4 Things to Know When Bowhunting Spring Turkeys

Apr 21, 2021 | Turkey Hunting | 0 comments

By: Colton Heward

Many “purist” turkey hunters will argue that turkeys are meant to be hunted with a shotgun and only a shotgun. Personally, I respectfully disagree. Have I shot turkeys with a shotgun before? Absolutely, and I fully intend to shoot more. However, hunting spring turkeys with a stick and string provides a fantastic opportunity to fine tune your equipment for the fall hunts and most importantly, it is downright fun!

The challenge of run-n-gun turkey hunting with a bow is rewarding as it is frustrating, requiring slightly different tactics then hunting with a shotgun. Here are four tips to keep in mind this spring as you venture into the turkey woods with your bow in tow.

Hunter Positioning

When setting up with a shotgun most hunters position themselves at the base of a tree and wait motionless for the incoming tom to strut within range. This approach rarely works when hunting with a bow outside the concealment of a ground blind. The necessary movement when coming to full draw will spook an incoming tom before you hit your anchor point. Position yourself on the backside of a hill, or behind a tree or rock that allows you to come to full draw out of eyesight from the incoming tom. Once at full draw, slowly and methodically move back into eye sight of the turkey, settle your pin, and let er’ rip.

Decoy Placement

BaseMap ambassador Evan Williams of Hoyt Archery successfully harvested two birds in Kansas after a successful decoy setup.
Turkey decoys facilitate the demise of thousands of birds across the country every year. The placement of these decoys, especially when bowhunting, can make the difference between success and failure. Always set your tom or jake decoy up facing you. A dominant tom often confronts the decoy head on exposing his backside and focusing his attention away from you.
Also, anticipate what direction the birds will be coming from and situate yourself so that they will approach from your right or left. This puts you out of direct line of sight when a bird comes in focused on the decoys.
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When to Draw

Learn to take the incoming birds temperature when deciding the best time to draw your bow. For example, if a hot tom sprints into your decoys and begins beating on them, he is so preoccupied with the task at hand that he will rarely notice the movement of you coming to full draw. However, if a tom apprehensively approaches the decoys on full alert, one wrong move and the bird will be gone. When dealing with a weary tom, use the bird’s movements to your advantage. One of the best times to draw is when a turkey struts and turns away completely concealing his head. It is also not uncommon for a tom to attempt to breed a hen decoy. This opens up another small time frame for a slow and deliberate draw of your bow. Regardless of when you draw, you will likely need to settle your pin and squeeze the trigger rather quickly. Good shot opportunities are generally fleeting and require a swift and precise arrow from the hunter.

Shot Placement

With vitals roughly the size of your fist the margin for error is small when bowhunting turkeys. A head or neck shot provides the quickest kill, but the small target combined with the constant movement make this a very low percentage shot. The vitals of a turkey are tucked behind the point of the wing where the wing bone protrudes out of the chest. An arrow placed here results in a quick death and the bird typically dying in sight. If the bird is facing you, an arrow through the top of the beard will center the vitals. If you miss your mark and hit low, put another arrow in the bird, or don’t let the bird get out of sight. A turkey with an arrow through the bowels will bleed very little and go a long way. The old adage “hit em’ high watch em’ die, hit em’ low watch em’ go” is a great rule of thumb when bowhunting turkeys.

Get Out and Go

With seasons opening up across the country you don’t have to look far to find opportunities to hunt turkeys. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or first time turkey hunter, the pursuit of gobbling toms on the ground with a bow provides a worthy challenge. If you are lucky, you will wind up punching your tag end enjoying some of the best wild meat that mother nature offers. If not, you will get to stretch the legs and enjoy a day outside during one of the most pleasant and picturesque times of the year. What are you waiting for? Get out and go!

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