Skip to main content

Only One First Turkey

Shot placement knowledge is critical -- but only when you can apply it.


Kenny Satra (left) and I are pretty pleased with our turkey setup -- and the results.



"I've got Friday off," my friend Rocky said over the phone. "Why don't you come over and we'll give the turkeys a go?"

I had never hunted turkeys before, so I drove to Rocky's house the next Thursday afternoon and found him and his wife, Rene, fixing a dinner of marinated whitetail. They had invited some other hunting buddies as well. These boys -- Tony, Phil, Kenny, Tom, and Rocky -- are all members of the Montana Bowhunters Association, and as the editor of the MBA newsletter, I knew them all. They are like an extended family, related by the love of bowhunting and the outdoor lifestyle.


Hunting stories were flying, and when talk turned to turkeys, I paid especially close attention to remarks about shot placement.

"If you get a close shot at a gobbler tomorrow, you might as well shoot at his head," Tom suggested. "The head is just as big as the chest vital area, and if you miss, you don't have a wounded turkey on your hands."

Most of the guys had to work the next day, but Kenny joined Rocky and me at 4:30 the next morning. Apparently we had miscalculated when it gets light, and before we knew it we were driving like madmen, trying to beat the sun. Fortunately, a thick morning fog gave us some cover, and we set up two Primos Double Bull blinds without spooking anything. Kenny and I occupied one blind while Rocky set up about 400 yards away.

Kenny and I spent the next two hours calling, telling hunting stories, and laughing. While two bowhunters can have fun anywhere, sharing good stories in the great outdoors only enhances the experience.

Kenny used a box call for a while and then switched to a slate, making a series of yelps, cutts, and purrs. A few minutes later, I peeked out of a small slit in the blind toward the field and saw that three geese had landed 70 yards out. Leaning over to Kenny, I whispered, "There are three birds in the field!"

His eyes got big. "Gobblers?" he asked.

"No," I said. "Ganders!"

Kenny was not impressed with my intellect and wit, but a few minutes later he couldn't stand it and had to look. Taking a quick peek, he said, "One of them is a turkey." I thought he was joking, but I'll be darned if one of the geese hadn't turned into a hen turkey.

Just then I looked out another window and saw two toms in full strut, 200 yards away.

When they noticed the hen, they sprinted at her, meeting about 100 yards away. When the hen ignored them, the toms heard Kenny's sexy calling and spotted our two decoys and came right for us.

Things were heating up in a hurry, but some cars passing by on a nearby road caused the toms to veer off out of sight of my shooting port. Then Kenny noticed them coming from the back side of the blind, 14 yards away.

"Get ready!" he said. "I'm going to lower the flap. Take the first one you see!"

Opening the window had two immediate effects: One, my heart rate tripled. Two, both turkeys stopped strutting and stood tall to get a good look at the new dark spot in the big brown clump. Quickly I drew Thumper, my 67-pound Plainsman recurve, to full draw and released.

The arrow zipped by the turkey's head about an inch to the left -- a clean miss. As it thunked into a tree six yards beyond the tom, both birds galloped off, looking for all the world like two miniature T-Rex's.

"That's too bad, Steve," Kenny said, eyes cast downward. Actually, I was tickled with my first turkey hunting experience. And since I'd followed Tom's advice and shot at the head, we didn't have to contend with a wounded turkey.

"Now it's your turn to shoot," I said.

"No," Kenny responded. "I live in turkey country and you don't. Pick up your bow. We're not done yet."

We could still see the toms, five of them, in the woods, chasing hens, 75 yards away.

Kenny continued to work his slate, and all at once, two of the toms decided the hens they were after weren't quite as attractive as our decoys and suddenly came running straight toward us.

"Get ready!" Kenny hissed, although even for a greenhorn like me, his saying that wasn't necessary.

As they came straight at us, they in essence presented a moving target that was standing still, and as they closed within 15 yards, I locked in on the base of the neck of the one on the right and drew my bow.

At full draw, my physique finally reacted to the adrenaline overload of the last five minutes, and my entire body shook in a huge twitch as if I'd got zapped with a cattle prod. It was an incredible case of the yips, and unfortunately, I let go of the bowstring at that exact moment.

