Toting gear is a personal choice

It was a real-life study of turkey hunting extremes.

Years ago in Missouri, I'd complained to fellow hunters about how much my overloaded turkey vest weighed. One, a veteran outdoor writer and accomplished gobbler hunter, laughed at the notion.

"That's not a vest," he said with a grin. "Try this one out. Now that's a turkey vest, son."
He motioned for me to pick up the monstrous vest, which, judging by its weight, held two liter bottles of soda, several bowling balls and numerous chests of gold Krugerrands.
My other buddy, a world-champion caller, chuckled at us.

"Honestly, I don't even wear a vest," he said. "I might slip a little ol' slate in my pants pocket and carry a couple ol' mouth yelpers in my shirt."

Eventually, my friends agreed to disagree and headed to the woods for roosting - one stepping lightly, the other toting 30-some pounds of junk.

Since then, I've considered myself a product of those conflicting styles. At times, I've been glad I hauled the kitchen sink into the woods. Yet other days, I've questioned my sanity for carrying so much equipment. Conversely, I've cussed my stupidity when I needed a piece of gear but didn't have it.

Such moments always get me thinking. How much equipment is enough? Can you have too much turkey hunting gear? And if so, are you obliged to carry it?

Well, yes. And no. If you pack your vest full of goodies and use every item during a day of hunting, you didn't have too much, right? Conversely, if you lugged all that junk over hill and dale yet yelped on the same slate all day, you probably overdid it.

Perhaps that was the lesson I derived from the Missouri conversation: Take what you need, and live with the consequences. But just remember that if you don't have it, you can't use it.

Ultimately, the decision rests with you. You can go lean or be gear-intensive, depending on your style and preference. Those options come courtesy of the plethora of great turkey gear from manufacturers. From the best guns, chokes and shotshells to the hottest-sounding calls and latest, greatest strikers, you're covered. From clothing that takes you through chilly fly-down hunts to steamy-hot afternoons, you're set. And don't forget about all the knick-knacks - decoys, seats, blinds, range-finders, hearing-enhancement products and a dozen others - that help make your hunt more comfortable or successful.

You'll find all those options here in the 2009 Turkey Hunter's Equipment Guide. See what great new products might boost your hunts this spring, and don't be afraid to form a wish list of great stuff.

After that, it's up to you to decide how much to carry.

(Story by: Brian Lovett)