After a long winter, hunters have been champing at the bit for spring turkey season. Through extensive field testing in some challenging early Texas conditions, here’s the gear that rose to the top.
Federal Heavyweight TSS
Most manufacturers are now fully on board with potent, albeit pricey, tungsten loads. But there’s good reason. Tungsten hits harder than lead. The metal allows ammo makers to create smaller pellets, so they pack more into each shell. Federal takes it a step further, though. TSS makes use of a tungsten alloy with a density that is 22 percent higher than standard tungsten and 56 percent more than lead. Federal Premium TSS loads are available in the standard 12 gauge and on down to the baby .410 bore.
One of my favorite products of the year is the new “Blended” Heavyweight load, which packs two shot sizes in a single shell. I took down multiple trophy gobblers at distances 16 to 53 yards away using 20-gauge medicine in either #7/#9 or #8/#10 blends. The patterns at 40 yards were incredibly dense and no gobbler took a step. Quality comes at a premium though. A five-round box retails for $31.95.
Primos Clear Cutter Box Call
Perhaps one of the most recognizable of all turkey calls, the venerable box design seems simple enough. Yet, Primos has been able to take it up a notch for 2019 with the one-sided Clear Cutter. Partnered with a comfortable and practical thumb groove, the single-edged box puts out incredibly realistic clucks and cuts with little practice. Inexperienced callers can quickly put out a long and raspy yelp from the hand-tuned Mahogany and Walnut box. Veteran callers will appreciate the tones as well. The Clear Cutter ships with box chalk for an MSRP of $40.99 and will do most anything a turkey caller requires from a box.
Aimpoint Micro H-2
There’s finally a red dot optic I can get behind for reliable turkey slaying. I had the pleasure of using the Micro H-2 atop Savage’s 220 bolt-action 20-gauge turkey-specific smoothbore shotgun. The Micro H-2 is available with a wide-range of bases to fit most any long gun platform. It ships with flip-up lens covers, and uses stainless steel mount threads, as well as Weaver or Picatinny style-bases.
Quality doesn’t come cheap. The Aimpoint retails between $717-$812. Get this, though, the ACET battery technology allows 50,000 hours of operation on one battery. That’s over five years of continuous use! Twelve brightness settings handle everything from the brightest sun to faded dusk. There is zero worry about the battery giving out and ruining a hunt, or recoil breaking down the optic, which are common occurrences with lesser sights.
Also, the H-2 is fully waterproof, not just water resistant. Hunters have a choice of 2MOA, 4MOA, or 6MOA dot sizes. I used the 2 MOA dot size, which was perfect on turkeys and the patterning board from 5 to 50+ yards.
Primos Diaphragm Calls
Mouth calls may not work for every hunter — I can tell stories to this end — but for those who use them, Primos offers perhaps the widest selection of diaphragm calls for the hands-free turkey-imposter. For 2019, there is a host of new offerings, including five calls in partnership with Mossy Oak camouflage, as well as others in Kuiu and Verde.
Whether hunters are seeking loud kee-kee-runs, smooth purrs, or raspy yelps, there’s a call for you. The Mouth Yelper Two-Pack retails for $22.99, while a basic Diamond Select starter three-pack is only $6.99. The volume and control over some of these calls is remarkable, and in a thoughtful move, most are trimmable for a custom fit.
Alps Outdoorz Impact Vest
While retaining features mobile hunters love, the Impact is more packable and lightweight than most turkey vests available. In fact, I recently stowed the Impact in tight airline luggage and still found plenty of well-thought-out storage and even a cavernous game back at the rear.
The NWTF-branded vest features a “sit anywhere” stadium-style setup, meaning no tree is needed as a backrest. A slate call pocket holds two slates and three strikers, a silent box call pocket, five shotshell loops, and three diaphragm pockets. In a slick design move, the front pocket removes completely to be used with a shoulder stap for run-and-gun hunts.
The Impact makes use of quiet brushed fabric and is available in either Mossy Oak Obsession or Bottomland camo with an MSRP of $99.99 – $119.99. The “standard” size fits most any hunter, while a “small” option is geared toward youth and smaller-framed huntresses.
Double Bull Surroundview Stakeout Blind
Ever wished for a sweet turkey blind that fits in your vest? Wait no longer. The Double Bull Surroundview Stakeout setup makes use of the company’s hot new one-way, see-through fabric, but puts it into an ultra-portable rig instead of a full-size blind. The Stakeout is a two-walled, hub “blind” with three triangular windows and the Surroundview mesh that allows the hunter to see through the blind, while remaining completely hidden on the inside.
For more details on how the Surroundview technology works, check out my review of the full-size Double Bull Surroundview 180. The Stakeout measures 59 inches corner-to-corner, 37 inches in height, and weighs just 4.5 pounds. It’s incredibly quick to set up, by simply popping out the two hubs, and sticking a few stakes in the ground if wind is a concern. MSRP is $99.99.
Mossy Oak Tibbee Technical Apparel
The new-for-2019, Tibbee shirt and pants make ideal Spring turkey season attire. This has to be one of the coolest, most lightweight garment combos on the market. The 100 percent polyester top and bottom are cool and breathable without being noisy.
Though the camo colors are vibrant, there’s a dull finish so as not to spook game with the slightly reflective finishes found on similar garments. The long sleeve button down shirt has ample pockets and shoulder gussets for full range of motion. Meanwhile, the pants have zippered vents, drawstring cuffs, a gusseted crotch, and waist adjustment tabs.
Both are available in sizes Small through 3X with an MSRP of $54.99 and current online sales bring them down just over $40. There’s a Mossy Oak pattern to fit every terrain, including Obsession, Break Up, Greenleaf, and Bottomlands. Tibbee kept me cool in the hot Texas sun on a recent turkey hunt.
RedHead RCT Waterproof Snake Boots
Though tall snake boots may not be a necessity in all areas of the country, they sure can be a life-saver in many locations. Even if striking sakes are not a concern, the rugged design of the 16-inch high snake boots also protect from thorny brush and water as well. The BoneDry lining is supposed to make the boots waterproof. Though I did not wade fully into the creek to find out, they did handle wet mornings and shallow water with ease.
It can be difficult to find a comfortable snake boot, but these fit the bill for us. If the RedHead brand doesn’t fit quite right, try LaCrosse’s Venom boots which are quite similar in features, albeit slightly more expensive. The side-zip makes donning and doffing the tall boots a breeze, and with three lower eyelets and seven upper lace-hooks for quick cinch adjustments, allowing them to be tailored even to thicker calves. Sizes run in halves from 8 to 13. MSRP on the RedHeads is $159.99, but a current sale puts them at $119.97.
No turkey hunter’s arsenal will ever be complete without a membership to the National Wild Turkey Federation. I’m always astonished at the number of hunters who neglect to support organizations like this one that work daily to increase the quality of the hunting resources we hold dear. For every dollar raised by the NWTF, 89 cents goes to the mission of conserving wild turkey populations, protecting the habitat, and preserving our hunting heritage. Since 1985, NWTF volunteers and partners raised and spent more than $488 million toward that mission. A one-year membership is only $35, and if you join through the website, they include a $25 Bass Pro gift card.