Key Tips to Know When Bow Hunting Turkeys

Bow Hunting Turkey Tips


Spring is a magical time of year. The snow is gone, temperatures are rising, and there’s that fresh smell in the air. As if those things weren’t enough, you suddenly hear a gobble which solidifies that Spring is here and it’s just about time to get into the turkey woods. Turkey hunting presents several challenges and harvesting a gobbler with a shotgun isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do. However, if you’re looking for even greater of a challenge then you might consider chasing these birds with your bow. Bow hunting turkeys requires an overhaul on your strategy, your gear, and most importantly your setup. If you plan to hit the woods with the same strategy you use for shotgun hunting, success will likely not be achieved. Here are a few things you need to consider changing when chasing toms with a bow.

#1 Make Sure You Have Cover 

It’s no secret turkeys have an incredible vision which makes getting away with movement near impossible. Fortunately, most turkey hunters can limit movement by using a shotgun propped up on shooting sticks or on the knee. Unfortunately, bow hunters don’t have this luxury. Given the increased movement associated with drawing your bow, you’ll need to make sure plenty of cover is available in your setup. This starts to limit the run and gun setups where you can simply sit in front of a tree or on a field edge like you can with a shotgun.

PHOTO | The Virtue TV

Most hunters can take a safe approach and use a popup blind. This is an easy way to ensure that your movements will be mostly concealed. Popup blinds also allow for increased comfort which is a necessity if you plan on sitting all day waiting for your bird to show up. However, the one negative of using a popup blind is that it limits your mobility. If running and gunning is more of your style leaving your popup blind and chasing after a tom with your bow can prove to be more difficult, but it’s not impossible. Carrying some type of meshing or 2-3 ft. blind skirt that you can set up quickly will give you some concealment, though trying to draw on a tom in this situation can still to be difficult.  

#2 Drawing on a Gobbler 

Similar to bow hunting other species, getting to full draw on a strutting gobbler is the hardest part of closing the deal. Even though you may be hunting out of a popup blind, there are still some things to consider to make sure you reach a full “safe draw” without being detected. One of the best times to draw is when a tom is at full strut and facing away from you. Their fan will almost guarantee that they will not see you when you’re drawing. Using decoys in your setup will also help you when you’re drawing. Setting your decoys up so they‘re facing you will help to bring the bird in front of your decoys and turn to face them and, in turn, face away from you. This will also help keep the tom’s attention on the decoy and not what’s going on around him.

Keep in mind this strategy of a “safe draw” might have to be thrown out of the window when there are multiple birds. If two or more toms come into a set make sure you take the most opportune time to draw. This usually is a split second as one or maybe multiple birds are facing away. If there are three or more birds and enough time has passed where they’re starting to figure out the decoys you might have to make a tough call. In these situations, if you can draw when at least one or two of the most distracted birds (the most aggressive toms) are facing away or have their vision blocked, that is the best time to draw. While the other birds might throw an alarm putt and even take off, the most distracted bird(s) will likely stay busy or become more aware but still be confused. They’ll likely stick around the decoys giving you enough time to take a well-aimed shot.

Tricks for Drawing Your Bow 

Whether you’re in a blind, or out in the open with some light concealment there are several things you can do even at the opportune time to create a more concealed draw. For bow hunting turkeys in a blind, getting out of a chair and drawing on your knees below the blind window could be an option. This will allow you to draw under the window then slowly come up for the shot. This gives you the opportunity to let the draw down under the blind as well. This can be applied to light concealment when running and gunning as well. Drawing under the makeshift blind could hide movement. Also keep in mind that you can initiate your draw cycle while pointing your bow in the general direction of your target and drawing straight back to your face, then slowly bring the bow around to the bird. This is helpful if you‘re hiding behind a structure like a tree, terrain, or thick brush where lowering the draw is not an option due to vegetation or your body’s position. Remember, in any and all of these situations no matter how you get the bow back if there is even the slightest chance of that bird seeing movement make sure you draw very slowly!

  PHOTO | The Virtue TV

#3 Decoys and Distance 

Knowing your effective range is important regardless of whether you choose to chase turkeys with a shotgun or a bow, but most would agree that hunters are generally less efficient with archery gear than a shotgun. Make sure that you practice with your archery equipment and know exactly how far you feel comfortable shooting too. Also, don’t forget to practice shooting in positions you’ll find yourself in the field as you’ll likely have to let a shot go while sitting or while kneeling.  

Having a rangefinder with you on a turkey hunt is a must, but turkeys have great eyesight so you’ll want to minimize your movement when you have a gobbler in range. There are a couple of ways to do this. First, set your decoys out at a distance that is well within your effective range. This will help to accomplish two things. First, having the decoys closer than your maximum effective range likely means that you will still be able to take a shot even if the tom hangs up beyond your decoys. Second, knowing the distance your decoys are away from you will allow them to serve as a reference point so you can estimate the distance on a gobbler if he happens to catch you off guard. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have your decoys set up, range natural land markers like easily identifiable trees, shrubs, or bunches of grass. Having things pre-ranged, regardless of whether they’re your decoys or natural land markers, will help you minimize movement and increase your chances of closing the deal on a gobbler.

