April 16, 2012
Turkey hunting the West is different. It's more wide open and spread out, space on public lands seemingly unlimited. Western turkey habitat is also much less defined. This means plenty of hiking and climbing to locate gobbling birds. Relative to hunting pressure, eastern birds are no smarter than western gobblers, you just have less room to work in back East. Run-n-gun ploys are the answer. Here's what you'll need to operate efficiently.
Optics: When turkey hunting big western mountains you'll need quality, high-objective 8- or 10-power binoculars that are steady in the hand yet easy on the neck after miles on the trail. Skip shirt-pocket models, instead choosing glasses with configurations such as 8x32, 8x42, 10x40 or 10x42. Models such as Nikon's Monarch series, TruGlo's Tru-Brite Open Bridge, Leupold BX-3 Mojave, Cabela's Alaskan Guide, Bushnell Legend Ultra HD or Vortex Diamondback -- as examples -- are great choices for the budget-minded hunter on the move.
Calls: Loud locator calls -- peacock, crow or coyote-howlers -- are great for coaxing distant birds to sound out when it's windy or he's situated on the next ridge. Such options are available from nearly any game-call manufacturer; Flex-Tone, Woods Wise, Primos and Knight & Hale makers of some of my favorites. Classic box calls are perfect for belting out loud, attention-grabbing yelps, weather-proof designs the best in uncertain western weather; models like Woods Wise's Mystic Wet Hen, Knight & Hale's Wet Willy Double Sided Box or Primos Hunting Calls' Wet Box good examples. Standard diaphragm and slate calls make more realistic finishers.
Decoys: Turkey decoys can be a great help to pulling western gobblers across wide-open spaces. In run-n-gun scenarios you don't want decoys that slow you down or prove cumbersome to pack. Look to featherweight foam or polyethylene shells that fold for easy transport, yet pop back into shape quickly to offer realistic breeding-hen attraction. Dekes such as Montana Decoys' spring-action, cloth-covered turkeys, Carry-Lite's Pretty Mama HD, Cabela's Collapsible series, Primos' She-Mobile or H.S. Strut's Soft Body series, are perfect for western hunting, just to offer a handful of examples.
Field Wear: When covering lots of ground a quality daypack is a must. Check out your next Cabela's or Bass Pro catalogs for a host of options. It's always wise to keep a set of raingear handy for unexpected showers common during spring months; my preference lightweight, Gore-Tex-lined options. Rancho Safari Shaggie System "ghille suits" or leafy-cut 3-D outfits from the same outlets help break up the human outline and blend better in any setting. Choose boots with uncompromising ankle support, aggressive soles and waterproof qualities to keep feet healthy in rough western terrain. Light hikers might seem a good idea when on the move, until the end of a 10-mile day.
Miscellaneous: A sling on your bow — like those from Game Plan Gear or New Archery Products -- leaves hands free to use binoculars and calls, and makes it easier to carry over long miles. Navigation tools and survival gear should always be included in your western pack, to keep your way and in case of emergencies.