Tips for Developing Your Bow Hunting Plot

Bow Hunting Food Plot Tips

Feature Flatline Whitetails

Bow hunting food plots can be, and most likely are, essential to your bow hunting strategy. However, knowing where to develop them, how to develop them, and how to maintain them can be very overwhelming. That’s why it’s important for you to clearly define the purpose of your food plot, set a goal, and set realistic expectations for the plot. Questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you want to grow larger deer?
  • Do you want a larger population?
  • Are you simply looking for a spot that will help you harvest more deer?
  • When do you want to hunt the plot?
  • What species is best for your goals?
  • What resources do you have to plant the plot?
  • What food plot or design best aligns with your expectations?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you create a successful food plot. However, only you can answer these questions. A magazine, video, or blog will not tell you the magic equation for your specific situation. There are too many variables involved. You can however receive some valuable knowledge to steer your strategy. Defining your goals and expectations, and combine that with helpful food plot knowledge will help you select the right locations, seed choices, and strategies to implement with food plots. This blog will provide you with the knowledge and considerations to help you steer towards that ideal bow hunting food plot.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Pick a Strategic Location and Species

Once goals and resources are considered, you can begin the process of establishing the food plot by selecting the right location and species. There are normally two types of plots to plan for that influence location and seed selection:

  1. Kill plots
  2. Feeding plots

Kill plots exist to help you harvest more deer. Feeding plots allow you to monitor, grow, and protect your herd. It is important to differentiate the two, and how each are considered to be bow hunting food plots, as they both play pivotal roles in the overall strategy.

Kill Plots

Perennial plot species like clover, easily one of the best food plot species, tends to do well for both kill plots and feeding plots. Clover specifically does not require much in the way of planting, and maintenance, but it also tends to be browse tolerant and shade tolerant…ideal for small bow hunting food plots.

Clover plots are among the most popular bow hunting plots because the species make great staging area food plots. These are small areas that deer, and more importantly bucks stage in before progressing into larger food source or destination feeding plots. The idea behind staging plots is that it presents the opportunity to shoot a deer before legal light fades, as deer typically appear in staging areas before waiting for the cover of darkness to enter an intimidating larger plot. For the most part, staging areas are kill plots, a plot location, design, and shape for harvesting deer.

Entry and exit routes are the most critical factor that influences location of kill plots besides deer behavior and movement. Utilize features like creeks, terrain, rising or sinking thermals, thick brush, food plot screens, logging roads, or anything else that can give you an edge to be quiet and scent free on your entry. Shift access around or away from where deer are bedding or traveling. Your entry and exit should be on the downwind side of the stand or blind you plan on bow hunting in. Looking out for these features should steer your decision of plot placement.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Feeding Plots

While perennial species like clover can easily take the roll of feeding plots, annuals like corn and soybeans tend to be the species of choice for feeding plots. These, mostly large-scale food plots (3+ acres) are destination food sources that can provide enough food for continual feeding through most if not the entire year. Soybean, particularly varieties that mature early and provide high yields of grain provide summer nutrition and late season food sources. If species like winter rye and winter wheat are planted with the beans (in the fall when beans start turning) a green food source can be provided in the same plot that will provide forage through winter and spring. The location of these destination food sources are just as, if not more important than the placement of your kill plots. A feeding plot determines the direction of deer travel on a property, influence bedding areas, and determine the location of your kill plots.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Typically destination food sources are untouched, leaving deer unpressured so movement across a property is not hindered. This movement is in turn targeted for hunting between the destination food source and the bedding areas. This area of transitional movement is the perfect spot for a bow hunting kill plot. Whether you hunt that plot or not is determined by trail camera and scouting Intel, wind direction, and the level of pressure you want to put on the plot.

Tips for Better Bow Hunting Food Plots

Knowing the location and type of species is the biggest decision when developing bow hunting plots. Here are some helpful tips when it comes time to actually turn over the dirt!

Know the Soil

The first thing you need to do once you pick out your ideal location and choice of species to plant is to get your soil tested. The results will help you determine what you should and should not plant, how much lime and fertilizer (particularly nitrogen) may be needed, and what quality of a plot you can expect.

