Bow hunting turkeys is a challenging thing to do during the spring season. One simple mistake, and you won’t be able to hit your target. Now, it may sound simple as setting up a blind in a field and yelping until they appear. But there are a lot more challenges waiting for you.
So, if you’ve never gone hunting before, or if you’ve only done it with a shotgun, here are the essential tips and information to get you started on how to hunt turkey with a bow.
About the Turkeys
The Turkey population was estimated to be 30,000 in 1930. In comparison, the lower 48 states currently hold approximately 7 million turkeys. Their recovery was made possible by collaborating hunters, state wildlife agencies, and the National Wild Turkey Foundation.
So, why spring? It is the best time for hunting season because it’s the time of turkey breeding. It can make them more open to calling.
A turkey hunt can be hard because of their extraordinary hearing and vision. They have sensitive sight and hearing. Color vision and 180-degree peripheral vision help the turkey see the woods in vivid detail. So before going to hunt a turkey, you should be well prepared.
What to Wear (Proper Gear)
Wear full camo that blends in with the surroundings to fool the turkeys or to not scare them away. Use a facemask or face paint, as well as a camouflage hat, gloves, pants, and long sleeves. And, because the turkey’s head is red, white, and blue, never wear those colors when hunting them.
Scouting is the First Move
You have to spend a few days walking the woods and looking for fresh signs. There are different ways to locate turkeys:
- Boots on the ground – go outside to look for turkeys or turkey signs. You’ll be looking for scratching, possibly droppings, or turkey tracks, all of which indicate the presence of birds in the area.
- Drive around – look and listen for birds. If you see birds in a field before the season begins, you can pretty much bet that those birds will be back in that field at some point.
- Use of trail cameras – this will allow you to monitor forested logging roads, small clearings, or simply the field edge with the most tracks. If you’ve correctly set the date and time stamp, you can dial in the times of day when turkeys most likely visit your location.
Bow Set Up
Start by lowering the draw weight of your bow. While waiting for the turkey to get closer, you may have to hold your bow at full draw for an extended time.
If you’re not hunting from a blind, bright fletching on your arrows can attract birds. So have some arrows fletched in camouflage colors, or darken your fletching with a marker.
As for the best broadhead type to use, it depends on your personal preference. The traditional option to aim at the body to strike the heart and lung area are:
- Mechanical Blade – more preferable by many bowhunters as it transfers more of your arrow’s energy to the bird than fixed blades.
- Fixed Blade – much safer when shooting out of a pop-up ground blind with shoot-thru windows because mechanical blades may pre-deploy before hitting the bird due to the shoot-thru mesh catching on the mechanical blades.
Turkey Hunting from a Blind
By completely concealing the bowhunter, portable ground blinds solve many turkey-hunting challenges. Drawing a bow unseen is the most critical moment in turkey hunting, which is why bowhunters prefer ground blinds.
Also, make sure your blind is big enough for you to draw your bow back. The next step is to be able to see approaching turkeys from all sides of your blind.
Tactics for Hunting
The tactic of “roosting” is an excellent way to find turkeys and predict where they’ll be in the morning. To roost turkeys, go to the location where you’ve already seen turkeys or their signs.
Turkeys will “shock gobble” in response to loud noises, but most turkey hunters prefer less scary sounds, such as a crow or an owl. Make a short burst of crow or owl calls, then listen for that distinct gobble. If there’s no response, walk 100 yards and try again until you hear them.
2 Ways to Attract the Turkeys
Calling turkeys is fun yet effective to attract them. And there are four basic types:
- Box calls – are excellent for calling in turkeys from a long distance but require some practice to produce realistic sounds.
- Slate calls – can produce a variety of loud to subtle calls that attract turkeys to approach.
- Diaphragm (mouth) calls – the most flexible but also the most difficult to use. You do it by forcing air over a latex reed that sits on the roof of your mouth. (1)
- Push-button calls – are simple to use and require little practice to produce realistic sounds.
Tip: Don’t over-call because turkeys are susceptible to it. You could stop once you have the bird’s attention and it saw your decoys.
A 3D turkey is an excellent decoy, and the more realistic it is, the better it will perform. It applies to the appearance and the body posture, so purchase decoys in aggressive or assertive poses to cover a wide range of hunting scenarios. It is the key to eliciting a reaction from birds and convincing them to commit. (2)
Tip: Set your decoys close to the blind for the easiest shot possible. Depending on your preference, you can set it up 5 to 7 yards or 8 to 12 yards from your blind.
Right Shot Placements
When it comes to where and how to shoot a turkey with a bow, you have plenty of options.
A broadside bird out of strut is your best bet for a body shot with a traditional-style broadhead. Follow the turkey’s leg upward to the center of its body and aim for the thigh to hit the heart/lung area. If he’s facing you, aim for the base or just above the beard, about 4 inches below the neck.
A bird in full strut facing away provides an excellent opportunity. You can draw because he’s not looking at you. Point your arrow toward Turkey’s bottom at the base of the tail.
Although headshots, frontal shots, and even rear shots are lethal shot placements, they present a tiny target, and I will not recommend it for beginning archers. It is critical to understand your capabilities as well as your level of experience.
Here’s more a more detailed guide on where do you shoot a turkey with a bow.
Bonus: Cooking Turkeys
Open its abdomen between its breastbone and vent and remove its organs. After that, put the bird where it can cool before bringing it home and butchering it quickly.
When butchering a turkey, you must first skin it. Then, debone the breast and remove the drumsticks for even, thorough cooking and the best use of its cuts. Brining or marinating turkey breasts results in moist and tender meat. Drumsticks are excellent for ground meat, sausage, soup, and pressure cooking. The heart, liver, and giblets of a turkey can also be cooked and eaten.
(1) diaphragm – https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/diaphragm
(2) body posture – https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/body-posture
(3) Cooking Turkeys – https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-a-turkey-the-simplest-easiest-method-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-160905