Gear Up for Success: How to Pick the Best Hunting Vest For Your Style of Turkey Hunting

By Shaggy Outdoor Team

January 29, 2024

Hunting vest. Turkey hunters need to choose what type of vest is best for their style of hunting.

Check the forums, turkey vests are one of the hot topics discussed in January every year. Hunting vests for turkeys come in various styles, designs, weights, and materials. Each forum participant has their own biased opinion of turkey hunting vest and they share that information to help others make a decision. 

When I think of the hunting gear I own; which includes gear for backcountry multi-day elk and deer hunts, single-day whitetail hunts in my backyard, or turkey hunting in the White Mountains of Arizona or our backyards of Wisconsin or Michigan, I find that I have as much gear for turkeys as I have for any other species I hunt.

Not surprisingly, as a seasoned turkey hunter, I understand that the pursuit of these elusive birds requires not only skill and patience but also the right gear. 

Having navigated the diverse terrains and various hunting scenarios, I've experienced firsthand the importance of a reliable turkey hunting vest. In my turkey hunts, I've had the opportunity to hunt two distinct styles that have influenced the type of hunting vest I donned for each: 

  1. Western States Hunting: the dynamic "run 'n gun" approach, often found in the vast landscapes of the western states where there are vast distances crossed to catch up or find a gobbler. 
  2. Mid-West Hunting;  the mid-west style is more static, hunting from a strategic "ground blind" or "sit and ambush" style next to or near traveling corridors or just a few feet from roosting birds.

Whether you're a novice looking to delve into the world of turkey hunting or an experienced enthusiast seeking to enhance your gear collection, this article is designed to help you understand the different components of a Turkey Hunting Vest.

I'll explore 8 key features that you may not have thought of and they will surely help you think about your style of hunting if you choose to make a purchase, I expect these features will help make an informed decision. 

In the end, you may decide your current hunting backpack is all you need. And in that, you may choose to pass on a traditional Turkey Hunting Vest and look at day packs to add to your hunting gear.

Our comprehensive guide The Ultimate Gear Guide for Turkey Hunters provides more turkey hunting gear and resources to make your hunt a success. Check out that article for more information  

So, let's dive into the nuances of turkey hunting vests and get you geared up for your next turkey hunt. 

What Gear Can You Get Packed Into a Good Quality Vest? Check out this video by ALPS OutdoorZ and see if your stuff will fit in!

8 Key Features of a Turkey Hunting Vest

Let's review the 8 Top Features of Every Turkey Vest that every hunters should now and consider before buying a hunting vest. Check out our Top Picks for Hunting Vests and see what we recommend.

Pouches / Pockets

Too many or too few. How much gear will influence how many pockets you need for your calls and gear.

For those hunters using multiple slate calls with multiple strikers, a box call, and several mouth calls the  more specific spots you have to store your gear the better. If you are like me and want a spot for each piece of equipment then make sure you check and verify the pockets and storage areas. 

Removable Cushion

Most hunting vest have a removable cushion for those hunters taking advantage of chairs in a blind or feel the cushion is not justified for their hunt. 

The versatility of many turkey vest on the market can get you from a heavier full pack to a lightweight fanny sack style with the removal of a few sections. Make sure you check out all the options before you choose. 

Padding and Comfort

How you hunt will determine what type of comfort and padding you may want. When I hunt on the run in the west I like a good ergonomic padded and ventilated back. Log sits are not normal in the mountains and therefore I don't worry about my seat.

A hunter that puts hours in one position will likely want a more cushioned seat. Check the thickness and convenience of the seat based on your hunting style. 


Many believe what you spend on a product will determine the quality and durability. I have not always followed those guidelines. 

The durability of a vest will be key to using the same vest for years. If the clasps break or the material seams start separating then the quality of that brand is fair at best. I believe a good quality Turkey Vest last 4-5 years when you are using it 25-30 outings per spring or fall. Check the reviews on straps, snaps, clips, and material before you buy. 

Game Bag or Pouch Area

The Game Bag or Pouch is another discussed necessity or not on the forums. Personally, I've never used a pouch on my vest for anything other than water bottles or water bladder.

The question is; how far will you need to carry your turkey after you shoot him? If you don't need to carry him far then a pouch may not be important. If you hunt the backcountry and you are hiking out several miles then a game bag or pouch will be handy to free up your hands for your shotgun and other gear. 

Water Bladder or Pack Storage for Bottles

One of my favorite features of my Run N' Gun style vest is the pocket for the water bladder system.

Consider your ability to get a drink of water while out hunting turkey. Are you hunting where you can sit down and open the pack to grab a bottle? Do you need access to hydrate while on the move? This is an often overlooked, but very important part of a hunting vest. Some vest will come with a dedicated sleeve to place up to a 3 liter bladder.