The arrow slid past the turkey, taking three feathers off his left side but missing the body completely. Without thinking, I grabbed another arrow. Now I was calm; the massive flinch that comes with built-up adrenaline always cures the yips for me.

Kenny was still yelping away excitedly, and as I put the arrow on the bowstring, I heard a turkey gobble -- right outside the blind!

Looking out the shooting port, I was treated to the sight of two toms strutting right beside the decoys, eight yards away. I picked my spot, found my anchor, and nailed the closer one, hitting him at the base of the wing, taking out the lungs and breaking the back.

Down he went.

My turkey was a jake, and an older bird probably wouldn't have put up with getting shot at twice. I didn't know any better, but I did know I couldn't have been more thankful or happier.

For a first-time turkey hunter, not only to see turkeys within bow range but to get three shots€¦ Well, that was over the top, the perfect script. The way I see it, you get only one first turkey, so you might as well make it last. And I milked this experience for all it was worth.

The author, a resident of Glasgow, Montana, is the editor of the Montana Bowhunters Association's newsletter.

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 2

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 2

Bowhunter TV's Derek Mleynek and Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson head to Texas for a late-season mixed bag hunt in a truly target-rich environment.

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 1

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 1

Bowhunter TV's Derek Mleynek and Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson head to Texas for a late-season mixed bag hunt that promises plenty of action.

Turkey Decoy Beatdown

Turkey Decoy Beatdown

Bowhunter contributor Matt Palmquist witnesses a hen trying to destroy one of his decoys while hunting turkeys in Kansas.

Better Bow Practice: Pick a Spot When Aiming

Better Bow Practice: Pick a Spot When Aiming

On this edition of "Dead On," Hall-of-Fame bowhunter Randy Ulmer shares advice on picking a spot to aim at when practicing with your bow.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Black bear meat is dark and rich, and delicious ground up in this Pâté chaud recipe.Vietnamese Black Bear Pâté Chaud (Meat Pie) Recipe Recipes

Vietnamese Black Bear Pté Chaud (Meat Pie) Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Black bear meat is dark and rich, and delicious ground up in this Pâté chaud recipe.

The public needs to understand the value of harvested and consumed wild game.Understanding the Value of a Wild Game Harvest Industry

Understanding the Value of a Wild Game Harvest

Dr. Dave Samuel

The public needs to understand the value of harvested and consumed wild game.

The advantages to using a binocular bivy system are many, and they go well beyond providing full protection for your glass.Why You Should Use A Binocular Bivy System Field Tools

Why You Should Use A Binocular Bivy System

Joe Bell

The advantages to using a binocular bivy system are many, and they go well beyond providing...

Chasing predators is great for calming big-game nerves.Tips for Bowhunting Predators Other Game

Tips for Bowhunting Predators

Joe Bell

Chasing predators is great for calming big-game nerves.

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Hunters hating hunters is an old, ugly facet of our sport. Vitriol from residents to nonresidents is a part of that, and seems to be getting worse.Nonresident Bowhunter Hate Stories

Nonresident Bowhunter Hate

Tony J. Peterson - June 21, 2018

Hunters hating hunters is an old, ugly facet of our sport. Vitriol from residents to...

A college football player and his dad share a hunt and take two of their biggest bucks.Decoying for Postseason Muleys Stories

Decoying for Postseason Muleys

Danny Farris

A college football player and his dad share a hunt and take two of their biggest bucks.

Hunting seasons don't just happen in the fall. Editor Curt Wells details some spring bowhunting adventures to extend your time in the outdoors!Don't Forget About Spring Bowhunting Stories

Don't Forget About Spring Bowhunting

Curt Wells - March 20, 2018

Hunting seasons don't just happen in the fall. Editor Curt Wells details some spring...

It's often said archers do it The Journey For A Longbow Super Slam Stories

The Journey For A Longbow Super Slam

Nathan L. Andersohn - July 31, 2018

It's often said archers do it "the hard way," but hunting with a longbow is, by far, the...

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

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

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter 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