Spring turkey season is almost upon us and now is the time to make sure all your gear is in good shape. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Another spring turkey season is almost upon us and it can’t come soon enough, unless you’re not prepared.

Mentally you might be, but is your equipment all organized and in proper working order? With time to spare, now is when you should go through your gear. It will help you avoid potential pitfalls, and bridge the gap before opening day.

First, rescue your vest from whatever musty corner of the garage or basement where it was last hung or dumped and empty it, completely. Don’t just remove the contents; turn it upside down and dump everything out, somewhere you don’t mind making a mess. That way you can rid it of all the twigs, fir needles and dirt that might otherwise foul up or clog the stuff you’ll eventually put back in. Throw out those stale, flattened and rock-hard, bite-size candy bars, energy bars or whatever other once-edible items you stuck in there and forgot about as well.

Now that everything’s out and in plain sight you can take inventory. Put the stuff you need in one pile and the items you could do without in another, like last year’s license, broken decoy stakes, empty shotgun hulls and that raccoon skull you picked up.

A box call and a slate are two of the important tools while calling turkeys. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

A big part of your paraphernalia includes calls. Start with the slates. Clean them with a dry towel or rag, then rough up the surface with sandpaper or a Scotch pad, which should be in the pile. If not, add it when finished prepping call surfaces. Do the same with the tips of your strikers.

Next come box calls. Gently sand the bottom of the paddle and the rails with a fine grit (100) sandpaper, then dress the paddle with grease-less (this is very important) chalk. Now test them to make sure they “sing.” You may need to adjust spring tension by tightening or loosening the hinge screw to get just the right tone. While you’re at it, replace the rubber band that holds the call together when not in use.


Now inspect your diaphragm calls, and this is why it’s a good idea to do this well ahead of time. Don’t be cheap. If they’re worn out, dirty or the reeds are irreparably stuck together, throw them out and get new ones. If they’re salvageable, put them in a bowl with some water and mouthwash, let them sit, then tease the reeds apart with a toothpick. Test them and toss and replace the sour-sounding ones. You don’t want to blow a foul note or be stuck lisping and spitting on a stuck call at the moment of truth.

Last but not least are mouth calls. These might include things like owl, crow and coyote locator calls. Reeds and tubes could be stuck or jammed with the aforementioned duff that has collected in pockets. Clean and test each.

You do have a compass … right? Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Moving on to the miscellaneous, there’s all manner of stuff you can carry. Some items are essential, others very handy.

• Shotgun shells: Are the bases rusty? Are they all the same size? Do you have enough?

• Other staples: Make sure your compass works (you do have a compass, right?). Replace flashlight batteries, or add a few spares, or both.

• Decoys: If they’re the cloth or cardboard 2-D type, inspect for tears or chipped paint. If they’re collapsible, check that they will return to something resembling a real turkey shape when deployed. Make sure you have the stakes you need, and that none are broken or bent.

Be systematic about how you reload your vest. Wearing it when you do this will also help you remember where you put items, a plus as your attention will likely be focused elsewhere when you need something. It’s also not a bad idea to have a checklist. If it’s not on the list, you might not think of it until it’s too late. Print out this year’s license and a few transportation tags and tuck them in a resealable bag or license holder.

Once all that is done you can move on to your arms and apparel. Clean, lubricate and pattern your shotgun to make sure you hit where you aim. Wash your clothes, then spray pants and shirt with a permethrin solution to help ward off the ticks. None of the above will guarantee success but it can help reduce the odds of failure, and when it comes to turkey hunting you’ll need all the advantages you can get.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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