all; you can make notes on the app with the help of 45 distinct map icons to mark sign, stands, trace trails, and more. Land measurement tools speed up hiking estimates, and the Pro Whitetail version delivers volumes of rut data. Suffice it to say you will not get lost with HuntStand on your team.
Turkeys gobbling at you from the roadside have already hitched a ride in someone else’s pickup truck. If you still yearn for turkey on the grill, it is time to pare down your gear and make tracks.