TURKEY HUNTING WITH A BOW
By Joe Arterburn
Add extra challenge, excitement to your hunt
Bill Lewis, a Nebraska Bowhunter Education and Archery Mentor Program instructor (also pro staffer for Mathews Solocam Bows, Primos Hunting Calls and Mossy Oak Camouflage) who has bowhunted turkeys for 25 years, shares these hunting tips.
Be comfortable and experienced with your bow. Lewis prefers a quiet compound bow he has practiced with enough to be confident shooting at the small target area of a turkey. His bow has black risers because he hunts inside a blind, which has a dark interior. He wears black clothing, not camouflage, to be concealed from sharp-eyed turkeys, which can pick out movement, such as drawing a bow, in the blind. Cover hands and head, which move most.
Compound bows are great for turkey hunting because once you pull past the let-off point, you hold only a small percentage of the bow’s peak pulling weight, so you can wait for the turkey to be in position for a good shot.
Since shots are at short distances, preferably 20 or even ten yards, arrow speed is not a factor, so light draw weights will work.
Check state regulations. Some allow mechanical broadheads with spring-out blades, some don’t. Usually a minimum cutting width is required. Blunt-tipped arrows, which are aimed to deliver a blow to the turkey’s head, may also be permitted. “I prefer mechanical broadheads for more cutting surface when they open,” Lewis said.
Get comfortable. Use a chair and bow holder. Turkeys aren’t as sensitive to blinds as deer, so you don’t have to set it days in advance. Place your blind in the path you expect turkeys to take. “It’s easier to hunt turkeys where they want to be and are used to going,” Lewis said. And don’t have blind openings face the sun, which spotlights you.
Place decoys within 15 yards of your blind, where visible by turkeys, for close shots. Decoy movement can be key, so use wind to your advantage or a pull cord to create movement. Tip: Use a stake to keep decoys from spinning and facing the direction you want.
Practice like you hunt, in hunting clothes and facemask, shooting from a sitting position at turkey-size targets. If you can’t draw your bow smoothly with feet off the ground, you probably need a lighter-drawing bow. “Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect,” Lewis said.
A tom’s vital organs and head are roughly the same size and hitting either will likely kill him. A head-shot is usually a kill or clean miss. Body shots may wound a turkey, so practice. Bill prefers aiming in the middle of the body straight up the leg, a little forward.
Never wear red, white or blue while turkey hunting. Those are colors of a tom’s head, which other hunters may mistakenly shoot. Use your voice to get another hunter’s attention—don’t wave camo-covered arms. Know where your hunting partners are and use orange on blinds, if necessary. Covering your bird (and decoys) while carrying adds safety too.
All turkeys sound different; you don’t have to sound perfect. Imitate turkey sounds you hear. Smooth strokes with a striker on a slate call or box call work best.
Patterning turkeys increases chance of success. Knowing where they roost, nest, water and feed are important.