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!


Nock Out® Field Journal Ep.4 | Bow Hunting Turkeys No Blind

Bow Hunting Turkeys With No Blind with The Virtue’s TJ Unger

For the fourth installment of Nock Out® Lighted Nock’s Field Journals, The Virtue’s TJ Unger talks about bow practice for turkeys and his setup for bow hunting turkeys without a blind! TJ is committed to the challenge of bow hunting turkeys without a blind. In order to be successful both the shot and the setup need to be rehearsed.

The challenge of bow hunting turkeys comes down to one essential moment…the draw. Without proper planning, a hunter’s body can be positioned in a way that will not offer the opportunity to draw on a close bird. TJ elects to sit on a ground seat with his body turned to the side from where he expects the turkey to approach. The decoy will be positioned 10 yards directly to the side of TJ. This allows him to draw his bow back without hitting brush or his knees, while the birds will be positioned perfectly in his shooting lane. If able, brushing in his side from the approach of the turkeys will give him a wall to draw behind, and enough time to be settled before the tom arrives at his decoy and shooting lane.

Indiana’s season opened Wednesday, April 25th, the first opportunity for TJ to test out this setup. The morning brought an opportunity to shoot a gobbler and TJ capitalized on it. The tom worked its way within 6 yards before TJ let the arrow fly. This turkey bow hunting setup without a blind worked perfectly on opening day!

For more tips or videos on bow hunting turkeys check out the articles below!


Nock Out® Field Journal Ep.3 | Turkey Scouting

Pre-Season Turkey Scouting with The Virtue’s TJ Unger

For the third installment of Nock Out® Lighted Nock’s Field Journals, The Virtue’s TJ Unger and Brady Miller reveal how they are active with pre-season turkey scouting. Scouting turkeys in the pre-season before Indiana’s opener on April 26th means that TJ and Brady have to spend some vital time in the field. This means spending time glassing food sources and strutting areas, installing and checking trail cameras, and scouting roosting areas for sign of activity. 

Bad weather including April snowstorms have plagued Indiana and the majority of the Midwest for the past two weeks. Luckily a break in the weather gave TJ and Brady just enough time to scout a property before the opener.

Glassing, trail camera photos, and scouting roosting areas all paid off for TJ and Brady. Glassing from the comfort of the truck is one of the easiest ways to scout turkeys. It also can be performed during bad weather. Glassing, in particular, can reveal where the flock and stutters spend most of their time. The most obvious areas in the Midwest would include large open agriculture fields. Specific places and travel routes in these fields can be identified by using trail cameras.

A recent card pull revealed travel routes that gobblers were taking between food sources and roosting sites. This lead to spending some time actively scouting the property. Turkey sign and feathers confirmed TJ and Brady’s suspicions of where the turkeys were roosting, the final piece of the puzzle they needed for opening day! Hopefully the latest turkey scouting Intel will lead to a successful season for crew!

Want to find out more about bow hunting turkeys? Check out our other tips and blogs on turkey hunting below!


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!