Opening day of South Carolina turkey season is just around the corner, and for those who are addicted to our great American game bird’s magnetism, it’s a momentous day.
Every season opener – September for doves, the three openers for deer (archery, muzzleloading, and modern rifle seasons) – exerts great appeal.
None, however, compares with wild turkeys.
That’s because of the time of year it occurs. There’s magic in October woods with a hunter’s moon peeking across the horizon and leaves changing color, but the greening-up of spring brings blooming wildflowers, budding trees, and courting birds singing with an irresistible sense of joy.
Add the possibility of hearing a great gobbler declare his presence at daybreak, and the crazy rush of adrenalin you get when a bird struts just out of range, and you have all the ingredients of a wonderful time in the woods.
I will greet dawn on April 1 at a prime listening post in turkey territory. Excitement will be my companion and anticipation my hunting partner.
Hopefully, after several decades of this turkey-chasing business, I’ll also be well prepared. Yet with so much gear vital to the quest, there’s always the chance of forgetting something.
Here is my list of essential items.
▪ License and turkey tags. Tags are no longer available widely. You can only get them through online requests, by telephoning Department of Natural Resources headquarters in Columbia, or at DNR offices. The York office is at 1571 York Highway.
▪ Ammunition (and gun). Be sure you have the right kind of shells for your shotgun. If you plan to use a new type of ammo, pre-season patterning is a must. It may seem silly to mention a gun, but I know of two cases where a hunter got out of his truck before daylight only to discover he had left his gun.
▪ Gun sling. Although a sling can be a nuisance when you are set up on a bird it makes carrying a gun far easier. The answer, for me, is to use a sling I can readily remove when necessary.
▪ Some type of seat or cushion. Roots, rocks, and other sources of discomfort have long been a great means of turkey conservation. No matter how comfortable you think you are when sitting on the ground, within 20 minutes you will have pain somewhere in your posterior and start squirming. A handy cushion, or a small, collapsible seat, is the answer.
▪ A vest. A good turkey vest serves multiple purposes, but primarily it’s a useful means of carrying accessories.
▪ A turkey tote. Should you be fortunate enough to kill a bird, carrying a 16-20 pound gobbler for a good distance isn’t easy.
▪ Insect repellant.
▪ Pocket knife.
▪ Toilet tissue.
▪ Lightweight rain gear. The bit of extra weight is well worth it if you get caught in a downpour.
▪ Pruning shears for clipping brush when setting up or removing briars from a particular path.
▪ A portable blind. You can create a quite satisfactory blind with pruning shears, but that takes time and the requisite materials may not be readily at hand. A blind is particularly important for anyone who has trouble staying still or is hunting with a youngster.
▪ Your favorite calls. Most seasoned hunters carry several calls of different types (box, suction yelper, slate, diaphragm, tube). You will also want to have one or two locator-type calls unless you have the ability to mimic crows, owls, and the like with your natural voice.
▪ Mask, gloves, and cap or hat. All of these are essential and it isn’t a bad idea to have an extra mask and pair of gloves.
▪ Suitable camo clothing. In truth, you don’t have to wear camouflage gear, although almost every hunter I know does. Earth tones will work quite well. Whatever your attire, it should be comfortable and quiet.
That’s by no means everything, You also need basic first aid gear, water and foodstuffs if you plan to hunt all day.