Skip to main content

Bow Birds: Archery Hunting Spring Gobblers

Bowhunting turkeys is a challenge that often requires adjusted strategies.

Bow Birds: Archery Hunting Spring Gobblers

As with all turkey hunting, knowing a gobbler’s daily movements and routine is critical. Be ready for odd shot angles, and understand your best shot options given a turkey’s body position. (Shutterstock image)

Affiliate Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases.

A bowed-up, full-strut gobbler waddles into the decoy spread. The bird fills with rage as you brim with adrenaline. A surreal scene unfolds as the gobbler whips your strutter decoy, then turns his attention to his newfound love. Little does he know you’re there to kibosh the budding romance. Of course, in that instant, seconds separate you from bowhunting glory, but these final moments of decision making, and all those that preceded it, will lead to positive or poor execution. Bowhunting turkeys isn’t easy, but with the right preparation and a solid game plan, great expectations await.

Understand The Anatomy

While a strutter might look big, its vitals are small. Miss a little left, right, high or low, and it’s a bad day for you and the turkey alike.

On a wild turkey, the most ethical shot opportunity is a head shot. Severing the spine or even decapitating the turkey with a guillotine-style broadhead is incredibly quick and humane. Of course, shots to the heart and lungs are effective, too.

If taking a head shot, aim at the neck. If the turkey is facing away and in full strut, aim at the base of the tail fan. If the turkey is broadside, aim at the wing butt or just below and behind it. Some bowhunters like a straight-on facing shot in which they place the arrow between the base of the neck and the where the beard attaches to the body, but I’m not one of them. In any case, practice these shots on lifelike archery targets well before the season in conditions that simulate those in which you’ll hunt.

Gear Up

Beating a turkey’s eyes while using a bow is quite difficult. However, having the right archery setup can streamline things a bit.

Obviously, you’ll want a bow that works well for you. The bow must fit or you won’t shoot it well enough to hit the target. That said, if a shorter axle-to-axle bow works for you, that’s best option for bowhunting turkeys. Whether in a ground blind or sitting on the ground, a shorter bow length is easier to manage.

Beyond bows, some might choose a fixed-blade broadhead, but I prefer a two-blade expandable head with a large cutting diameter, as they tend to fly better and increase the odds of striking a turkey’s small vitals. Additionally, expandables tend to stay in the bird and not pass through, thereby limiting the turkey’s ability to fly or run off to die. Two-blade options aside, guillotines are better for head shots.

Certain on-bow accessories serve important roles on turkey-specific hunting bows. Where legal, a bow sight with integrated rangefinder provides a hands-free option for measuring accurate distances. Because you’re hunting from the ground, a good built-in bow stand keeps your weapon upright and at the ready whenever a shot opportunity comes.




Pattern A Bird

Learning how, when, where and why a gobbler does what it does is the ultimate challenge, but knowing his habits and tendencies is essential to formulate a solid game plan. Use the habitat and terrain layout of the hunting property to your advantage.

Focus on good roost sites and food sources. Everything revolves around these two things. It’s also good to know the travel routes between these points of interest.

When patterning a bird or the flock in general, use all available tools. Glass from afar. Post trail cameras 1 to 2 feet off the ground. Put boots on the ground and look for sign. Find tracks, droppings, fallen feathers, strut marks and more. All these things are major elements of the hunt whether you use a shotgun or a bow.

Recommended


Also, use apps and maps to find birds. Certain app layers are incredible tools for pinning down potential hot spots to intercept turkeys.

Set Up On The X

Gobblers frequent many different areas that offer potential as good bow setups. Even so, most properties have spots that receive more turkey movement than others. Find these places, even if it requires a lot of effort.

Some of these great locations with higher odds of producing birds include near roost locations, food sources, water sources, fly-up and fly-down landing zones, strut zones, travel routes, near nesting cover (toms follow the hens there) and more. Additionally, specific terrain features that turkeys love include benches, bottoms, draws, edge cover, field edges, flats, hills, hollows, ridges, pinch-points, points, swamps, areas near waterways and more.

The most critical aspect of bowhunting turkeys is getting within bow range. Once you’ve found an area with ample turkey activity, use decoys to boost your odds of drawing them in close. Depending on the phase of the season, a variety of decoy presentations can work. Generally, a dominant tom will circle a decoy, but ultimately it’ll approach male decoys from head-on and make the final approach on a hen deke from the rear. Position decoys accordingly to get the shot you want.

Hunt With A Blind

A ground bind is an excellent option for bowhunters, as it helps hide movement (like when drawing a bow). Staying comfortable is a big part of successfully hunting from ground blinds, and a good chair helps, but make sure that it—along with everything else in the blind—is soundproof.

Keep all windows closed except for one side. If a turkey comes in from a different direction, and you must open another window, close the open one first before slowly opening the other. A silent window system (no Velcro) is essential for this.

