For most diehard turkey hunters, harvesting a turkey with a bow is the ultimate challenge. Sooner or later, many turkey hunters who have taken several turkeys with a gun decide to accept the challenge of harvesting a turkey with a bow. Unfortunately, most hunters who have tried it end up going home empty handed for one reason or another. Regardless of how skilled hunters are with a bow and arrow, harvesting a turkey with a bow is extremely challenging. In some ways, it is more challenging than harvesting a deer with a bow. Turkeys are smaller and their vital area is extremely small, making it difficult to hit the mark.
On the other hand, killing a tom with archery gear isn’t impossible. If hunters possess the right gear and pay attention to the fine details, they may end up smiling with a harvested bird they took with a bow. It may take an extra few days in the woods to accomplish the task, but how many of us would object to spending an extra day or two in the woods?
Practice Makes Perfect
For starters, if you want to kill a turkey with a bow, you need to be extremely accurate. Mere inches separate the difference between going home with a turkey and going home empty handed. Purchasing a 3D turkey target is a wise investment. You can shoot at a block target all day, but once you shoot at a turkey target, you will realize just how small their vitals are — about the size of a softball. I wouldn’t recommend shooting at a turkey that is more than 20 yards away unless your name is Robin Hood. Almost anyone can consistently group arrows inside something the size of a softball at close ranges. However, at 30 yards, it is a whole different story.
Long before you enter the woods, you need to know where to aim on a turkey. Most hunters believe the best place to aim is where the wing bone meets the body. Even though you can kill a turkey if you hit them near the wing bone, other locations on the turkey provide a better target. My favorite shot is just above where the legs meet the body. The vitals on a turkey are farther back than most people realize. They are directly above the turkeys’ legs. By sending an arrow through the top of the legs, you are sending it into the boiler room. Shooting a turkey above the legs also eliminates their ability to run away, game over.
Another fatal place to shoot a turkey is in the head. If you hit them in the head, the game is over instantly. If you miss them, they live to see another day and aren’t wounded, unlike many birds that are shot in the body. The disadvantage to this method is not many of us are good enough with a bow to take a head shot.
Picking out the perfect broadhead is very important. For deer hunting, almost any broadhead will do the job. With turkey hunting, the right broadhead makes all the difference in the world. This year a variety of companies have introduced broadheads just for turkey hunting.
Steel Force has designed a Phat Head for turkey hunting called the Phat Head Talon that will cause turkeys everywhere to lose sleep at night. To impede penetration, Steel Force designed the head with serrated edges that face forward. These razor sharp edges devastate the vitals of a turkey and stay in the turkey, continuing to do more damage as the turkey runs for cover instead of passing through like so many other broadheads. The Talon has a 1″ cutting diameter and is available in 100-grain and 125-grain models.
The American Broadhead Company is bringing the Turkey Tearror Broadhead to Thanksgiving dinner. This new 3-blade broadhead is unlike anything on the market. It has a cut-on-contact tip similar to American Broadheads’ Sonic Head, but near the rear of the ferrule are three spur-shaped, razor-sharp blades designed to rip and tear their way through feathers and flesh. Like the Sonic Head, the Tearror has 420SS DenseMax blades that are said to be 50% stronger than regular stainless steel. The Tearror has a 1 3/16″ cutting diameter and is available in 100 grains.
Diehard Fuse Broadhead fans can find a similar broadhead in the Fuse lineup called the Strut Buster.
The Bullhead from Magnus Archery is a new broadhead designed to end a gobblers’ gobbling. The three-blade design will take down even the toughest turkey. Each blade is a whopping .048″ stainless steel, giving the broadhead superior strength and knockdown power. The offset blade design increases arrow spin which aides in accuracy. The Bullhead is available in two sizes. The 100-grain model has a 2 ¾” cutting diameter that can be used to take head and body shots on turkeys and other small game. The 125-grain model offers a 4″ cutting diameter and should only be used when taking head shots.
Another problem associated with hunting turkeys with a bow is being seen when you come to full draw. The way to solve that problem is to use a pop-up ground blind. In recent years, companies like Double Bull have introduced ground blinds that pop up in a few seconds and weigh less than 20 pounds. They also have a black interior so turkeys can’t see inside them. A hunter could do jumping jacks in a ground blind and not be seen, thanks to the black interior. A pop-up blind makes harvesting a turkey with a bow easier than it used to be.
Decoys are a must when hunting with a bow. They serve a few purposes. They help you judge distance and help bring a tom within bow range. If you set a decoy at 10 yards and see a turkey at 20, you can use the decoy as a reference point. Having a decoy present often brings a tom those last few yards that we often need to feel comfortable with a shot. When choosing decoys, consider using a strutting decoy like a Pretty Boy. Strutting decoys often bring territorial toms within bow range.
You won’t want to leave home without a rangefinder. When turkey hunting, if you misjudge the distance by a few yards, you may miss the turkey completely. Having a rangefinder allows you to know exactly what the yardage is. The click of a button can make the difference between success and failure.
Some hunters don’t leave home without a string tracker. Although it can be very useful in locating your bird after the shot, it can also impact arrow flight. If you are going to use one, practice with it a lot before you go hunting. If you aim for the vitals above the legs as previously discussed, you won’t need one.
Knowing how to use mouth calls is vital when bowhunting for turkeys, especially if you are hunting alone. If you use a box call or a slate call, you can’t operate the call and shoot your bow at the same time. With a diaphragm call, you can cluck a few times while at full draw, just before letting the arrow fly. This keeps the tom interested and standing still while you take the shot.
With the right gear and knowledge, killing a tom with a bow can be done. The hardest part is the recovery after the shot and we can eliminate that problem using the options listed above. Owning the right gear can make or break a hunt, as with all hunting. However, if you don’t know how to use the gear you own, you won’t succeed. Practice with your bow as much as possible before the season opens. If you have a few of the items listed above and can hit an apple at 20 yards, you just might end up smiling over a tom on opening day that you harvested with a stick and string.