The Ideal Turkey Hunting Backpack

The Ideal Turkey Hunting Backpack

February 27, 2019

How Quality Packs Make for Better Turkey Hunting

Turkeys won’t gobble. The only tracks you’ve seen since you left your truck are your own. Nothing seems to be going right. It’s one of those dreaded days of turkey hunting.

Maybe you’re hunting pressured woods. Maybe there just aren’t any turkeys in the area. Or, more than likely, finding that lonesome tom is going to come down to sheer grit, packing a lunch and everything you need for the day, and covering lots of ground.

For the turkey hunters determined to fill their spring tag, it's critical to understand what makes a high-quality turkey hunting backpack.

Turkey Hunting Backpacks Need Functionality

Above all else, the ideal turkey hunting backpack needs to be functional in the field. For starters, this means the ability to hold all your gear, from your calls to your decoy to your weapon of choice.

Consider your turkey hunting gear list:

  • Hunting license
  • Gun or bow
  • Calls (Slate, diaphragm, box, or any combination of the three)
  • Decoy
  • Knife
  • Locator Calls
  • Insect repellents
  • Turkey shells (if shotgun hunting)
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Lunch or snacks

That’s a lot of gear to shove in your pockets. And this is just the bare minimum. For long-day or multi-day hunters, the gear list may be extended to include a water filter or bladder system. Even the morning hunter may want to bring extra gear like a GPS unit, a stool to sit on, or even a set of binoculars.

A proper turkey hunting backpack will be versatile enough to carry all these items and more.

Packs come in two basic designs. The true to its name backpack and the smaller sling pack.

True backpacks are best suited for hunters hauling lots of gear. These packs come in a variety of sizes. Generally, day hunters will use smaller varieties, while multi-day or all-day hunters need something a little bigger.

Packs like Vanguard’s Pioneer 2100, are built to hold a lot of gear. The Pioneer 2100 has a built-in water bladder compartment and drinking tube connectors on both shoulder straps. It also comes equipped with a heat-insulated pouch to keep sandwiches and power bars cool on a long hot day of turkey hunting.

Smaller sling packs, like its sister model the Pioneer 1000RT, are a good fit for the morning hunter who might pack a little less. This pack comes with a single sling and waist support system which fits snug to the body.

Both models are built to carry all the equipment you need on a hunt, from waist belt zip pockets which can store your calls and extra shells, to a butterfly attachment system on the back with a drop-down cam or stockholder to hold a bow or shotgun.

While storage capacity is essential, it’s also no secret that a functional hunting pack needs to be quiet. Especially in the turkey woods, where it’s not uncommon to bushwhack through forest undergrowth or crawl on hands and knees into shooting position. That’s why Vanguard’s whole line of Pioneer Packs is fitted with quiet and durable Tricot Realtree Xtra fabric.

Comfortable Packs Make Hunting Easier

Few things pair as naturally as turkey hunting and discomfort.

Tree trunks lack the padding you desperately want as you sit against them for hours on end and the humid spring air is a far cry from that cool fall weather you enjoyed during deer season. With it, biting insects like mosquitoes and ticks that tempt you to call it quits a little early.

With the right turkey hunting pack, it doesn’t have to be this way. Turkey hunting backpacks should be comfortable enough that you can lug them around from your predawn hike into the woods, through the heat of the middle of the day, and back out later that afternoon, hopefully with a dead tom slung on the back of it.

To build a pack of this caliber, its going to need to be balanced, breathable, maneuverable, and padded.

Look for packs that distribute weight evenly. Consider our turkey hunting gear list from earlier. Your pack should be able to carry the weight of your gun/bow, all the water your packing, and your accessory gear without giving you a severe case of scoliosis by the end of turkey season. The best packs built for balancing weight evenly across your body include a waist belt system, like the Pioneer 1600RT, which is adjustable to fit any frame.

Breathability is built into a pack through mesh-lined straps and pack structure that allows ventilation between your back and the pack. When mosquitos are biting and you’re trying to stay still as you hear that gobbling tom strutting into shooting range, the last thing you want is to have your torso covered in sweat. The Pioneer series packs are built with a curved breathable design for this occasion. At the very least, these packs serve as back support when you’re leaning against the unforgiving base of a tree for hours on end.

Versatile Packs for Versatile Hunters

Turkey hunting is often compared to a game of chess.

It requires wit and will, determination and strategy. You need to anticipate the movement of the turkeys and plan to put yourself in the best possible position before they come into range. Sometimes it goes perfectly as planned. Other times it doesn’t. Bottom line, the deadliest turkey hunters are those that are versatile.

These hunters aren’t afraid to head out in the rain when turkeys take to the fields. They also aren’t afraid to bushwhack off the beaten trail, or hunt landscapes less pressured by the average hunter.

But to be a versatile hunter, you need a versatile pack.

Let’s take a moment to understand what makes a pack versatile in the field. Barring all the stuff we already covered like comfort and the ability to store loads of gear, a versatile pack must be equipped for all terrain and weather scenarios.

Turkey hunting can hit its prime on a rainy day. On these days most hunters stay home in fear of getting themselves and their gear wet. But versatile turkey hunters take advantage of the weather and head out anyway. Their secret: they own a turkey hunting pack with a rain cover.

Rain covers protect packs from the burden of wetness. They cover a pack fully and keep all your gear dry. Sometimes, you need to buy a rain cover separate from your pack. Other times, the cover is built into the pack, like in the case of Vanguard’s Pioneer Packs. The packs from this series have an orange rain cover attached to the bottom of the pack which unfolds from a pouch and fit around the pack in its entirety.

You may also look for a pack that’s versatile enough for multi-species use. The Pioneer 2100RT has proven a favorite among whitetail, elk, mule deer, Coues deer, moose, waterfowl, predator, hog, and turkey hunters alike.

Your Pack Needs to be Reliable

One of the greatest truths of hunting is that the harder you hunt, the more you test your equipment. And because of this, the right turkey pack needs to be one you can rely on.

Make sure that no matter what turkey hunting pack you choose, it’s the proper size for your pursuits and won’t break down on you mid-way through a hunt. Vanguard offers a lifetime warranty with the purchase of their packs. It’s a wise investment for the hardcore hunter.