Bowhunting tips for next turkey season

Bowhunters need to understand the anatomy of a turkey to make a clean, ethical shot. (Picture by Pete Rogers)

It’s almost deer season, so why are you writing about turkey hunting? Well, first of all, this column doesn’t run during turkey season. And secondly, it is my hope that when it does roll around, you have something to draw on to help you prepare for getting your gobbler.

Hunting turkeys with archery equipment is a challenge like no other in the outdoors. It can be the most frustrating activity available to hunters. However, applying certain methods can put the odds in your favor. Let’s look at some ways and equipment to help you be more successful next spring.

When hunting turkeys with archery equipment, using blinds to conceal your movements while drawing your bow is essential.

Many people say “field turkeys’” are the hardest to hunt with your bow. Jeff Young of Pelzer, SC disagrees.

Hub-style blinds are excellent for turkeys because the birds ignore them altogether.

As Young said, “When I see turkeys in a field, I find the highest point on that field for my blind, and I have it set up 45 minutes before first light.  I set out two hen decoys and one jake decoy, and I wait.”

Calling

Once the turkeys have entered the field, calling to them to get their attention may be all that is needed. Once the ole Tom sees the decoy spread, he is likely to come investigate. Subtle calling to keep him coming is all it takes.

“Once the mature bird sees the decoys, a jake with hens, he can’t stand it and will often come on in for a shot,” Young said.

Bowhunting for turkeys requires different equipment than for other big game. The arrows are the same, but the broadheads can be different, and hunters should tune them before going afield. Turkeys do not require as much draw weight either. Lowering your draw weight for turkey season can be beneficial because you often have to hold your draw longer while waiting for the Tom to present the best angle for the shot.

Accuracy

Shot placement on turkeys is critical for the archer. The lungs and heart of the turkey are much lower on the body than most people realize, and non-lethal shots can occur if the arrow is not placed in the correct location.

Practicing on paper or 3-D targets of turkeys will help, but many of the 3-D targets do not have the scoring rings in the actual vitals of the turkey. Studying the anatomy of the turkey will help make ethical shots.

If you are hunting from a blind, shots will normally be less than 20 yards. You will rarely need to shoot farther than that, because the birds are almost always fully committed when they are coming to the calling and decoys.

“I have never shot farther than 18 yards on turkeys out of my blind,” Young said.

As to where he sets his decoys in relation to the blind, Young said, “No more than 15 yards from my shooting window.”

Go heavy

A personal preference for hunting turkeys is a small, heavy broadhead that can penetrate the thick feathers quickly and easily. When shooting broadside, the arrow has to fly through wing feathers (and/or bones) and chest feathers prior to entering the body cavity. For this reason, I prefer a 125-grain three-blade fixed broadhead that will cut on contact and make its way into the vitals quickly and efficiently. I prefer to use my Hoyt Compound bow, shooting 55 pounds. I use 150-grain two-blades out of the 45-pound recurve or longbow. Young agrees.

“Cut-on-contact broadheads seem to outperform mechanicals on turkeys in my experience,” he said. “And heavier broadheads allow for better penetration from the slower-shooting traditional bows.”

Whether you are new to hunting turkeys or an old pro, archery hunting for turkeys is a challenge in itself, and one that you should not pass up if given the opportunity.


Not easy:

Turkey hunting is challenging enough, but doing it with archery equipment makes it even tougher. That’s part of why it’s so rewarding to harvest one of these wily birds with a bow.

About Pete Rogers 163 Articles
Pete Rogers of Taylors, S.C., is employed with the USDA Wildlife Services and has been a sporting writer and photographer for over a decade. He has a real passion for trapping and enjoys sharing his outdoors experiences with his wife and five children.

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