PHOTO | Open Season TV

#4 Turkey Vitals and Shot Placement 

Traditional shot placement on a turkey with a shotgun is in the head and neck region. And although this is still a viable area to aim for with archery equipment, you will have more than just this option for a perfectly placed arrow. The goal of aiming for the head and neck region with your bow is generally to decapitate the bird and there are specific turkey broadheads designed just for this. But if you choose to use a more typical broadhead, a fixed or mechanical broadhead that you might use for deer hunting, you have a couple of other areas to choose from. The wing butt, right where the wing joins the body of the turkey, is a great shot if the bird happens to be broadside. This shot will allow you to break the wing and penetrate the heart and lungs. If the bird is facing away from you, then you can aim for the spine, or if strutting the anal vent. If you connect with this shot, then you will immediately paralyze and kill the bird. If the bird is facing towards you, then you can aim right where the beard connects to the breast. Again, this shot will likely sever the lungs and/or heart leading to a quick humane death.  

Keep these bow hunting turkey tips in mind if you find yourself chasing gobblers with your bow this spring. They may just help you close the deal!


Tips to Guide Your Turkey Bow Practice

Bow Hunting Turkey Practice Tips

Feature: The Virtue TV

The majority of whitetail bow hunters idealize a turkey hunt with a bow. However, the actual number of archers that follow through with this goal is significantly reduced once spring arrives. The lure of toting spurs and a fan over the shoulder is what usually pulls hunters away from the bow. The struggle and challenge that accompanies the satisfaction of harvesting a turkey with a bow usually outweighs the drive to actually achieve the goal. For those hunters that can resist the temptation of the shotgun, there is no greater reward. For those that achieve it, this style of hunting is a learned skill, meaning subsequent hunts will be much easier. If a turkey bow hunt is your dream, there are several turkey bow practice tips that can help make it happen in your first year!

Nock Out Lighted Nocks Pro Staff member TJ Unger of The Virtue TV pursues Indiana longbeards with a bow!

Turkey Bow Hunting Practice Tips

Hunting turkeys with a bow and arrow is a unique style of hunting and it requires dedicated bow practice. As with any type of hunting, this practice refers not only to the repetitive shooting of the bow, but tactics, strategies, and techniques that will be used in the field. Follow these tips to make your practice sessions productive, and to make sure you’re ready to take that turkey when the opportunity presents itself.

  • Shoot From the Ground The most difficult turkey hunt is bow hunting turkeys from the ground…without a blind. This gives the hunter the ability to move and adjust setups during the course of the hunt. It also happens to be one of the most adrenaline filled turkey hunts available to a hunter. However, the one big problem with this tactic is the open movement of drawing the bow back. There is a very small or in most situations no chance of drawing the bow back without being spotted by a turkey. Add multiple toms into the mix of a setup and an alarm putt will sound! The only thing a hunter can do is use little pieces of broken cover and vegetation to hide. Setting up on a tom either in ambush-style hunting or running and gunning means taking a shot from various positions. Learning to shoot from crawling, laying, sitting, and crouched positions on the ground will go a long way toward your success with this tactic. During practice sessions, take time to draw and shoot from positions that are likely to occur in the field. Pay special attention to basic dynamics of the shot such as your anchor and follow through. Also, pay attention to what you cams or limbs might come into contact with once you release the arrow!

  • Shoot While Sitting Ambushing a turkey from a ground blind is a better option if this is your first year attempting a turkey bow hunt. Turkey decoys within range of your blind and the right calling will bring the birds in for a perfect shot opportunity. The blind, specifically optimized for a dark inside, can mask the process of drawing a bow back. However, don’t think of ground blind turkey hunting as a walk in the park. It still requires practice. For the most part, two things interrupt most bow hunters when shooting out of a blind. The first is sitting in a chair instead of standing. Something that can be easy to alleviate with practice. The second is ensuring your arrow will not clip the edge, pole, or fabric of the ground blind. This can easily happen as your position suggests a clear flight from the sight, but the arrow sitting much lower on the riser. The most useful tip is to simply practice the exact blind and hunting setup in practice, decoys and all, to create a productive scenario.
  • Learn to Slow Draw For turkey hunters, the true challenge comes from one unique asset…a turkey’s eyesight. While a blind or makeshift vegetation blind when hunting on the ground can interrupt or mask the draw of the bow, the reality is that turkeys can and will still spot the movement. The technique of slow drawing your bow can be effective at fooling a turkey’s visual defense even at close range and in the open. A slow draw is as simple as it sounds but takes practice to perfect. Try and slow your draw as long as possible, incrementally increasing how many seconds it takes to full draw each day or week before turkey season. Moving very slowly and smoothly can sometimes fool a turkey as he looks away and back again. A turkey will act defensive and quickly leave if he detects a quick movement that he doesn’t like, but a slow smooth action will go unnoticed. Once you’ve got the slow draw action perfected, practice your slow draw from each shooting position you might use in the field.

