Sure, a lot of guys go after turkey with a scatter gun. However, if you want to make a tough hunt even tougher, try it with archery gear. Bowhunting turkey is without a doubt one of the most demanding, yet most exciting experiences you can have in the spring woods.
But, before you try to call in a “Thunder Chicken” and close the deal with stick and string there are a few gear options that you should consider.
Unlike whitetails or other big-game, turkeys don’t demand a high-poundage bow rig and lightning-fast arrow speeds. What they do demand is reaching full draw undetected. This is especially true if you are using natural camouflage to conceal your movement. If you are in a ground blind, most of your movement will be hidden; depending on the quality and size of the blind and a few other factors. In short, choose a bow that draws smooth as butter. If not, you can reduce your current draw weight.
No special arrows are needed here. In fact, the same shafts you use for deer, elk, or bear will work just fine. However, you might consider changing one thing about your current arrows - the fletching. While bright colors are great for big-game hunting, turkeys see color much as we do; unlike deer that see mostly black, white, gray, and some color in the blue and red spectrum. If you don’t want to replace your fletching or need a quick fix, a permanent marker always does the trick.
Practice shooting from a kneeling or sitting position before going after turkey. This will be the typical stance when shooting from a blind.
This is where your decisions on gear get critical. You can get by with some things, but a poor broadhead choice is not one of them. The wrong broadhead will allow your turkey to either fly away unscathed or do so with just enough life left to die somewhere else. Neither is acceptable.
When choosing a broadhead, a large cutting swath is preferred. Mechanicals make this an easy option as many are made with wide cutting diameters. In fact, most manufacturers are now making broadheads designed specifically for turkeys. For the most part, entry and exit wounds are not as important as delivering a maximum shock to the bird - even if the arrow doesn’t pass through.
The biggest asset a decoy brings to the table is that it takes the attention off you and puts it on the turkey's desire to breed. They are also good for bringing in birds from great distances. If a bird can spot your decoy (and hear you), there is a better chance he will come in. Of course, that isn’t always the case. Crafty birds are notorious for hanging up just out of sight. I like to use models that are lightweight, portable, and set up lightning fast. Mountain gobblers don’t allow for very elaborate setups as you see on television.
There are hundreds of turkey calls on the market, and each is unique in its own way. Perhaps the most versatile is the standard mouth call. The beauty of this call is that you can make all of the sounds you need without moving your hands. This might not be a major issue if you are hiding inside of a ground blind. If so, enjoy all of the variances between a diaphragm, box, and slate call. However, if you are caught outside of your hidey-hole and a bird is closing in fast, moving your hands to work a box or slate call isn’t an option.
If you are hunting from inside a blind, you can relax about which pattern to wear. In that instance, all you need is standard black. This will allow you to disappear into the backdrop of the blind practically. If you are on the ground, then choose your camo pattern wisely. And while we can debate favorite camo companies and patterns for days, the bottom line is to choose one that will work well in your region during the time of year you will be hunting.
No matter where you hunt turkey, you must cover your face and hands, or it's game over. However, don’t make the mistake of wearing a face net for the first time in the turkey woods. A face mask can sometimes change your anchor point when shooting your bow, which can drastically alter your arrow's impact point. Therefore, either practice with the mask you plan to hunt with (to check for shooting problems) or ditch the mask for standard, old-school face paint. I prefer the latter.
Tagging a turkey with a bow is not an easy task. Yeah, I know it might be on television. But this is the real world. Reaching your goal won’t happen overnight. Just try not to get discouraged too quickly with the challenge of bowhunting turkeys because take it from me - it’s worth the wait.
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