ALPS Outdoor Z Turkey Chair
If you have hunted much at all you have probably come to learn the value of remaining as still as possible when predator or turkey calling, sitting in a blind overlooking a deer trail, or engaging in any wildlife viewing or photography activity. In order to sit still for long periods, a hunter must be comfortable and I believe that several key elements must be considered. If the ground is wet, cold, or laced with clutter it is important to avoid direct contact. Back and leg support is also critical for comfort. Any hunter who is uncomfortable will only be able to remain in place for a few minutes before it is necessary to move. Iíve used some form of chair or ground pad for blind hunting and calling for over twenty years, because I learned long ago that success if often directly linked to stealth and I can count on being the most uncomfortable when the quarry finally appears.
I need some form of back and leg support for three specific types of hunts. First on the list is waiting in a ground blind during muzzleloader deer season. Kansas muzzleloader only deer season begins in mid-September. Summer foliage is at its greatest, fall crops are not harvested and long distance whitetail habitat visibility is greatly hindered. When deer are flushed during a still hunt they are often able to return to cover before the hunter has any kind of reasonable shot. One of the most effective muzzleloader hunting strategies at this time of year is to establish a ground blind near a game trail and wait for deer to pass in the very early morning or just at the sunset hours. A tree stand will work but tree stands are often difficult to manage in my area because of the size and structure of the trees. Ground blinds can be established very quickly as conditions vary and they are usually effective. At the least I will often sit for two hours during these critical passing periods. The more comfortable I am the more likely that I can sit for those hours with a minimum of fidgeting.
The second scenario involves predator calling. Most experienced callers will advise that a maximum time limit of twenty minutes will be most likely to produce a response. Then it is usually more productive to move on and call from another site. As a general rule this is true, but not always. Bobcat responses usually take longer. I often call for as long as an hour in locations where coyotes must travel a long distance or in areas where game is passing through. Even when calling for as little as twenty minutes, if it is unusually cold or wet, it is very difficult to remain comfortable without a device to keep your rear end off the ground.
There are also areas where I wait from high vantage points, watch for passing traffic and only call periodically or when I see coyote movement at a distance. This strategy is especially effective during breeding season, when it is not as easy to identify when coyote movement is likely to take place. I also sometimes set up over carcasses or other baiting sites and wait for predators to come in. Such waits, while often effective, can last for hours.
Another scenario for me is the classic style of spring turkey hunting. Turkeys can be extremely hesitant to come into gun range. Working a tom can often take considerable time and effort. In my area, especially during the early part of the season, Rio Grandes will not respond to calls at all. It is far more effective to know roosting areas and wait for flocks to come in at sunset. I often have to sit up amid small clusters of tall cottonwood trees surrounded by large open acreages of bare crop land. I need to get into position around 4:00 p.m. and wait for as long as four hours. Often they will display on open ground for two or three hours before finally coming in to roost. If I try to sneak in to a site during that time they will often see me and the entire effort is wasted. To be most successful, I must get in early and wait, often in nearly perfect stillness. I have had turkeys move toward my position a few yards at a time over a period of several hours, displaying and grazing, displaying and grazing, totally oblivious to my decoys or my calling. Yet, they still come in to roost in the last moments of shooting light. Nothing is more grueling than being uncomfortable during that wait.
It was on a hunt like this that I first experienced how useful one of these turkey lounger chairs can be. I was hunting on some family ground with my friend, Dr. Gary White, founder of White Muzzleloading. Gary is an avid turkey hunter and had come to Kansas from Utah for a visit. He showed up with a turkey lounger chair. I was using a turkey vest with an attached ground pad. It was one of those days when the flock displayed for hours on newly planted irrigated corn ground before moving into some cottonwood trees to roost. Gary placed his chair amid some sandhill plum thickets and waited in nearly perfect invisibility for four hours as turkeys passed on either side of his position. In the meantime, I sat on the ground amid the trees themselves. I was alright for about an hour, but after that my stiff legs and aching back became really uncomfortable. I waited it out and took my tom, but it didnít escape my notice how much better concealed Gary was and how comfortably he spent the time. I resolved to get one of those things.
There are three design elements of a classic turkey lounger that greatly increase comfort. First, the hunter sits much closer to the ground than with a conventional folding chair. Concealment is better. Secondly, the chair is lower in the seat with firm back support to aid comfort. It is like sitting in a Lazy Boy lounger. Last, because of the angle of the chair and its height, it is quite comfortable to sit with knees elevated so that a hunter can wait with gun butt to the shoulder, elbows braced on the knees, for the very minimum of movement before taking the shot. Long range shots, even with a shotgun, are much more likely to be accurate. This knee braced shot advantage works for deer, predator, and turkey shots. I shoot far more accurately from this position with a minimum of movement to get into position. These same features apply for the wildlife observer or photographer.
