Ghillie suits are legal clothing when hunting wild turkeys. Anything that provides camouflage will help you when turkey hunting. Nothing provides the level of concealment that a ghillie suit can.
If you’ve watched one of the Rambo movies you’ve seen a ghillie suit in action. The US Military routinely equips snipers, and long-range reconnaissance personnel with ghillie suits. When you select a color that matches the surrounding terrain, you become almost invisible.
Turkeys are wary game birds. Their heightened senses can detect the slightest motion, sound, or change in the surrounding fauna. A ghillie suit can give you a nice advantage when hunting these largest of North American game birds.
- You’re nearly invisible
- Much better than blinds
- Allows slow stalking
- Can be adjusted for your style of hunting
Concealment is the greatest benefit in wearing a ghillie suit. Many hunters prefer them to blinds since you are not limited to one area, you are literally wearing the blind, and carry it with you with each step.
Used with a tree stand above an established game trail frequented by toms and hens, it provides the utmost in camouflage.
I’ve walked up on hunters wearing ghillie suits while cutting wood, and gathering cattle and been startled when the brush came to life in front of me.
I’m sure I could have worked for hours in the area never knowing that someone else was there, if the hunter hadn’t made his presence known.
Turkeys are one of the few upland game species you can hunt without wearing florescent orange.
It seems like an oxymoron to conceal yourself by wearing blaze orange, but if your state requires fluorescent orange when turkey hunting, you can still wear a bright orange ghillie suit.
There are some great benefits to turkey hunting in a ghillie suit, the best being the ability to slow stalk.
If you’re in a blind or tree stand, you are concealed, but the birds have to come to you. With a ghillie suit, and a lot of patience you can slowly move into range with a group of feeding turkeys.
Bowhunting for turkeys is growing in popularity and nearly impossible to do without a ghillie suit. These archery ghillie suits have open areas so you can hold, draw and sight a bow without the suit inferring with the process.
Classic turkey hunting involves calling in the gobbler, that’s part of the challenge in hunting these wily birds.
With your shotgun, or bow resting across your lap, or laid down close by, you can call a tom without being noticed if you move in slow, deliberate motions.
Even with a ghillie suit, a sudden movement will startle the birds and all you’ll see is tail feathers disappearing into the distance at 35 mph.
Hunters who are after huge toms, with record-setting beards have called birds close enough to almost touch while wearing a ghillie suit.
They are one of the best tools in a turkey hunter’s arsenal when used correctly. When they’re not utilized well, they’re just a really fuzzy, hot, uncomfortable set of clothes.
Drawbacks of wearing a ghillie suit
- Hard to move quickly in
- Limits range of motion
- Is hot
- Not good for wet weather
- Difficult to shoot while wearing
If ghillie suits were the ultimate answer to the challenges of turkey hunting, every hunter in the field would wear one, but they don’t. Many hunters still prefer to wear standard woodland or cattail-style camo clothing.
There are some drawbacks to the ghillie suit. Specifically designed to reduce visibility, it also reduces mobility. Many users find it hard to hunt in a ghillie suit.
Your range of motion is drastically reduced, your field of vision can be affected as well. If you selectively remove sections of the suit to allow freer movement, or to improve your vision, you always lower the ability of the suit to conceal you.
Perhaps a bigger issue is heat. These are great when the weather is cool, or even on frosty winter mornings, but turkey hunting isn’t a winter sport.
Most states have turkey seasons in the spring or fall. Some have two seasons a year.
In Wyoming, I’ve hunted turkey in April and November.
If there are two more unstable months for weather than these two, I haven’t discovered them.
Spring hunts in April out west, and in the Great Lakes, and northeast can bring heavy snow, rain, and cold weather, with nights below freezing, or you can bake in 80+ degree temperatures. The ghillie suit isn’t designed to repel water, so rain, even a fast-moving thunderstorm can make it miserable to wear.
There isn’t much in the way of ventilation in most ghillie suits, so those 80-degree afternoons are magnified.
In November, the conditions can be nearly the same. Fast-moving early winter storms are common, these help rather than hinder someone in a ghillie suit, but November can be a very hot time to hunt turkeys as well.
In the Rocky Mountain West, there is a term for these warm November days called Indian Summer. It is an actual phenomenon that occurs well after the first heavy frost.
An Indian Summer can last for a few days or up to six weeks. Temperatures can reach almost 90 degrees in Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and Colorado.
Try a heavy, breeze-blocking ghillie suit in these conditions and you’re likely to move back to lightweight camo and a little tan and olive drab face paint.
Shooting in a ghillie suit requires practice. You don’t have the ability to snap a shotgun cleanly to your shoulder and fire a blast when the bird is in range. Your movements must be much more calculated and deliberate to even shoulder a shotgun.
If you’re trying your hand at bow hunting, you’ll need to spend a few hours on the target range while wearing the ghillie suit, just to get the motion down.
Wearing a ghillie suit
Your tailor already knows this, but the fit is everything. A sloppy ghillie suit that is oversized is no bargain. It can trip you, fall over your eyes and inhibit movement.
You need to find a suit that fits snuggly but is not too tight. A tight ghillie suit inhibits movement as well, restricting your arms and legs is no way to hunt any game animal, much less something with the incredible eyesight and hearing of a turkey.
You might sweat a bit in a ghillie suit, but the good news is turkeys don’t have a great sense of smell, that’s why stealth is such a great hunting technique.
Wind direction doesn’t matter much, what matters is concealing your presence, your movement, and your sound.
There are many brands and manufacturers of ghillie suits. Trying one on before you purchase it is a must. Vast differences in style, camo pattern, and shooting movement come with each brand.
You need to find one that fits the terrain and fauna of the area you’ll be hunting turkeys in.
You’ll need to try aiming your shotgun, or bow in advance of the hunt with the ghillie suit on. You’ll also need to use your call when fully concealed in the ghillie suit if you hope to have any success.