I've got a few buddies who couldn't arrow a tom if you staked one down 10 yards from their blind and gave them five shots. Some people, for a variety of reasons, just can't hack it as turkey bowhunters. My friends aren't alone in their springtime misery, and several of them have largely given up their bows in lieu of a 12-gauge.
I can't really fault them for that, but if you're a struggling turkey bowhunter, consider making a few changes to your setup and strategies before going back to the bang stick. There are several things most of us could change to increase our odds of tagging out in April, and most are relatively easy to do.
If you're simply not a closer, but desperately want to make it happen each spring to join the ranks of professional turkey skewerers, check out these five problems that might be holding you back.
And then fix them.
I'm to the point now where my decoys are always set up within about four to eight yards of my blind.
I want a stupid easy shot at any approaching gobblers, and if a cagey three-year old decides to give me a drive-by, I want him to be in range too. Way, way too many bowhunters set their decoys out at distances that are more suited for a load of 5s instead of an arrow. Put them close and give yourself a gimme shot.
When I bought a flock of Dave Smith Decoys I didn't know how they'd change my life, but for the price, I thought that they should. And they did.
I went from so-so turkey action, to gobblers committing like they thought they were going to star in a hunting show. It was insane how much of a difference good decoys made. If you're wondering why longbeards don't strut into your setup, this is probably why. You'd be better off buying one really good decoy instead of a flock of crappy ones.
This Way And That
And speaking of decoys, think about how a real group of birds or even a pair of birds, walks through the woods and fields.
There usually aren't four birds walking in four opposite directions, yet that's how people set up their decoys. It's much better to make it seem like your little flock of fakes is all headed in the same general direction. This won't matter on dumb, unhunted birds, but will help persuade heavily hunted gobblers that he's looking at the kind of party he should probably join.
Horrible Language Skills
Of my buddies who have largely given up on bowhunting turkeys, most are horrible callers. Now I know that you're thinking,"Well I've heard some pretty horrible sounding hens in real life, so what about that?" To which I reply, what about that?
A bad sounding real hen still gets it right in a way that sounds real, and a bad sounding hunter usually doesn't. There is a cadence to turkey calling and an intangible knowledge base that comes from communicating with lots of birds that matters a lot. If you're not comfortable calling or are using calls that just don't cut it, make a change.
Paper-Plate Groups Are No Bueno
I've missed an embarrassing amount of turkeys in my life. So many, that I started to develop a practice routine that involved realistic 3D targets, shooting from blind chairs, and occasionally, shooting out of a blind.
You've got about a softball-sized target to hit that is covered in feathers and awfully prone to movement. I firmly believe that anyone who bowhunts turkeys should have at least one turkey target and that they should put in a month of shooting before the season opener. It does wonders for building muscle memory and the confidence necessary to make a shot count.