Skip to main content Skip to main content

Join the Spring Turkey Hunting Fan Club

Using a turkey's tail fan will draw tough-to-find toms top-pin close. Here's how it works.

Join the Spring Turkey Hunting Fan Club

The sight of tail feathers on display prompts gobblers to think there’s a breedable hen nearby. It’ll often bring them running. (Shutterstock image)

Aside from hens, one thing that will get a spring gobbler’s attention is another gobbler displaying his fan. Seeing a tail feathers and thinking there’s a hen ready to be bred nearby, an unsuspecting tom will rush in to challenge the fanning bird for breeding rights. Bowhunters can use this to their advantage by employing a real fan as a decoy.

The standard operating procedure for decoying turkeys is to erect a blind along a field edge, place a jake or strutter with a hen or two within slam-dunk bow range and wait ’em out. This works well most of the time. However, there are instances when a run-and-gun approach is more effective. With a shotgun, that’s no problem; with a bow, it’s a whole other story. Trying to belly crawl into bow range then coax birds into position for a shot is kind of like trying to sneak the sunrise past a rooster.


I learned about the fanning technique decades ago while hunting Merriam’s gobblers out West, and since then I’ve employed it across the country. Here’s how it works.

THE SETUP

Two hunters sally forth, attempting to locate birds by calling and/or glassing openings in the woods or spotting birds working fields. Once a gobbler is located, they get as close as they can before setting set up in whatever cover is available.

The fanner—lying prone—raises a turkey tail fan, hides his face behind it and peeks through the feathers or uses brush to screen his face as he peeks off to one side, slowly moving it back and forth. The shooter is behind the fanner and slightly off to one side, hidden by brush and the fan. The fan will eventually get the gobbler’s attention, and when it does he’ll come running. It isn’t unusual to get a shot at less than 20 yards, though sometimes much closer.


Initially I thought this was some sort of fraternity prank, like jumping blindfolded into a pile of cow manure after being told it’s a field of clover. That first year, after we’d slammed a half-dozen big gobblers and had several more misses—a couple on birds so close I think I could have reached out and grabbed them—I was hooked.

Nothing gets your blood pumping like having multiple gobblers running as fast as they can right at you. Because the shooter is hidden behind the fanner and often is screened out, he can’t see the birds approaching, so the fanner makes the call and the archer then must be able to get up on his knees, locate the target and pound him quickly without panicking. Really.

A charging gobbler may not be as dangerous as an attacking grizzly bear or Cape buffalo, but it is guaranteed to get your heart beating at
hummingbird levels.

SAFETY FIRST

Before you run out and try this yourself, a quick note about safety. Using a fan is much the same as using a life-sized gobbler decoy. If you’re hunting spots where you might encounter other hunters—especially on public land and/or places where shotgun season is open—be aware that there are some trigger-happy hunters out there who might shoot without identifying their target first. Whenever I encounter other hunters, I quickly pack up and move to another area to avoid any conflicts or potential safety hazards.

A CUT ABOVE

The ultimate turkey broadhead

While any broadhead with razor-sharp blades that flies true will work on gobblers, mechanical heads with large cutting diameters are the optimal choice. A turkey’s vital area is small, and a broadhead with a 2-inch, or greater, cut increases the odds of hitting the mark.




One mechanical head I’ve used the past few seasons on all game is the SEVR Robusto 2.0 ($13.99; sevrbroadheads.com). Aside from its devastating terminal performance, one of the great things about this head is that you can practice with the same broadhead you’ll hunt with without dulling the blades. A novel locking mechanism keeps the blades closed during practice sessions.

SEVR heads are not available in retail stores and are sold direct to consumers via the brand’s website.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Precision placement is necessary to ground a tom with an arrow.

Killing a gobbler with a bow isn’t easy. To do so, shoot a gobbler like you would a deer—through its vitals.


The best angle is broadside, and you should aim where the wing butt connects to the turkey’s body. A broadhead placed here will either break a wing or the backbone, or pierce the heart or lungs.

Another good angle that’s common when fanning birds is straight-on. Regardless if the bird is strutting or not, aim for a spot a couple inches above the base of the beard and along the crease that connects the beard and the neck. A hit here should damage the heart and/or lungs and break the back as the arrow passes through.

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

Recommended Articles

Popular Videos

A Look at the Lupo

A Look at the Lupo

In the second episode of Beyond the Rifle, we'll discuss the innovation behind the major components of the Lupo. Just how unique is this new rifle? Prepare yourself for some surprises.

Crash Course: How to Choose the Right Crankbait for Bass

Crash Course: How to Choose the Right Crankbait for Bass

You have lots of options in a shallow crankbait, but don't overlook the No. 1 important thing.

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank's action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

See All Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

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