Let’s face it — bowhunting turkeys can feel like a prison sentence. Sure, when the birds are sounding off in all directions and the activity is at a fever pitch, it’s a blast. But when those early-morning birds go tight-lipped and the midday, sleepy hours drag on and on, the boredom can set in real fast. This is when shaky confidence in a spot, or the idea that your time would be better spent fishing (or even working), sets in.
Don’t let that happen.
Instead, consider these three ways to make bowhunting turkeys more exciting and enjoyable.
Come Here Young Fella
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — there are no trophy turkeys. Sure, it’s cool to arrow a 25-pound Butterball with a rope for a beard and great big hooks on his legs, but who really cares? You will, for a little bit. But no one else will no matter how many of your followers tap that like button on your Instagram post.
Jakes are a turkey bowhunter’s gift, and you should unwrap them whenever possible. Dropping your standards in the field and accepting the reality that no one cares about your turkey success but you is a great way to make things more exciting. This is also a necessity if you hunt mostly public land like I do. The flock of jakes that comes in to beat up your decoy may not sport 10 inches of beard between them, but they will put on a show and test your ability to shoot. And they are delicious.
If you’re not having a whole lot of fun bowhunting turkeys, put junior on the hit list.
Call Your Heart Out
You know how you sing in the truck when no one is riding with you and your favorite bro-country or German death metal tune comes on? Just think about how good that feels, no matter how tone-deaf or pitchy your voice is. When you’re in your blind and nothing is happening, start calling with that level of enthusiasm.
Now, I’m not saying that you should intentionally call like you’ve never heard a real turkey talk, but instead should push the boundaries a little and make an exit from your comfort zone. Excited calling, especially if you can run two calls at once, is a great way to pass the time. It’s also a great way to get midday birds excited or revive an inexplicably dead sunrise sit.
While most turkey hunters feel like this is a great way to shut the birds down, I look at it differently. If the birds are already quiet, what’s the harm? Not only can a calling series that starts soft and grows into an all-out hen chatterfest suddenly get a bird to gobble, it can also fire up nearby hens. There’s a flock dominance aspect to hens that we tend to ignore in the spring, but when you tick off the maternal headmaster of the whole area, she'll come — and she'll be cutting mad.
I’ve had this happen countless times in my turkey-hunting career and every single time it has worked to get nearby gobblers to sound off. It doesn’t always end up in an 10-yard shot at a strutter, but it sure is exciting.
Mess With Your Spread
Bowhunters are creatures of habit and we are highly biased toward what tactics have helped us succeed in the past. This means that if we put out a quarter-strut jake decoy one time and a tom came running in, we are likely to go that route again and again. The reality is, decoying turkeys is a moving target. Sometimes that jake is all you need, other times you need a strutter or a whole flock of hens.
If the action is dead and you’re in it for the long haul, mix things up. A lot of times this involves paring down a spread, but you might want to go the other direction. I’ve had gobblers almost ignore solo hens or small sets, but commit when I’ve added several decoys to the mix. It’s a pain to set out five or six fakes, but showing the birds that they are missing a real party can sometimes tip the odds in your favor.
It also does something psychologically to us, as hunters. Instead of staring at the same decoys out the same window for 15 hours a day, we get somewhat of a reset in attitude simply by messing with our spread. That, along with calling aggressively and opening up your standards to all legal birds, can change the game entirely and keep you in the blind when lesser turkey hunters would wave the white flag and head to the golf course.