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
- 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!