Once everything in the blind is ready, practice drawing in different directions to ensure you can get accurate shots off no matter what direction the bird comes from, and watch your broadhead to ensure it won’t catch a window edge during flight. Don’t wait until a gobbler comes in to realize a change is needed.

While I won’t do this for deer, placing a ground blind in the middle of a field without brushing it in works for turkeys. They just don’t seem to pay it much mind.

Leave The Blind Behind

Bowhunting without a blind is a serious challenge but not impossible. First, prep your bow and other gear for this very specific task. Without wrapping or placing anything in or around moving parts on the bow (cams, string, etc.), add some cover to the front of your bow, as well as a bow stand.

When bowhunting turkeys without a blind, it’s even more important to know the local flock and understand the direction from which they will come. Unless surrounded by heavy natural foliage, it’s difficult to turn even 90 degrees to get a shot. Therefore, setting up in the right spot and looking in the right direction is crucial. Brush in, too, but don’t take away your shot opportunities.

Also, place decoys in a manner that increases your odds of a shot opportunity. If you want a broadside shot, position male and female decoys broadside to you, as longbeards will likely approach tom and jake decoys head-on and hen decoys from the rear. And use hands-free calling to coax birds the last few yards into range.

Wait For It

Once ready, settle in and let the hunt unfold. Use decoys to direct turkey traffic, but otherwise, get comfortable and wait for your opportunity. While waiting, range different landmarks, as you might not be able to raise your rangefinder when a bird finally approaches.

Missing turkeys is easy, so lay an extra arrow or two beside you at the ready. (Just don’t roll over onto it or place your hand on that broadhead.)

When the turkey finally comes in, try to read his behavior and body language, which can provide clues as to when to draw your bow or even when to take the shot. Be ready to shoot at odd angles, which are common when hunting turkeys.

Guesstimate the yardage distance and know when to draw. Untimely draws often spook turkeys since you might have to hold at full draw for a while.

Make The Shot

Finally, send it. Sometimes you connect on the bird. Other times you don’t. Being incompetent with your gear; making ranging errors, untimely draws and bad shots; and sheer panic can all lead to missed birds. But, if you practice enough, plan properly, time everything right and do your part to prevent errors, a nice gobbler taken with a bow is a reward well within reach.

Tom Terrors

While fixed broadheads can work, for turkeys I generally prefer expanding or so-called “guillotine” models. Thankfully, there are some very good options on the market. These four, in particular, stand out.

RAGE X-TREME TURKEY BROADHEAD

Josh Honeycutt Rage X-treme Turkey
Rage X-Treme Turkey

The Rage X-treme Turkey is a two-blade broadhead with 100 grains of punch. It features an anodized aluminum ferrule, .035-inch blade thickness, 3/4-inch fixed cut-on-contact blades and a 2 1/8-inch expandable cut. It also has the X-Treme Series Shock Collar. ($39.99/2-pack; feradyne.com)

NAP SPITFIRE GOBBLER GETTER

Josh Honeycutt NAP Gobbler Getter
NAP Spitfire Gobbler Getter

The NAP Spitfire Gobbler Getter is a great three-blade option. This 100- or 125-grain broadhead features a 1 1/2-inch cutting diameter. It comes with replacement blades, and a practice head is also available. ($39.99/3-pack; newarchery.com)

G5 MEGAMEAT

Josh Honeycutt G5 MegaMeat
G5 MegaMeat

One of the best broadheads on the market, the G5 MegaMeat offers a 2-inch cutting diameter. It’s simple to use thanks to its SnapLock collar, and a practice tip and replacement blades are available. It comes as a 100- or 125-grain broadhead, and you can get crossbow versions, too. ($59.99/3-pack; g5outdoors.com)

MAGNUS BULLHEAD

Josh Honeycutt Magnus Bullhead
Magnus Bullhead

Finally, for those wanting the guillotine, the Magnus Bullhead is the ultimate broadhead for head and neck shots on turkeys. It features great flight, strong .048-inch stainless blades and more. These come in 100- and 125-grain options. ($48.99/3-pack; magnusbroadheads.com)

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Learn

Bass Crash Course: Shallow-Water Power Lures

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Destinations

Minnesota Double Down: First Visit to New Farm Goes Perfectly

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Fishing in the Wind

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

She Kills The Biggest Bird of the Year

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Unlock the Patterns Squarebill Crankbaits

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Learn

Tips for Cooking Over an Open Fire

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Videos

How to Build the Perfect Campfire

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

First Morning: Father/Son Iowa Turkey Double

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Destinations

Shot the Same Bird! UP of Michigan Double Down

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

Work and Play: Merriam's Turkeys in Wyoming

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Gear

Winchester Waterfowl Loads

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Gear

Winchester .400 Legend

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now