Turkey Hunting Tactics for the Bowhunter

by Tracy Breen

Hardcore bowhunters looking for a challenging hunt will be pleased with a spring turkey hunt.  Harvesting a longbeard with a bow can be difficult.  In fact, the odds of tagging a tom with a bow in the spring woods is about the same as tagging an elk in the fall out West – a low 10%!  In some states, the odds are a bit higher.  Either way, it is safe to say wrapping a tag around the leg of a tom in the spring that was taken with a stick and string is difficult.  Luckily for bowhunters, there are several methods and gear that can increase your odds this spring.  Below are a few of my favorite tactics to use to outsmart wise old gobblers.

For starters, a longbeards’ first line of defense is his eyesight and the eyesight of the ladies he hangs out with.  The eyesight of a turkey is ten times better than the eyesight of a person.  Most bowhunters who hunt turkeys get busted trying to draw their bow.  To solve this problem, plan to hunt from some type of blind.  The easiest option is to use a pop-up blind of some type.  There are many good brands available.  Pop-up blinds are lightweight for running and gunning with and can be put up in under a minute.  Most pop-up blinds come with a black interior so when a turkey looks in the window, they won’t be able to see you even if you are drawing.

If a pop-up ground blind is out of your price range, consider building a ground blind out of branches like an old-fashioned deer blind. This tactic works well if you are hunting near a roosting area where you know the travel pattern of the birds so you can set your blind up accordingly. The problem with a homemade ground blind is you can’t move it.

Another option is using a Branch Fan by Carnivore Hunting Products(www.carnivorehuntingproducts.com). The Branch Fan is a simple metal device that you stick into the ground in front of you.  It has branch clamps on it that you can stick several branches in which will break up your outline.  The device is lightweight, can be taken anywhere and almost anywhere you hunt you will be able to find old branches to put in the Branch Fan to break up your outline.

If you are going to bow hunt without a blind, try to locate as big of a tree trunk as possible to sit against to break up your outline.  When I hunt without a blind, I often spray down with an ultraviolet (UV) killer which will get rid of the UV glow that hunting clothes give off that turkeys can see.  The spray helps hunters blend in with their surroundings better which you will need if you hunt without a blind.

If you are going to bow hunt for turkeys, learning how to use a diaphragm mouth call is also necessary. When bowhunting, your hands are rarely free to operate a box call or slate call because you are holding your bow. By mastering a mouth call, you can call and draw your bow at the same time. When I am about to let the arrow fly, I often cluck or putt on my mouth call to get the tom to look up or stop walking which allows me to take aim and make a good shot.  Yelping on a box call, pushing a push button or operating a slate call adds complication to an already complicated task.

If you plan to bowhunt turkeys, be prepared.  Gain permission to as much private ground as you can by knocking on the doors of land owners.  If land owners say no, try to find as many public land spots as you can to hunt on.  I like having many backup plans when turkey hunting because I often need two or three backup plans.  If you call in a longbeard and spook him as you come to full draw, chances are you won’t be able to call him in for a few days. Having a backup plan gives you other options. The more backup plans you have, the better chance you have of having a longbeard in the freezer before the season ends.

Decoys can be a blessing and a curse. Sometimes decoys spook turkeys and other times they work like magic.  When bowhunting, I often roll the dice and then use them because I need all the help I can get to bring a tom within bow range.  A decoy is a good yardage marker and will often entice a tom within twenty yards … and the closer a turkey is to me the better chance I have of tagging him.

I always have a range finder in my pocket when I turkey hunt because misjudging the distance to a turkey even by a few yards can result in a miss or crippled bird. The vitals on a turkey are small. If you know the exact yardage, your chances of scoring are much better.

The saying practice makes perfect holds true when it comes to bowhunting. If you want to score on a longbeard, you must be able to hit a target the size of a grapefruit consistently. For realistic practice, I shoot from a seated position inside a pop-up ground blind. I either shoot at a 3D turkey target or a Master Target turkey target that I can pin onto a block style target. Regardless of the option you choose, invest in a turkey target so you know where to aim.

My favorite place to aim at a turkey is directly above his legs. By shooting above the legs, I take out the tendons going to the legs so the bird can run away and I hit the back of his chest cavity. Most birds that are shot but not recovered run away and hide. Taking out the legs eliminates this possibility. Other shot options include aiming at the head or just under the butt of the wing where it attaches to the body, which will result in a lung shot.

Old fashioned woodsmanship can play a key role in tagging a bird. Spend a lot of time scouting and figuring out the daily routine of the tom you plan to hunt. Using scouting cameras is one way of figuring what time of day the flock of turkeys you are hunting travels between the roost and feeding or dusting areas.  The other option is figuring out the patterns by spending time in the woods with a pair of binoculars in your hands.  When push comes to shove and calling isn’t working, sitting near a dusting bowl or a well-used feeding area can be productive just like deer hunting in the fall.  Sitting in a travel corridor or near a food plot and being patient can often end in success.

Turkey hunting can be tough but by working hard, having a few of the right gadgets and practicing your yelps on a mouth call, you can up the odds and just might be able to celebrate Thanksgiving a little early this year.

The Author is a full time outdoor writer. To learn more about him visit www.tracybreen.com


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