Bowhunting takes skill and practice, but if you're ready to ramp up your turkey season, challenge yourself to arrow a longbeard this year! Making a few adjustments in your spring prep work and bow practice will have you ready for chasing turkeys with your bow in no time.
Broadheads made specifically for turkeys feature extra-wide cutting diameters to ensure a lethal hit.
If you feel ready for the challenge, you probably have a well-tuned bow and shoot well already. The good news is most hunters can use existing bow hunting gear for turkeys. The broadheads you use, whether fixed or mechanical, will likely work great, but be sure to have plenty spares on hand and be sure they're sharp and new. It's still advisable to check out broadheads made specifically for turkeys. They feature extra-wide cutting diameters, with some brands engineered specifically for head and neck shots on turkeys. When your target is considerably smaller, it's wise to use a large blade that will put down your turkey quickly and successfully — something you'll be thankful for after putting in long hours.
Bowhunting any animal requires regular shooting practice and a knowledge of the kill zone. Turkeys pose a special challenge since they're lower to the ground and have a kill zone considerably smaller than most animals we bowhunt. Make a fist and look at it — that is roughly the size of the kill zone you'll be aiming for.
After choosing your broadhead, the next step is to get yourself a 3D turkey target and shoot at it daily. Shoot with your practice heads (or field points the same weight as your turkey broadhead) from several different positions: standing, kneeling and sitting. Shoot from varying distances — from extremely close shots just a few feet away to 20-30 yards. You'll never know what kind of shot you might suddenly be presented with on the ground, so it's best to be prepared. I suggest keeping shots on turkeys to 20 yards and under, but learn your comfort zone, know your own skill level, and stick to your self-imposed limits.
Learn the kill zone on a turkey from all angles. You never know when a shot will present itself, and you need to be ready to make an effective shot from different angles.
- Broadside — aim mid-body, where the wing connects to the body.
- Frontal shots should be made into the center of the chest straight below the head and neck but just above where the beard connects to the body.
- Rear shots should be made right up their anal canal and into their vitals.
- Head and neck shots — straight in the head or anywhere in the neck, effectively severing arteries and vitals quickly. Be aware your target area is extremely limited, making use of large diameter turkey broadheads a wise choice.
Bow hunters in the fall season often shoot from treestands and will aim mid-way back on their body, between their wings and down into the vitals.
Place decoys 10 to 15 yards in front of the blind to distract the turkeys, keeping their eyes from locating you.
Turkeys have insanely acute eyesight and can easily detect the slightest movement, making blinds an important part of your bowhunting setup. For the ultimate challenge, you can choose to use natural blinds, using downed trees and brush in the woods to camouflage your shooting position. Brushing yourself into your surroundings and using a full head net, gloves and a full-body leafy camouflage suit is imperative to pull off a bow shot at a turkey.
You'll want to wear all your gear and practice pulling your bow back, making the slightest movement possible to reach full draw. Be prepared to draw your bow only when the turkey turns away from you or when its rear-end is facing you. Remain aware of other birds and other approaching hens or toms and be sure not to spook them or your hunt will end before you have a chance to draw. Use decoys placed 10-15 yards in front of you to distract the turkeys and keep their eyes from locating you.
Another popular option is to use lightweight and portable pop-up blinds. Look for easily transportable, lightweight designs that can be quickly set up and have plenty of room for you (or you and a friend) to pull back a bow and maneuver to the shooting windows. If the windows incorporate a screen mesh, be sure you can shoot through it effectively using the specific broadhead you've chosen.
Consider brushing in a pop-up blind if you have time, to better blend with the surroundings and ensure you go undetected. While wearing your head-net and gloves, practice maneuvering and shooting your bow from inside your blind each day, always being aware of your arrow's position through the shooting window.
Blinds are black inside, so it's best to blend with your surroundings and wear black. A black shirt and black or leafy head-net work great. Be sure your neck is covered and gloves are worn at all times. Open only the shooting windows and screens needed, keeping windows and screens closed behind you to keep from being "skylighted" from behind. Wear your full camo every time you practice shooting.
Turkey Calls and Decoy Use
Make sure there are no obstacles or brush in the blind's window view to interfere with the arrows flight.
Bowhunting turkeys require the use of both hands, making diaphragm (mouth) calls a must. Buy a multi-pack of calls, an instructional DVD if needed, and practice, practice, practice until you're comfortable and confidant to call in that Tom. If you have a hunting partner with you, then they can call for you using box calls, friction calls or diaphragm calls.
Place decoys 10-15 yards in front of your blind, in open areas free of brush that could interfere with your arrow's flight. Consider placing decoys slightly at an angle left or right of your shooting windows so any movement inside of the blind is less likely to be detected.
Know how you plan to hunt and prepare for your hunting day. If you only want to stay for a few hours before heading back, then obviously you won't need as much gear, but if you plan on staying for the long haul, then prepare accordingly. For a full day afield, be sure to wear a turkey vest or take a fanny-pack or backpack with water, snacks and a lunch, cell phone (on mute or vibrate!), turkey calls and decoys and clothing layers or rain gear to use as the weather changes. Be sure to wear comfortable hunting boots and socks and take along a hat. A good set of binoculars can certainly make it more interesting when sitting in a blind and a rangefinder is useful if you want to verify your yardage before taking a shot. For all-day comfort, consider a lightweight, portable and rotating stool to sit on. Be sure to shop for one that has individually adjusting legs, as the ground you hunt on can be very uneven. Don't forget to take along a digital camera to snap a photo of your prize!
Before the Hunt
After your scouting is complete and you've chose a few spots to try bowhunting for turkeys, put on your camo and turkey vest, load up your gear and head to the woods. Be sure you can easily transport all your gear and move quietly to your location. You might consider using a bow sling to make it easier to carry all your gear, especially if you're hauling a blind, a bow and a pack full of gear. Practice putting up and taking down your blind in the dark if needed, otherwise put your blind in place days ahead of your hunt to allow the animals to become accustomed to it and have it ready and waiting for you to slip into on opening morning.
Take the time in early spring to assemble the necessary gear and prepare your mind and body for bowhunting turkeys and you should have a memorable turkey season ahead!