The light stuff: Running and gunning for late-season gobblers

It took a 12-year-old girl to drive home to me the fact that I have a lot of turkey hunting stuff.

After watching a flock of 16 turkeys, including six good gobblers, march out of the field we’d been set up in during New York’s youth turkey hunting weekend, my apprentice pointed this out to me as I packed up the morning’s gear.

This included a two-person chair blind, three decoys, binoculars, a rangefinder and a plethora of turkey calls. As we walked out of the corn field that morning, I explained to her that nearly half of my time spent turkey hunting is on foot, roaming from spot to spot, especially during the later part of the season.

It made me stop and think about what I do bring on those run-and-gun style hunts, and I can tell you that the kitchen sink stays in the Jeep. For the mobile turkey hunter, it’s a matter of eliminating all but the main necessities. It’s a lot like fishing from a kayak because you can’t bring the whole tackle box – just what you intend to use that day.

Later in the season, gobblers are often on the move looking for hens and may not be hanging around where they were earlier in the season. I’ll hunt the flydown with my back against a tree. But if there’s no action, I’m usually off for greener hills and moving from one spot to another.

The biggest issue for me in this situation is comfort, and being able to move through the woods stealthily when needed. So it starts with clothing. A hunter on the move has to dress down, especially later in the season when temperatures are typically warm. So my clothing is light, especially my pants.

My boots are also light. If I’m sitting for the morning, say in wet weather, my high-top rubber boots are on my feet. But when I’m mobile I wear the same pair of light, rugged hunting boots I use in the Adirondacks during deer season.

I have a fairly new camouflage coat that is loaded with pockets and can hold everything like calls, food, water and my rangefinder, which doubles as a monocular. I can even stuff a decoy inside the coat if I have to. I choose this option over a turkey vest because it’s less cumbersome.

I’m still able to carry a variety of calls, including a box call, slates and another friction call. I also carry a crow call. A camera is always in one of my pockets at all times, along with a map and compass. On wet days I’ll carry a seat cushion and, sometimes, a ThermaCell unit.

As for decoys, I usually only carry one when I’m on foot. Early in the season it will be a jake, and later in the season I’ll switch to the hen. I have a lot of different decoys but my favorite for this is the Montana decoys, which fold up accordion-style and look very realistic in the woods. Finally, I have a sling on my shotgun, which frees up my hands when needed.

When the morning sit doesn’t pan out and you have room to roam, scale down the gear and give mobile hunting a try. It’s a great way to find birds and get a little exercise to boot.

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