Toward the end of May, the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW) assembled a writers camp at Blackhawk Lake Recreation Area in southwestern Wisconsin. We fished, we hunted turkeys, and we tested gear— lots of it. It was a good, full trip. I only wish more gobblers had accepted the invitation.
At the outset, I must sing the praises of Pat Kalmerton of Wolf Pack Adventures. He lives nearby and was our de facto guide to the area. He kept the snack fridge stocked, bait fresh, and dinner on time. When it was time to fish, he showed us what Blackhawk Lake had concealed beneath the waves. The rest of the time, he made sure we all had good places to sneak out and look for turkeys. Kalmerton is a great guy and bent over backwards to make sure we had the best trip possible. I can personally attest that he did not hold anything back with respect to the hunt; I truly believe he sent me to the best spots he knew of.
Time to come clean: I’ve never actually owned a turkey vest before. It always seemed my various backpacks and seat cushions were good enough. I’m definitely rethinking that since my experience with the new Nomad Pursuit Convertible Turkey Vest.
One thing I didn’t realize before— but my late-season trip to Blackhawk revealed— was how hot my backpacks made me. The design of the Pursuit vest is open and allows for plenty of ventilation. It’s like a shoulder harness with a fanny pack suspended underneath, with seat cushion attached as well. Everything is connected by buckles, allowing for adjustments and different configurations.
Fanny pack alone? Check. Fanny pack and cushion? No problem. Shoulder harness and cushion? Of course.
You can do whatever you like with it. And all put together, it’s surprisingly roomy. When I sat down to move everything from my backpack to the vest, I was sure vital items would have to be left behind. But that wasn’t the case. Between the main compartment, fanny pack, and shoulder strap pockets, everything I needed fit inside— with many more items within reach than ever before.
My favorite feature of all? The roll-top bag, which was the perfect size and quiet to use. No more zippers and no more losing things in the backpack black hole.
According to its website, German Precision Optics (GPO) produces “premium-quality products that meet the needs of serious hunters,” without the premium price. That’s about right. I’m not a qualified optic critic, but I can tell you my experience with their Passion ED 8×32 was good. Light gathering was stronger than the naked eye. The picture was clear and crisp, and the focus adjustment was smooth as butter on that lightweight pair. (Plus, they are backed by GPO’s “Spectacular Lifetime Warranty”) They were great for watching birds and examining every nook and cranny of the woods. My only regret was not having more turkeys within viewing range.
While in Wisconsin, I also took the GPO Rangetracker 1800 out with me. This lightweight little rangefinder was a pleasant surprise. I mean, how different can rangefinders be, right? Pretty different, it turns out.
This compact, state-of-the-art tool is great in low light conditions, gives the temperature in the readout, and measures distance as close as 6 yards. I appreciated the 6x magnification, easy-to-read results, and how easy and intuitive it was to use. Plus, the computation time seemed crazy-fast. Not bad for an 1800 yard (over a mile!) rangefinder. It’s going to be hard to go back to my old one.
While in the field, I had a couple new diaphragm calls for doing my best hen turkey impersonations. Sweetwater Calls are made by hand in Georgia, and got owner Drew Flake to the NWTF Grand National Calling Championship. How’s that for boosting one’s confidence?
The Strutting Hen is a medium-rasp call which I found easy to use. It made a variety of convincing calls (to me, anyway) right away on the drive to my spot. I give it two thumbs up, though I still can’t figure out the name.
The Smoker Hen is a high-rasp call, and equally easy to use. It is truly raspy, and a good tool for switching things up a bit in the field.
My only problem with these calls is that they don’t work in Wisconsin— every turkey I called in was a hen. I trust R&D will be working hard on that for next year.
A group of us went fishing one afternoon there. While in pursuit of bass, walleye, and panfish, I had the chance to use a couple different G. Loomis NRX+ rods. They were incredibly lightweight due to top-of-the-line construction methods and materials. That includes Shimano’s proprietary Spiral-X technology, which reportedly provides “virtually instantaneous power transmission when casting or fighting a fish.” I can vouch for that, having made use of that power transmission while reeling in one of my best bluegills ever.
I also found the rods to be very sensitive, transmitting the feel of rocks, weeds, and debris while jigging along the bottom and probing the weedline. They were truly a pleasure to use.
Karen Lutto, of Hunter Outdoor Communications, brought a wide array of Hi Mountain Seasonings products, including ready-made packs of jerky. I tossed a package or two into my pack each time I went out (and broke into a few while around camp as well). I found the mesquite and turkey packs to be right up my alley, although everything was good. Pat Kalmerton also shook some poultry seasoning onto the turkey breast he grilled, which was excellent.
Hi Mountain Seasonings is based in Riverton, Wyoming, and is celebrating 30 years of growth and innovation. Find a retailer and/or support this all-American company directly at their website: https://himtnjerky.com
While there, I got to see a product that isn’t even on the market yet: the Anglers’ Best Lazy Joe. It’s an organizing tool that fits around a boat seat pedestal. It has compartments to hold three small tackle boxes, plus slots for tools like pliers and lip grippers. It’s a pretty cool idea and obviously handy. Frankly, I was surprised to hear that it’s not available to the general public yet. It will debut at ICAST next month and will retail for $149.99.
I wish I could report having pulled the trigger. But by all accounts (and I’ve heard several), it sounds like TSS Shot is the perfect turkey load, rendering gobblers DOA by the time they hit the dirt.