The best part? Soil tests are easy to get. Simply bring a sample into your local feed store, conservations district, local extension service, or if you have to, order one to take yourself. This will not only help you grow a better yield, but also save you money on unnecessary lime and fertilizer costs.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Plant Wisely

When it comes to the actual planting, there are numerous things that need to be considered. However, the details of each are dependent on your location, choice of seed, size of plot, and ultimate goals. In summary, these are the things every hunter should be aware of when planning their plot:

  • Kill existing vegetation
  • Try to plant before a rain
  • Use lime and fertilizer to prime the soil
  • Plant towards the sun (for maximum exposure in short fall days)
  • Know the correct planting depth (depending on the seeds you have chosen)
  • Keep up with weeds
  • Add subsequent fertilizer as necessary
  • Don’t babysit the plot to avoid unneeded pressure

Maintain the Plot

Depending on what you chose to grow, you will need to selectively keep up with the changing conditions of the plot. Soybeans and corn will need to be sprayed for weeds. This is easiest with a roundup ready soybean or corn variety. Clover and alfalfa require more selective herbicides such as a broadleaf selective herbicide (2-4D B (butryac)) and a grass selective herbicide (clethodim or sethoxydim). You can also mow these species, but mowing can take valuable food and soil moisture away from these food plots which can hurt the plot in the long run. Depending on your crop of choice, it may also be necessary to supplement with more fertilizer shortly after planting.

Avoid Too Much Pressure

Pressure on both feeding plots and kill plots has been a reoccurring point for this blog, but that stresses the importance. After putting all of the work and resources into a food plot, one of the biggest mistakes people make is spending too much time in it. This leaves your scent and presence throughout the entire area. Pushing the deer out of the food plot defeats the purpose of putting it there in the first place and the consequences could be drastic come hunting season. Therefore, once it’s planted, limit your time there. Outside of checking your trail cameras and keeping an eye on your crop, stay out! Try to stay on vehicle as much as possible, and avoid visiting it during peak activity.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Evaluate the Plot

Once the season is over, it’s critical that you evaluate the plot, the deer movement within the plot, and its success rate. Some evaluation points to think about and track are:

  • Are deer feeding throughout the peak activity times in your destination food sources?
  • Are deer working through your staging area kill plots?
  • Are their patterns being developed by particular bucks on the kill or feeding plots?
  • What plots are deer avoiding and why?
  • What other tactics could you employ in the plot to make it more attractive (waterholes, mock scrapes, food plot screens)?

This will help you determine its viability for future use, and possible changes you could make, whether it be location, choice of seed, stand placement, or more advanced bow hunting plot tactics that you could have engaged in.

Picture: Flatline Whitetails

Finding Success with Bow Hunting Plots

Creating and managing successful bow hunting food plots is hard work. It requires self-education, dedication, time, and labor. However, the key to success is consistency and observation. Make small changes and improvements where necessary, keep an eye out for opportunities, and keep your plots active for years to see trends and patterns develop.

Over time, you’ll see the effort pays off. Not only will you see more deer, but you’ll create better bow hunting opportunities. Bow hunting food plots eventually may be your biggest success in your overall bow hunting strategy.

Modifying Your Bow Setup for Turkey Hunting

Bow Hunting Turkeys | Bow Setup for Turkeys

Turkey hunting, in general, takes an elevated skill set. Bow hunting turkeys on the other hand is on a whole other level. This is a challenge making a climb in popularity in the hunting community. As more hunters continue to take this feat on, many will realize it is harder than it looks. Those who accomplish the task quickly figure out what works and what doesn’t. What these hunters realize is that the trick to smacking a longbeard with a bow is modifying your bow setup for turkeys. The biggest mistake hunters can make when turkey hunting with a bow is pursuing spring gobblers without changing their bow rig from the fall. Simply hitting the spring woods with the same equipment used for deer is not going to cut it. On top of that, all the other turkey hunting tactics employed with a shotgun need modified to be successful when bow hunting.  Here are some tips and guidelines, including how to modify a bow setup for turkeys, for those taking on the challenge of hunting turkeys with a bow.

Bow Setup for Turkey Hunting 

You can get away with using your big game bow hunting setup for turkeys. However, you will increase your chances of success if you modify your bow setup specifically for turkey hunting.

 

PHOTOFlatline Whitetails, when turkey hunting with a bow, every detail of the bow’s setup counts.

