Hits and misses from the sporting items aisle

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Today is the last day of spring turkey season, and while I haven’t killed any eaters yet, I’ve gained valuable insight into the hunting gear of the year.

Here’s what we like and a little bit of what we don’t like.

footwear

Our experience with hunting boots this year ran the gamut of satisfaction.

Let’s start with the bad, namely the Itasca Brush Hunter Boot. This lousy product deserves a lousy rating. When worn for the first time, the entire sole detached from the starboard boot. Approximately within two hours.

Luckily, a hunting partner had a roll of packing tape on hand to fully arcanize the trunk. I dare say it is now as indestructible as it is unsightly. It’s so ugly I can’t bear to throw it away. I will continue to wear it as a testament to my own dogged perseverance and as a memorial to shoddy production standards.

Forget the boot. I’m curious how long the packing tape patch job will last. It is the type reinforced with parallel fibers. It’s really tough and we believe it will withstand the most abusive treatment in a postal distribution center. When Itasca gets that thing back, it’ll be a while before they can untie it. We hope, of course, that it wastes as much time as ours.

Now for the good. We put the Irish Setter MudTrek 4846 boot through its paces this season and it earned our seal of approval.

Admittedly, we weren’t impressed at first. The boot has a heel that collapses onto your heel and ties to it. An aerobic workout follows, where you pull on the top of the tube with all your might to actually get your foot inside the tube. When it finally does, it will fit exquisitely.

After a few wears, the boot will become more and more supple, making it much easier to put on and take off over time, until it finally feels like a glove.

We walked through a lot of mud and water over the course of the season, including water that got near the top of the tube. It didn’t even indicate a leak.

The MudTrek has 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation, so you don’t have to wear thick socks to keep your feet warm. More importantly, the boot feet are so tight that a thick sock presses hard against the toe and is very uncomfortable. High, thin cowboy boot socks are the perfect compromise.

We have used many mud boots over the years including styles from Rocky and Muck. The Irish Setter MudTrek will be our goal for the foreseeable future.

Shotgun/Choke

With the advancement of Tungsten Super Shot, many turkey hunters have ditched their 12 gauge shotguns in favor of sub-caliber models.

Having not killed a turkey this year, this review is actually a year old, but it’s still relevant. My favorite turkey gun is a Winchester SX3 20 gauge cantilever barrel with Truglo electronic dot sight. It killed three feeders in 2021, including two in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma. One was ridiculously far. One was ridiculously close, and one was right in the middle. All were dead kills.

Choosing the right choke is essential for turkey hunting. All of my shotguns muster TSS and HeviShot best with Trulock chokes. I use them in my SX3 12 and 20 gauge, in my Remington V3 12 gauge and also in my Browning Auto-5 16 gauge. I’ve only fired 16 gauge lead shot, but the Trulock choke puts out a nasty pattern with heavy #6 pheasant loads.

I came to the Trulock solution in 2021 after extensively testing many different brands of throttle tubes.

Turkey is calling

A periodic character in this area never ceases to amaze me with his choice of really bad gear. He gets the same catalogs as all of us, but he has a knack for picking the worst products.

His most recent affront was a balsa turkey call carrying a prominent brand. This thing is really terrible. It’s not owned by Little Rock’s Joe Volpe, but he gets high marks for being the only one of us who makes it sound anything remotely like a turkey.

I use Arkansas made callers for Arkansas Gobblers. My favorite box calls are made by Sheridan’s Bill Rhodes and Camden’s Eddie Horton. My favorite slates are from Premium Game Calls by Dierks, David Taylor by Sheridan, Grant Westmoreland by Sheridan, and the exquisite Mayhem slate by Havoc Game Calls by DeWitt.

We can’t pick a favorite, so we carry a little of each when we venture into the turkey woods. We avoided that habit early in the season, but this year’s elusive gobbler has given us a severe inferiority complex and forced us to revert to our tried and tested sporting goods department disguise.

We have high hopes that on this beautiful day before sunset another glutton strolls along on a shopping spree.

bait

I have tried many baits over the years. All of them have worked at some point, but the ones we like the most are made by AvianX. These inflatable shells are correctly sized and their color schemes are true to life. They rest on poles that allow them to move in the wind, but their weight prevents them from turning too quickly.

When the hunt is over, you can deflate the decoys, fold them up and attach them with Velcro for easy storage in their pockets.

We don’t know if they work better than other lures, but they look so good that we feel better wearing them and using them. It’s very important to feel comfortable with your stuff.

Keep all of this in mind as you begin to put together your shopping list for spring 2023 turkey season.

The author’s Itasca Brush Hunter disintegrated two hours after its first hunt, but continued to fight because it was bound with duct tape. The Irish Setter MudTrek is an excellent boot that will become more comfortable with continued wear. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)
The author always has Rhodes boxing calls in his vest and in his truck. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)
photo A special boxcall from Camden’s Eddie Horton helped the author mark several eaters. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)
photo The author has shelved his 12 gauge in favor of a Winchester SX3 20 gauge with Truglo sight with excellent results. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)