Tips for Bowhunting Turkeys

It seems that sooner or later every bowhunter feels the tug to try turkey hunting with a bow. And while some would say that turkey hunting is a shotgun sport, others have experienced first hand that few things can rival the excitement of turkey hunting in the spring with bow in hand. So whether you’re just getting started, or have been at it for years, here’s a few tips that we hope will help in your quest to kill a turkey with a bow this spring.

Hunt from a Ground Blind

Some hunters love ground blinds, others hate them. The bottom line is there’s no more effective way of bow-killing turkeys than with the use of a ground blind. Sure, you may feel more macho sitting out in the wide open hunting turkeys face to face. But if you want to kill more birds, season after season, jump in the ground blind. You can get away with so much movement while in the blind. I never cease to be amazed at the fact that I can draw my bow on a bird that’s facing me just 3 yards away when hunting with a ground blind. They are simply priceless.  And unlike deer, turkeys are not scared of blinds that were just popped up minutes before their arrival or are not brushed into their surroundings.  Our team has killed a pile of birds by popping up a blind in the middle of the wide open.

Turkey hunters setting up ground blind
When bowhunting turkeys a ground blind offers many advantages.

Use Decoys and Keep Them Close

Decoys are important when bowhunting turkeys simply because you need to bring your birds closer than when gun hunting. When runnin’ and gunnin’ with a shotgun, you can crawl closer, move to where the birds and do all the sneaking you need to. But not when hunting with a bow. You need to draw those birds much closer. Decoys are the best way to make that happen.  When bowhunting turkeys put your decoys close to your blind.

turkey hunter with decoys
The most popular setup for bowhunting turkeys is a Jake and 1 or 2 hens. Remember to keep them close for easier shots.

Place Decoys Where You Want Your Shot to Be

I always encourage hunters to place their decoys where they want their shot to happen. Unlike deer decoys that cause deer to circle downwind or posture from a distance, turkeys typically move right to the decoy for a confrontation. They want to make eye contact and deter a gobbler decoy or try to breed the decoy if it’s a hen. Either way, he will likely be all over your decoys. So put your decoys at the exact spot you want to kill your bird. I like my shots very close. My decoys are often at 7-10 yards when bowhunting and it works really well. When the birds commit to your decoys you’ll be presented with a chip shot, and if they hang up 20-30 yards out you can still make it happen.

turkey hunter with Montana turkey
I placed my decoy 6 yards from the blind and called this big Montana bird to the exact spot I wanted the shot.

Use Motion decoys

Decoy technology has come a long way in the last decade or two. More realistic and lifelike decoys have caused turkey hunters to step up their game a bit to keep up with the neighbors. Let’s face it. You don’t want to be the guy using the cartoon-looking turkey decoy when the guy on the farm next door is using a a turkey so lifelike you could pet it. And there’s really no better way to bring your decoy to life, particularly from a distance, than with movement. Motion decoys come in all types these days with feeders, spinners, strutters and more. The key is motion. If it’s moving, it confirms to wild birds you are the real deal.

Just be sure to check your local game laws before heading into the field.  In some states the use of electronic turkey decoys is still illegal.  In which case manual motion via a cord or piece of fishing line will work just fine.

motion-turkey-decoy
Use decoys, keep them close, and make them move.

Hunt Mid-Day

Nothing compares to a quick early morning fly-down hunt off the roost.  It’s what we dream of in the months leading up to turkey season. But if you want to hunt turkeys when they are most vulnerable and much more susceptible to being called into range, then make it mid-day. The mid-day Happy Hour is hard to beat when it comes to spring turkey hunting. Gobblers will be left by the hens and lonely the hours around noon. Be in the woods from 10:00-2:00 every chance you get. It will be worth your time.

Shoot Large Cutting Mechanical Broadheads

Turkeys just might be one of the toughest targets you’ll find on any animal. Finding the vitals on a strutting gobbler can be like finding a needle in a haystack, until you get the hang of it. The vitals are easy to miss, even at close distances. That’s why I love large cutting mechanical broadheads that will make up for any flaws in my shot placement. The 2″+ cutting broadheads from NAP, Rage, and Swhacker are all great options for bowhunting turkeys.  Unlike big game animals when hunting turkeys you don’t need to worry about penetration.  It’s all about making as large of a hole as possible.

turkey hunting broadhead
Mechanical broadheads with a huge cutting diameter are your best option for turkey hunting.

Consider the Head Shot

As mentioned, finding the vitals in the midst of all the feathers can be tough. For that reason more and more bowhunters are aiming for the head and neck when turkey hunting. And while this may sound like some super hero feat, the head and neck of a turkey is honestly not that much smaller than what you’ll be shooting when aiming for a body shot. The head and neck shot is also a great option because it’s either instant death or a clean miss.

Check out this collection of the 5 Best Turkey Hunting Head Shots.

Practice Drawing and Shooting from Sitting and Kneeling Positions

I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at the number of shooters that practice in the preseason from a standing position, never once attempting the shot they’ll actually be taking from the ground blind or while sitting on the ground. Drawing and shooting from a seated position, or while kneeling, can be much tougher than you think. Eliminate any surprises. Make sure you can handle the poundage to draw when your sitting on your butt or twisted at the waist.

Keep these quick tips in mind as you set out in search of your next turkey with a bow. Bowhunting for turkeys provides the opportunity to see and hear turkeys in way you’ve never experienced before. There’s nothing quite like it!

For great turkey bowhunting action make sure you check out Bowhunt or Die – the Best Show for Serious Bowhunters.

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