Bow Length and Draw Weight

Although most modern compound bows on the market today are compact, it is worth mentioning that the best bow for turkey hunting is shorter. If you shoot a bow longer than 34 inches axle-to-axle, you would benefit from downsizing to a smaller bow if you want to reliably hunt turkeys. A shorter bow is easier to shoot from a ground blind and can be maneuvered more effectively in different shooting positions while helping conceal your draw. If you plan on hunting turkeys with a bow on the ground, without a blind, a long bow could limit your ability to draw. In both cases a shorter bow works in you favor.

Draw weight is another factor to consider when bow hunting turkeys. The biggest difference in terms of modifying your bow for turkeys is decreasing your draw weight. Unlike hunting big game where draw weight is often at its peak, dropping the poundage for turkeys is advantageous for two reasons.

 

PHOTO: Phillip Vanderpool The Virtue TV, Bow modifications specifically for turkey hunting can improve your ability to hunt turkeys out of a ground blind or from the ground.  

First, lower draw weight enables you to draw smoother and more importantly hold at full draw for a longer period. A gobbler will often hang up, or more likely dance around the decoys without offering ideal shots. This will add a few extra seconds to get the shot required to harvest the bird. Being able to hold at full draw with ease will ensure an accurate shot when it presents itself. 

 Second, reducing draw weight affects arrow FOC and kinetic energy (KE). For big game applications, KE above 40 ft. lbs. is recommended to effectively kill the animal. Kinetic energy in the 25 to 40 ft. lbs. is more ideal for turkey hunting with a bow. The reason is you want to reduce the arrow’s velocity, which reduces KE, in order to minimize a pass-through. A pass-through can lead to a bird being able to run or fly away even with an accurate shot. A rule of thumb is to reduce your normal draw weight by 10 lbs. but ideally get it down to around 55 or 60 lbs. Of course, the reduction in draw weight will change how your bow shoots so additional turkey bow practice will be required before the season.

Tuning Your Bow Accessories for Spring Turkey Hunting 

Bow modification for turkey hunting should extend to include all of your bow’s accessories. The main accessories to focus on for turkey hunting with a bow are your stabilizer, arrow rest, and sight. 

Shorten Up Your Stabilizer

Similar to reducing your draw weight, your bow’s stabilizer should be reduced as well. More innovative, and yes larger, stabilizers are the norm on bows today. While great for accuracy, they can trip you up while bow hunting for turkeys. A long stabilizer can get tangled in a blind or brush on the ground and can ruin a hunt. Opt for a more compact stabilizer when spring turkey hunting. 

Choose an Arrow Rest that Holds Up

Having a full capture arrow rest when turkey hunting with a bow allows you to maneuver in different positions without having your arrow fall or having to move to hold it in place. There will be times when you have to re-position for a shot when turkey hunting. A full capture arrow rest will keep your arrow secure and keeps you concealed. 

Use a Simple Sight

Most bow shots on a turkey are going to be close. Few shots will or should be taken out past 30-yards. The further the shot, the harder it is to accurately hit the small kill zones available on a gobbler. Because of this, it pays to use a simple sight. You may have 3, 4 or even 5 pins on your bow sight for deer, but for turkeys, you only need one or two pins. A good bow setup for turkey hunting is one 20-yard pin and one 30-yard pin. Simplifying your sight will make for a faster and less distracting focus on the turkey…which will be more than likely moving frantically.

 

PHOTO: You may have 3, 4 or even 5 pins on your bow sight for deer, but for turkeys, you only need one or two pins. A good bow setup for turkey hunting is one 20-yard pin and one 30-yard pin.

Arrows and Broadheads for Turkey Hunting with a Bow

Arrows and broadheads deserve their own assessment when it comes to turkeys. Besides the effect on kinetic energy and arrow FOC, your arrow and broadhead combination obviously has the last say in whether you kill a bird or not. 

Arrow Fletching

Arrows fletchings are typically brightly colored in order to provide a visual confirmation of your shot on target. These bright colored fletchings, however, can give you a way to an otherwise unsuspecting turkey. Shoot arrows with dark color fletchings and arrows that are in camo themselves. A simple tip is to use a permanent marker to darken your fletchings to avoid having to re-fletch arrows just for spring turkey hunting. Doing so will minimize the chance a bird will pick you out in a dark blind or on the ground as you draw. Also, using a lighted nock such as Nock Out Contender lighted nocks will stay off until you shoot the arrow. This will still enable you to clearly see where your arrow impacts.

