Blind Luck

Blind Luck

A free-standing portable blind is one of the best investments any serious turkey hunter can make...

GOBBLER GETTER - The author tagged this Mississippi longbeard last spring while hunting from a Double Bull blind located along the edge of a Green field. Seductive calls lured the bird within easy bow range.



By M.R. James, Founder/Editor Emeritus

A free-standing portable blind is one of the best investments any serious turkey hunter can makeÂ'¦

THE TWIN LONGBEARDS striding purposely across the dew-wet clover field were closing in on my unimposing jake decoy like a couple of schoolyard bullies confronting the class nerd. As they neared my three-decoy spread, they ignored the faux hens and puffed and fanned in an attempt to intimidate the fake jake only 16 short yards from where I crouched.

Slowly raising my bow and easing it to full draw, I settled the top pin on the second bird's gaudy red, white, and blue head. Seconds later I released as the displaying tom paused briefly in mid-strut. My 125-grain broadhead nearly decapitated the gobbler, and he dropped, flopping in his tracks.

Bursting from the camouflaged blind, I rushed to pin the bird as his partner took alarmed flight and quickly disappeared into the trees on the far side of the greenfield. Seconds later, hefting the husky gobbler, I couldn't help but think, Try getting that same shot without using a blind!

Hunting buddy and Oklahoma turkey junkie Jim Dougherty, a Hall of Fame bowhunter and one of the most addicted gobbler chasers I've ever met, sums up my own feelings with one succinct sentence. "If you're going to hunt turkeys seriously with the bow, a blind's the best way to go."

Really, the reason should be as obvious as an 11-inch turkey beard. Telltale movements likely have saved the lives of more sharp-eyed turkeys than any other single factor. If you've ever alarmed an approaching tom simply by shifting your 12 gauge slightly to take the shot, think how much tougher it is to remain unnoticed in the open while raising a hunting bow, bringing it to full draw, aiming, and releasing an arrow at a gobbler less than 20 yards away.

Like most veteran bowhunters who regularly match wits with spring longbeards, I quickly learned - the hard way - that hunting birds from an enclosed blind is the best and easiest way to avoid detection. Thumb through the pages of your favorite outdoor catalog or visit a local sporting goods store. Check out the selection of lightweight blinds being offered. Unfold and stake down one of these easy-to-erect or pop-up blinds and you'll understand why it's possible to ease close to roosted birds in the dark, erect the blind in a matter of minutes - or seconds - stake your decoys nearby, and settle back to wait for the fly-down at daybreak. These same camo enclosures work equally well situated near feeding and dusting areas, or along travel routes between roost trees and favored turkey hangouts.

Note: Turkeys may shy away from exposed blinds that are not at least partly hidden by trees, brush, or weeds. I often place my portable camo blinds between or under low-limbed trees, in overgrown fencerows along field edges, or in brushy areas overlooking openings where turkeys feed, dust, or congregate. You just have to be sure of adequate visibility and opportunities for clear, unobstructed shots.

"The key to any good blind is a dark interior," Jim notes. "Also, blinds should be easy to carry and set up, and they shouldn't flap around on windy days."

"Their biggest disadvantage is all blinds require the birds to come to you, and sometimes turkeys simply aren't interested in your calls or decoys. But when the birds do come in and walk close, blinds are deadly and the answer to a bowhunter's prayers."

Veteran Michigan bowhunter Tom Nelson, host of Bowhunter Magazine's The American Archer award winning television show, agrees. "I can't overstress how important portable blinds are to turkey hunters," Tom states. "My success took a 180-degree turn after I started using portable blinds. I've gotten away with drawing my bow on gobblers standing as close as 7 yards. I simply draw and slowly lean into position behind the shooting window to take the shot."

"Some blinds come with special shoot-through window screens, but if you shoot expandable heads you need to try some test shots first. The screens can cause some heads to open prematurely. And be sure to double check state laws to make certain blinds are legal in your hunting area."

What about using the same elevated portable stands commonly used during deer season? Although I know a few hunters who swear by 'em - and this list includes Bowhunter contributor Brenda Valentine - I've never had much luck mixing treestands and turkeys. No matter how careful I am or how slowly I move, one or more nearby birds picks me out of the overhead foliage as I try to draw. Maybe I'm just clumsy, and if treestands work well for you, fine. If they don't, try an enclosed blind. For my money, portable camo blinds have proved to be among the best turkey hunting investments I've ever made.

Shot Placement Advice

A turkey's kill area is relatively small beneath all those puffed up feathers, only about the size of a softball or a man's fist. Combine this fact with the gobbler's innate toughness, and you cannot overstress the critical importance of proper shot placement.

*Most consistently successful turkey hunters I know prefer shooting at a stationary target standing 10 to 20 yards away. If the bird is broadside, hold for the base of the wing. If he's fanned and facing away, aim at the base of his tail. Either well-placed shot can break a wing or spine, penetrating the vitals as well. This quickly anchors the bird.

*A turkey's head is an even smaller target, but a head shot will drop a bird on the spot. Typically, it will result in a clean kill or clean miss, while misplaced body shots may result in unrecovered birds.

*While some experienced turkey hunters advocate waiting to retrieve arrow-hit turkeys (as most bowhunters do for deer), I think you should always get to a bird as quickly as possible. If an arrowed gobbler manages to get airborne or run into the brush and disappear from sight, your chances of tagging him diminish. Un

like game animals, turkeys rarely leave ample blood trails.

*Take care when pinning wounded birds, especially if your arrow is still in the gobbler. Any exposed broadhead could cause you serious injury as the dying bird thrashes around. Also, a turkey's spurs can cause painful cuts and gouges. Handle dying birds with care and common sense.

Effective Turkey Blinds

I've tagged longbeards while hunting from several styles and models of free-standing portable camo blinds. Depending on quality construction, the price tag commonly varies from $100 to $200 up to $450 and more. Here are three that I own and use regularly:

Double Bull Titan Blinds - Roomy and sets up in seconds. Darkened interior. Multiple shooting windows with pass-thru screens. Relatively lightweight. Contact: Double Bull Archery, 1401-B Fallon Ave., Dept. BH, Monticello, MN 55362; (763) 295-3664.

Underbrush Bowhunter's Blinds - Lightweight and easy to set up. Adequate room. Slide-drape shooting windows. Magnum model more spacious with black liner. Contact: Underbrush by Shelter-Pro, P.O. Box 337, Dept BH, Stearns, KY 42647; (606) 376-4314.

Invisiblind - Heavier than most blinds but quality made and easy to set up. Ample room. Effective patented Shoot-Through design. Money-back guarantee if not satisfied. Call 1-800-247-6788; www.invisiblind.com .

While you're at it, check and compare the blinds made by Game Tracker (810) 733-6360 and Ameristep 1-800-374-7837; www.ameristep.com . And don't forget to look at the blinds and other goodies found in Bass Pro Shops' RedHead annual archery catalog (1-800-227-7776) and Cabela's yearly archery catalog (1-800-237-4444).

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