Ask any random elk guide what midwestern and eastern hunters tend to get wrong about heading to the mountains to chase bugles, and you’ll hear two quick answers. First, they’ll tell you that clients rarely get into real high-country shape, and, second, they’ll tell you about untested gear and the trouble it causes.
While holes in your gear game are easy to identify after a few days of living out of a wall tent at 8,000 feet, the same rules apply to whitetail hunting. Untested gear, brought directly to the field, is often a recipe for disaster.
This is where turkey season can be valuable to the whitetail hunter.
Most whitetail hunters buy dedicated camo for their pursuit. Most turkey hunters don't. This means that a lot of turkey hunts happen in whitetail camo, and that’s actually a good thing because low-pressure, warm(ish) weather turkey hunts can tell you a lot about your deer duds.
Take the brand-new Trace lineup from First Lite. It’s designed for hunting whitetails in the heat, which also makes it a good candidate for a turkey hunt. This is due to the KineticGrid fabric that’s breathable, somewhat stretchy, incredibly comfortable, and quick-drying if you have to wade a stream or slog through the morning dew.
This isn’t just marketing speak. I wore the Trace Pant and Trace Quarter Zip shirt while scouting turkeys and during my first hunts of the season, after the temperatures went from freezing to beach weather in a matter of a couple days. In addition to camo duds, run-and-gun turkey hunts are also a great opportunity to test out new boots, a new backpack, a new bino harness, or whatever crossover gear you might use this fall.
Hub-style ground blinds aren’t for everyone. But, if you hunt small properties, take kids turkey hunting, or simply want to set up where there aren’t suitable stand trees, then these blinds are the best choice. However, not all blinds are set up the same, and they certainly don’t hunt the same.
You don’t want to get into a likely deer spot this fall, only to realize your blind’s shooting windows are noisy or too small. Confidence in your gear comes from familiarity, so pay attention if you use a blind. Ask yourself some questions. How loud is the door zipper? Does your blind require you to use Velcro? If you keep the windows open a certain way, do the turkeys bust you moving? Because if they do, the deer will, too. How about your blind chair? Is it quiet? Do you find yourself bumping your bow or shotgun against it? Does it squeak? Is it comfortable after four hours of sitting?
If you plan to use your blind for spring turkeys and fall deer, pay attention. You’ll be better off learning all of its quirks now, long before the deer season starts.
When you think about the gear you use while turkey hunting, that might also be of use in the deer woods. It’s easy to miss some important stuff, like limb saws and pruners. Binoculars, rangefinders, and apps like onX all contribute to the average turkey hunt. If you don’t like your choices when you’re chasing longbeards, you really won’t like them when you’re hunting big bucks.
I tend to camp for at least a couple turkey hunts each spring, and that camping gear is the exact same stuff I use when I’m chasing public-land whitetails. Knives and coolers (hopefully) play a role, too. If there is something you love or hate, or are simply annoyed by, take note. There’s a lot of time between April and October, which means if you’re not satisfied, you can make a change.
It’s also important to point out that I’m not advocating for all-out shopping sprees every time you experience a little hiccup with your gear. Instead, figure out how to use your stuff better. Learn your gear through in-field usage, now. That way, you don’t have to struggle with it later when the pressure is higher than it is during turkey season. This is one of the reasons that whitetail hunters who scout hard during the off-season, also tend to kill more during the season. Sure, they are reaping the benefits of scouting by learning whitetail habits. But, they are also gaining confidence in their gear, which matters a lot.
For more deer gear advice, check out these articles: Is Your Deer Gun Overkill?, The Best Time To Upgrade Your Bow, and Hunting Gear That Will Actually Help You Kill More Bucks.