The only disadvantage to this style is that some folks might have some difficulty crawling out of one. The lesson quickly learned is not to try to get out of it like would be the practice for a normal chair, but rather to slip off the side and then stand up.
In my opinion, the folding turkey lounger chair is one of the most innovative and useful new hunting products of the last decade. They increase comfort, concealment, and shooting accuracy. They can turn a potential hunting ordeal into a very pleasant experience. It really is like having a mini-recliner in the field.
ALPS Outdoor Z Turkey Chair
I purchased an inexpensive turkey lounger from an outdoor catalog and used it heavily for deer, turkey, and predator hunting. Sitting in the chair was great, but the chair itself did not stand up well to use. The first piece that gave me trouble was the carrying strap. It failed the second time I used it. From that point on, I was never able to sling it over my shoulder and had to carry it folded in my arm. Thatís fine, except when I am also managing decoys, coyote callers, or other equipment. The second thing to fail was the binding strap that kept the chair folded. Now I had to wrestle a chair that also kept unfolding as I managed all my other gear to my calling site or blind. The third thing to fail was a brace pivot point in the back. From that point on the chair was always slightly off center, no matter how carefully I placed it. If the darned thing hadnít been so comfortable Iíd have relegated it to the trash container long ago. In addition, the only thing available to replace it was exactly the same model I was using. The local stores didnít carry turkey loungers and the catalog outlet didnít see fit to offer a better model. Why spend the money to have two chairs with broken carrying straps, weak retaining supports and lost retaining straps?
I was on a deer-hunting equipment writing assignment during the Las Vegas 2008 SHOT Show when I came upon a booth for the ALPS Outdoor Z Chair company. I was giving their products a passing inspection when I noticed a folding turkey lounger chair in the corner. What initially caught my eye was how the carrying strap was attached to the chair. It had a D-ring and heavy snap/latch system that was not only more rugged than my chair, but also did not have to be slung over my head to be positioned across my back. The D-ring attachments were also much heavier and attached with straps so that there was no chance of failure from a popped rivet.
This chair was quite a find. The Realtree AP camouflage seating material was much heavier duty and the center back section was mesh to allow for air circulation in warm weather. The frame was all powder coated steel, rather than painted aluminum, and the pivot points were much heavier. Right next to it was an MC Model with a four inch wider seat (23Ē rather than the standard 19Ē). I liked that aspect for more reasons than it would just fit my big butt better. A wider seat would allow me to be able to slightly change positions for shot attempts without moving the chair and I could place a call along the edge of the seat and not have to fish for it off the ground. A wider seat would also make it easier to get out of the chair. The chairís much heavier 300 pound capacity construction also meant that I didnít have to be so careful about climbing in and out of it for fear of frame failure nor worrying about having it be quite so level before sitting. It was just one heck of a lot better made product, which meant that it would last longer and be much more convenient. It was going to cost more, but I didnít care. I remembered my last snow bound, Charley Chaplin comedy routine of man handling an electronic caller bag, coyote rifle, decoy and constantly unfolding chair to my calling site.
A company representative stepped up and I did a fine job of selling him on his own product by describing why I liked it so much better than anything else Iíd seen. I was fully prepared to order one from him when he offered to send me one to test. That was great because I was still heavily into predator hunting and turkey season was just around the corner.
I took the chair on my annual Dilley, Texas, Spring coyote and feral hog hunt. My hosts were in the process of repairing and updating their tower blinds in several of my prime hunting spots. One afternoon I tried a combination coyote and feral hog hunt that entailed sitting for hours over a baited hog trail and coyote calling area. I sat in my ALPS Outdoor Z Turkey Chair for over four hours in perfect comfort with minimum movement, behind a single lone mesquite. When the hogs did appear near sundown, it was easy to take a knee braced shot from the chair. Later, when a single coyote came in from behind, I easily swiveled around to the right without the chair tipping or becoming unstable. On both occasions, it was easy to roll out of the chair to my knees and get to my feet to retrieve game. The chairís heavy construction allowed a 6í3Ē, 230 pound, sixty year old complete comfort and mobility for placing, sitting in and getting out a low slung turkey lounger.
My ALPS Outdoor Z Turkey Chair now has a permanent home in the back of my hunting truck. What happened to my old chair? The last I saw, it was in the back of the trash disposal truck taking that final ride to the county dump.
To learn more about Alps outdoor products, go to: www.alpsoutdoorz.com (hunting) or www.alpsmountaineering.com (camping and hiking).
Copyright 2008 by Randy D. Smith. All rights reserved.