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Bow Hunting Turkeys

Two Longbeards in Bow range

          As turkey hunting has grown in popularity over the past few decades. Hunters have moved to increasing the odds in the turkey’s favor – (as if they needed it). Many dedicated bow hunters have been hunting turkeys with archery gear for some time. While it’s true that turkeys can be harvested with archery gear. Many hunters are just making this transition.

          For turkey hunting with your bow, the same equipment you use for whitetails in the Carolina’s and Georgia will suffice. And while some will disagree, I would recommend that you reduce your draw weight to some degree. From experience, its better NOT to get a complete pass through for turkeys. Personally, shooting my PRIME Shift, I set the draw weight at sixty pounds for turkeys, but fifty or even forty-five is plenty for ethical shots at turkeys. A lot of turkeys are harvested annually using Bear Grizzly’s, and Kodiaks, set at 45#. The point is, don’t overdo it with your draw weight, proving you can draw and hold seventy or eighty pounds does nothing to impress the turkeys. Save the testosterone for other ventures.

Outside of the bow – arrows are the same also, using the same shafts for all game only makes sense and saves money. A good carbon or aluminum shaft that you are confident with will get the job done. Next are broadheads – while there are some broadheads marketed for turkeys, while I have not tested them all, I have tried a lot of them, and would suggest that broadheads marketed for turkeys are the same broadheads marketed for deer, elk etc, just in different packaging. Personally, I prefer a fixed blade for turkeys, such as the Montec by G5 Outdoors. This one piece steel broadhead is lethal on turkeys. It comes in 85, 100, 125 grain configurations respectfully.

So we have covered some of the equipment for hunting turkeys with archery gear, now let’s get to the techniques. Admittedly most turkeys harvested with archery gear are taken from portable ground blinds. Turkeys for some reason, seem to totally ignore portable ground blinds, and setting up some decoys at 20 yards in front of a ground blind in a fairly open area gives the archer a chance to get the turkeys in range, and draw their bow undetected. But for turkey hunters who like chasing birds, and calling birds, this set up leaves you somewhat empty. Hunting turkeys is about the chase, and more times than not, getting a turkey to come to a particular spot will work sometimes, but more times than not, you have to move some to get turkeys.

This is my preferred method. When hunting with archery gear, I use the same techniques I use when hunting with firearms. This is where my Prime Shift comes in play, with its 30” axel to axel length; I can easily draw this bow while sitting flat on the ground with plenty of ground clearance. As with all archery hunting, knowing when to draw will make or break your opportunity. This is also where the lower draw weight comes into play. Using a lighter draw weight allows me to draw the bow almost effortlessly with a straight smooth motion that is absent of jerky motions, if fluid and smooth. As soon as a turkey presents an opportunity, (similarly to when you would raise your gun) I draw the bow, and prepare for the shot.

Last is shot placement, with turkeys, only heart shots will anchor your bird. This means, if the bird is facing you, the kill shot is at the point where the beard emerges from his chest. Broadside, is at the wing joint, and rear facing, is right through the center of the body. While some archers prefer this shot, since a strutting birds fan hides your drawing the bow, personally, I prefer the other options, seldom has a turkey shot facing ever left the spot of impact.

When using Archery gear, aim at the circles for a good clean kill

In recent years, some hunting television shows have been taking “head shots” only at turkeys. Each hunter has to decide for themselves if this is something they would do; however, I would never recommend taking a head shot at a turkey, especially one that you have been working for sometimes several hours to get into range. Making a good clean heart shot at a bird called into range is a great reward. Decapitating him does not increase the accomplishment, only makes good pictures more difficult.

If you haven’t had the chance to chase birds with archery gear, this is a great year to get after them. Harvesting a good eastern turkey with archery tackle will be the highlight of your season.