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Talking Turkeys: 6 Ways to Fill More Tags

Bowhunting gobblers is difficult, but there's not much that's more satisfying when your plan comes together!

Talking Turkeys: 6 Ways to Fill More Tags

Don’t be afraid to switch tactics when necessary. Last spring, author Danny Farris left his blind behind and used a bow-mounted Stalker Decoy to cross an open field and lure this tom away from his hens. (Author photos)

Any critter that can skake the ground under your feet with its call before you even lay eyes on it is capable of melting even the most accomplished bowhunter’s mettle. Vocal interaction is what makes turkey hunting so special, but when you make the decision to hunt them with a bow, you add a whole new level of challenge and excitement. Success seldom comes by simply convincing one to make an appearance. When hunting turkeys with archery equipment, you must call them in close, wait for just the right moment, draw undetected and make an accurate shot.

Over the years I’ve either made, or seen my buddies make, just about every mistake in the book. As a result, I’ve learned some things along the way that have drastically improved my success. Hence, here are a few tips that will help you fill more turkey tags with your bow.

Master a Mouth Call

While most veteran shotgun hunters seem to have mastered the art of using a mouth call, I’m surprised by how many bowhunters have not. It might be due to the fact that bowhunters often hunt turkeys from ground blinds and have always been able to get away with the movement involved in running a hand call. While it is true that a ground blind can conceal those movements, at some point you must drop your call and fill both hands with your bow. The ability to continue calling hands-free at that point is vital.

Experiment with a variety of mouth calls and you’ll discover some fit you better than others. When you find the right one, you’ll know it. Learn as many turkey vocalizations as possible, but really focus on soft contentment calls like clucks and purrs. These are the calls that come in handy when convincing a tom to take a few more steps into bow range.

Choose the Right Broadhead

Turkeys are surprisingly difficult to penetrate with an arrow. I compare shooting them to holding a two-by-four in your hand and trying to hammer a nail into it. When you strike the nail, the board gives and prevents energy from being transferred, making it impossible to sink the nail. Likewise, when you hit bone or a pile of tough feathers with an arrow, the lightweight mass of a turkey often gives upon impact, robbing your arrow of energy and causing you to lose penetration.

I recommend shooting a sharp mechanical with a wide cutting diameter — the same ones that are marketed to deer hunters. These broadheads are designed to penetrate well and cut a huge hole turkeys have a difficult time dealing with. I switched to using a 2-inch Rage on turkeys over a decade ago and my recovery rate has been fantastic ever since.

Know Where to Aim

Make sure you fully understand where to aim when shooting a turkey with a bow. A gobbler’s outward appearance morphs as he switches between upright, feeding and strutting positions, and it can be incredibly difficult to tell where, inside all of those feathers, his softball-sized vitals are located.

Danny Farris, Turkey vital location broadside
The location of a turkey’s vitals can be deceiving.The location of a turkey’s vitals can be deceiving. The author’s rule of thumb is to aim at the imaginary line dividing the top and middle thirds, between or just in front of the legs.   

The simplest way to explain where to aim is to divide the gobbler’s body into thirds and to hold on the imaginary line that divides the top and middle third. If the turkey is broadside, hold on the top-third line and a hair in front of his legs. At any angle other than broadside, continue to hold on the top-third line and try to pass your arrow between his legs. The key is to hit the top-third line in the center of his body. Do so and your turkeys will die within sight.

Be Mobile with Your Blind

Drawing a bow within spitting distance of an animal that can see almost everything without turning its head is a challenge. Turkey bowhunters often use ground blinds to help conceal such movement. Using a ground blind, however, does not mean you have to sacrifice mobility.

Most portable ground blinds can be deployed faster than you might imagine, but it requires practice. I’m not talking about simply popping the blind up a couple of times and calling it good either — there’s more to it than that. With most hub-style blinds, you should be able to pop it up, arrange your gear and be ready to shoot in less than 60 seconds. Perfecting this drill will allow you to cover far more ground in search of willing gobblers.

Find a backpack that allows you to organize and carry your blind, chair, bow, calls, decoys and whatever other necessities you can think of, then start practicing. With all your gear on your back, see how quickly you can drop the pack, deploy your decoys, pop up the blind, organize your tackle and be ready to shoot. As you practice, you will find ways to refine your system to maximize both speed and mobility.

Add Some Movement

Many bowhunters have been frustrated by toms that come to their calls, only to get nervous upon spotting decoys that remain motionless. Using a decoy that incorporates lifelike movement can keep gobblers from hanging up. My first motion decoy was a homemade rig that used fishing line to raise and lower its fan like a gobbler in strut. My success rate increased dramatically once I started employing movement.

Recommended


Today, ultra-realistic motion decoys like the remote-operated 360 System from Strutt’n Brand, or the wind-powered Wind Drifter Series from Ultimate Predator, are available. They are realistic, affordable and capable of fooling even the wariest toms. You’ll be surprised how effective adding a little movement to your decoys can be.

Consider Leaving the Blind

While turkeys aren’t shy of ground blinds by nature, they can become wary of them, so don’t get locked into the idea that you must be in a ground blind to effectively bowhunt turkeys. Many of my most exciting successes have come without the use of a blind. Last year I was able to use a bow-mounted decoy in the middle of a wide-open field to lure a big boss tom away from his hens. It never would have happened had I stayed in the blind. Besides, until you experience that kind of up-close, face-to-face turkey action, you don’t know what you’re missing. It might just be the most exciting way to bowhunt turkeys!




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