OUTDOOR COLUMN: Try turkey hunting this year

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It’s a good year to try something new. Turkey hunting can challenge even the seasoned hunter, plus it is a great excuse to get up early and get outside.

Spring youth turkey weekend is quickly approaching — April 23-24 — and the regular season arrives shortly after, from May 1-31. There are some important things to know before heading out into the wilderness in search of a turkey to harvest.

What to know before you go

Turkeys are smart creatures with laser sharp eyesight. This eyesight makes up for their lack of smell and turkeys can detect even the slightest amount of movement, so hunting them can be a challenge. For this reason, many beginners (an even advanced turkey hunters) choose to hunt from a ground blind. A ground blind is a portable structure with mesh walls that hunters sit in while hunting. It obstructs the view for the turkey while allowing the hunter to be able to see out.

Identification

Learning how to distinguish between adult toms and younger jakes, as well as knowing the difference between male and female turkeys, sounds simple but it is important. It can be surprising how similar those turkeys can look from a distance and while afield.

According to the NWTF, adult male turkeys are typically larger in size and more colorful than their female counterparts, with colors of red, white and blue being noticeable on their head and neck. A male turkey’s feathers also will be closer to black and have a more vibrant sheen, while a hen turkey will generally be more brown in appearance. Do not assume a bird is a male if it has a beard – about 10% of hens also can have beards.

Practice

Before actually going hunting, it is crucial that you practice with your weapon, whether that be a shotgun or a bow. Safety is the most important thing, followed by consistency. Put in plenty of range time prior to opening day. In the woods while hunting is NOT the time to hone your shooting skills. That should have been done ahead of the hunt.

Also be sure to check local regulations of the place you will be hunting.

The right gear

Beyond doing the research and knowing the basics, it is crucial to select the right gear or you’ll face an uncomfortable hunt. There is so much gear on the market – some good, some bad – it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices. I’ve selected some gear that I know works, to help beginners cut through the clutter. (Note: these apparel choices are designed for women.)

Pants: The Prois Tintri Pant is the perfect pant for early to mid-season turkey hunting. Retailing at $129.99, the  Tintri Pant features a newly improved design, with a water-resistant finish. The waistband is designed to sit true to the natural waist of woman with a hidden elastic waistband with Velcro fasteners. The pants have spacious front, back, and thigh zippered pockets. They also feature an athletic cut with articulated knees for easy maneuverability.

Jacket: The Prois Olann Merino Lightweight Jacket will keep the hunting ladies comfortable while calling in the gobblers. The Olann Merino Lightweight Jacket is naturally antimicrobial, odor-resistant, moisture-wicking, offers UV protection, is naturally static resistant, and the fibers are much finer than traditional wool. The jacket retails at $229.99.

Vest: The ALPS OutdoorZ NWTF Grand Slam Turkey vest has everything a turkey hunter would want in a vest. It is the ultimate turkey hunting tool. Available in Mossy Oak Obsession or Mossy Oak Bottomland, the features of this vest are top-notch and thoroughly thought through. The vest includes a “sit-anywhere” kickstand frame and thick padded foldaway seat, a smartphone sleeve that gives the user the ability to use the phone while it’s still in the pack and a removable diaphragm call pocket. Other features include shell loops, H2O compatibility, side compression straps, two water bottle pockets, detachable
shoulder straps and a protective and silent box call pocket. It retails at $239.99.

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