4 Bow Hunting Turkey Tips
FEATURE PHOTO | The Virtue TV
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!