PHOTO: TJ Unger The Virtue TV, Arrows and broadheads deserve their own assessment when it comes to turkeys. Besides the effect on kinetic energy and arrow FOC, your arrow and broadhead combination obviously has the last say in whether you kill a bird or not.

Broadheads for Turkeys

The last important step in perfecting your bow hunting setup for turkeys is choosing the right broadhead. The business end and your final connection to putting a gobbler on the ground takes some extra consideration. The wrong broadhead might allow your turkey to either fly away unharmed or injured just enough to get away and die elsewhere. 

There are two schools of thought on broadheads, but one key characteristic that encompasses both. The best turkey hunting broadheads deliver maximum shock first and foremost. There are mechanical broadheads that have wide cutting diameters designed just for this. They shoot well in most bow setups and pack a punch on a gobbler. Also, fixed blade broadheads work well for turkey hunting. These are the most versatile turkey hunting broadheads because they work for all the best places to shoot a turkey. No matter if you choose a mechanical or fixed blade broadhead, you want well over a 1-inch cutting diameter. The larger cutting diameter you can shoot accurately the better for turkey hunting. 

Finally, guillotine, or decapitation style broadheads can be an option. The guillotine broadhead is designed for headshots on a turkey and as the name suggests, takes the head right off a bird. This type of broadhead has its disadvantages such as narrowing the kill zone on a bird but can be effective with the right bow hunting setup for turkeys. Bowmar Bowhunting (@bowmarbowhunting) puts all the pieces together for a proper setup for hunting turkeys with a bow using guillotine style broadheads. 

Video: Proper Tuning Steps for Giant Decapitating Turkey Broadheads
Follow these simple steps from Bowmar Bowhunting to get the most out of your guillotine style turkey hunting broadheads. 

The Bowmars used this setup on a recent turkey hunt in Texas and found success with the decapitation style broadheads.

Video: Josh Bowmar shoots a giant double bearded turkey with a bow in Texas! What an awesome turkey hunt- nothing quite like bow hunting turkeys.

Shot Placement When Turkey Hunting with a Bow 

The best bow setup for turkey hunting is worthless unless you know where to shoot a turkey. Shot placement is important no matter what you are hunting with a bow, but hunting turkeys with a bow adds additional complexity.

PHOTO: The Archery Trade Association’s Explore Bow Hunting Program. Illustration by Ryan Kirby. There are three main places to shoot a turkey with a bow. Each of which depends on how the gobbler is positioned.

There are three main places to shoot a turkey with a bow. Each of which depends on how the gobbler is positioned. 

  1. Head Shot – The gobbler can be broadside or facing directly towards you for this shot. If you can do it, hitting a bird in the head will drop them, especially if you are using a guillotine style broadhead. 
  2. Vitals Shot – Another place to shoot a turkey is in the vitals. A Turkey’s vitals are small so shot placement has to be precise. With a broadside bird, aim where the wing connects to the body. If the bird is facing you, shoot for the base of the beard. 
  3. Anal Shot – A full strut bird facing away from you gives you a perfect shot. His fan will block him from seeing you draw and placing an arrow through his backside will quickly paralyze and kill the bird. 

Final Tips for Bow Hunting Turkeys

One big decision you will face after modifying your bow setup for turkeys are the hunting tactics you will use. Hunting turkeys from a blind is more common than hunting from the ground because it provides a layer of concealment to move and draw. However, a blind is only effective if you know where gobblers are hanging out. You will have to setup the blind beforehand without being seen or busting them off their roost. The ground offers more flexibility to move spots as the bird’s patterns change throughout the day. TJ Unger of the Virtue recently discussed turkey hunting with a bow on the ground. Check the video out below.

Turkey hunting with a bow requires the right bow setup. Many hunters make the mistake of not modifying their deer hunting bow setup for spring turkeys. They also fail to adjust their normal turkey hunting tactics (when using a shotgun) specifically for bow hunting turkeys. These 4 turkey bow hunting tips should help you avoid those mistakes!