Photo Credit: Luke Fabian

  • Shoot at a Turkey Target Turkeys are a much smaller target than whitetail hunters are used to. The vitals on a turkey are essentially 3X smaller than a deer’s, a deer’s vitals are roughly the size of a basketball and a turkey’s vitals are roughly softball sized. A pass-through shot on a turkey is not likely to leave much of a blood trail, so putting your shot on target in the vitals is a must. 3-D turkey targets in both fanned and walking positions can really help you develop an eye for where a turkey’s vitals are. Paper or burlap 2-D turkey targets can help you train your eye if a 3-D target is unavailable. Place shots at the turkey’s neck base on facing shots, just above the base of the beard. On broadside shots put the arrow where the wing butt connects to the body, people often feel this is too high of a shot, but this placement will put your broadhead right through a tom’s vitals. Finally, practice shooting a bird that is facing away. Put the arrow right on the anal vent for a lethal shot. Training your eye and your mind to identify the target and the exact location where you need to put the arrow gives you confidence in the field to make the shot count.
  • Put a Lighted Nock to Work Lighted nocks are a valuable tool for bow hunters. The ability to key in on your arrow and watch it all the way to the target can really help in building accuracy and consistency. Hunting with a lighted nock, especially when using crossbows, is invaluable in the bright green spring woods and fields. A bright red or orange nock glowing to the target against the green colors of spring is easy to see. Lighted nocks for turkey hunting are an important tool to help you visualize the hit on a target during practice and the hit on a turkey during the hunt.
  • Use Mouth Calls With both of your hands on the bow, you need to be able to use a mouth call. Grab a diaphragm call now and start practicing. You should be at a level to at least yelp, cut, cluck, kee-kee, and purr. You should also be able to call very softly to coax turkeys in closer into range as every yard counts with a bow.

Photo Credit: Lethal Instincts

Bow Hunting Gear for Turkeys

The bow practice tips for turkeys above should help your efforts of harvesting a turkey with a bow this spring. With practice underway, it’s time to turn your attention the gear you’ll be using. When you head out the door in pursuit of your gobbler with a bow, make sure you’ve got everything you need. This list will be different than your normal shotgun hunting list for turkeys as you have a lot more accessories when it comes to bow hunting.
  • Broadheads Broadheads for turkeys come in a variety of styles. There are several on the market specific to turkey hunting like guillotine style broadheads. However, most broadheads you use for deer hunting can successfully take a turkey with an accurate shot. Regardless of your choice, make sure the broadhead you carry is one that you’ve practiced with numerous times.
  • Bow Holder A bow holder comes in handy regardless of hunting from the ground or a blind. Having the bow in the vertical position (instead of hanging or across your legs), means you can have your bow ready without a lot of movement needed once a shot opportunity is present.
  • Lighted Nocks Lighted nocks, as mentioned above, are a critical part of your arrow system. Using lighted nocks during practice and hunting scenarios give you an edge on accuracy and recovery of your arrow.
  • Archery Release An archer’s release is a pivotal part of their bow hunting setup. The release of the arrow is critical to accuracy and consistency. Turkey hunting is typically done from the ground, and running and gunning to get ahead of hot toms may provide fast action. Be sure you’ve got a way to keep your release attached to your wrist so it doesn’t accidentally get left behind in all the action.
  • Turkey Tag and Hunting License No hunting gear list is complete without your license and game tag. The fastest way to ruin a hunt is to realize you’ve forgotten your tag and your hunt is over.
  • Rangefinder Spring turkeys are at home in hardwoods, creek bottoms, and green fields. Determining distances in open fields can be tricky. A tom strutting is an open hayfield or wheat field can be seen from a long distance. A range finder is critical to making sure you’re within range before you make the move to draw your bow.

Photo: Flatline Whitetails

This gear list isn’t complete by any means, but it does identify some things you need to remember when taking a bow to the field. Here are some other items that you’re a little more used to.
  • Turkey Calls
  • Face Paint or Camo Mask
  • Turkey Decoys
  • Bug Spray
  • Binoculars
  • Camo or Black Clothing (Ground Blind Hunting)

Don’t Ditch the Bow!

Don’t drop into the common pitfall of ditching the bow and settling for the shotgun. With the proper practice, tactics, and gear you should be able to fulfill your goal of a turkey with a bow!
Want more tips, tactics, and bow hunting strategies? Check out the blogs below!

Nock Out® Field Journals Ep.2 | Post-Season Inventory with Flatline Whitetails

Episode 2 Post-Season Inventory

For the second installment of Nock Out® Lighted Nocks Field Journals, we join Nick Kravitz of Flatline Whitetails. In this episode, Nick shows us how he keeps tabs on which bucks survived the year and which have shed their antlers so far. He walks us through a couple trail camera tips as he sets up a quick post-season inventory trail camera survey!

The trail camera tips Nick shares with us include:

  • Use large capacity SD cards (16gb)
  • Use fresh batteries especially in the cold winter months
  • Use photo mode (rather than video) to keep the capacity from filling up and the batteries dying
  • Use deodorizing scent spray or foam to kill scent on the trail camera
  • Clear the camera’s field of view from debris and brush

Stay up to date with more bow hunting tips, tactics, and information from Nick and the other Nock Out® pro staff at the In Action Blog.