Hunting Gear Camouflage - Get out of the site with the best camo.

Badlands Upland Turkey Vest

Match Camo Patterns

Okay, camouflage is camouflage right? Not when hunting turkey. A turkeys two best senses are their hearing and vision.

Two keys to turkey hunting success is the ability to get a Mature Tom in close with calling and the ability once he's within eyesight that he doesn't see you. Turkey can visually see for hundred yards, so don't skimp on making yourself blend into your surrounds. Hunters in the turkey blinds only need to concern themselves with the background color and movements. Those sitting under a tree or in tall grass need to keep their body hidden.

Overall Weight of the Turkey Hunting Vest

Hunting Vest Weight is typically based on a empty vest. Once you start adding slate calls with strikers, crow calls, and other gear the weight of the vest will increase. Make sure you know your capabilities. 

Check the initial vest weight when purchasing. The heavier the initial weight the heavier the vest will be once loaded up with your gear. The Alps OutdoorZ Grand Slam is an excellent vest but the starting weight is 7 pounds 2 ounces. Know your terrain and your plan. The kickstand is great for long sits, but not good for long backcountry hunts. 

Lightweight Turkey Hunting Vests

In the realm of turkey hunting, the choice of your gear can make a significant difference in your overall experience and success. A lightweight hunting vest emerges as a versatile and strategic option, especially in scenarios where agility and mobility are paramount. Picture yourself engaged in the dynamic pursuit of turkeys, adopting the run 'n gun style across expansive terrains. In such situations, every ounce matters, and a lightweight vest becomes your ally in swift movements and rapid response.

The lightweight or compact design truly shines when navigating challenging landscapes, such as the undulating terrains of western states where turkeys roam. These vests, often constructed with advanced materials, minimize bulk without compromising functionality. They prove invaluable during extended treks, allowing you to cover more ground effortlessly and maintain your focus on the hunt.

Moreover, the lightweight vest finds its niche in the minimalist approach, catering to hunters who prefer a more streamlined experience. Whether you're an on-the-go enthusiast or a hunter who values simplicity in your gear, a lightweight vest offers the freedom to move unencumbered.

For those embracing the run 'n gun style or seeking a low-profile setup in a ground blind, the advantages of a lightweight hunting vest extend beyond convenience—they become a strategic asset, enhancing your ability to adapt and respond swiftly to the ever-changing dynamics of turkey hunting. In essence, when the pursuit demands agility, flexibility, and a keen sense of your surroundings, a lightweight turkey hunting vest emerges as an indispensable companion in the quest for a successful hunt.

Three such lightweight or compact designs are noted below. As you can see, some vests offer the option to remove the shoulder straps and modify the pack to a fanny sack. 

Final Thoughts on Turkey Hunting Vest and The Gear You Carry

As we can see from the information provided, there is more to figuring out which Turkey Vest is best other than the cheapest or most expensive.

One such area we didn't cover and should give a moment to now is the "one size fits most" sizing many vests come in. In today's world, it is easier for manufacturers to make a vest that can fit men, women, and kids as it saves them on manufacturing costs.

The problem is, sometimes those multi-size Turkey Vests don't fit "All". Amazon is an amazing company to purchase from in these situations. Buy a couple of options and get them into your hands. Pull the straps load them up and make sure you fit into the hunting vest. Return the ones that didn't work and now you have yourself an in-home demo. 

In turkey hunting, the vest is more than just another piece of gear to buy. It is your lifeline to those calls and other gear you need during every hunt.

No matter your hunting style, the dynamic run 'n gun approach, and the patient ground blind or sit and ambush strategy, we've highlighted the importance of selecting a vest that aligns with your unique hunting style.

As you embark on your quest for the perfect turkey hunting vest, we invite you to explore our in-depth guide on the Top Vests for Turkey Hunters. Here, we break down the finest options available, considering factors such as pouches, comfort, durability, and camouflage—providing you with valuable insights to make an informed decision.

But our turkey hunting expertise doesn't stop there. Navigate our website and discover a treasure trove of articles designed to enhance your skills and knowledge. We cover turkey calling techniques, hunting using turkey decoys, and the top turkey calls every hunter needs in their hunting vest.  

Immerse yourself in our world of turkey hunting wisdom and gear reviews, ensuring that you're well-equipped and informed for your next hunting expedition.

Join us in the pursuit of a successful turkey hunt, armed not only with the right vest but also with the knowledge and insights that set you apart as a skilled and savvy hunter. Visit our blog today and let the adventure continue.

Check out these articles:

Best Locator Call for Finding Turkeys

Strategies for the First-Time Turkey Hunters

How to be Successful in Hunting Turkey in Bad Weather Conditions

Turkey Hunters Guide to Seeing the Difference between Jakes and Toms

and so many more... just search Turkey in the search bar above. 

Happy hunting!