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.
PHOTO: Flatline 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!