Top 5 Reasons You're Terrible At Bowhunting Turkeys

Top 5 Reasons You're Terrible At Bowhunting Turkeys

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.

Hail-Mary Hunts

I'm to the point now where my decoys are always set up within about four to eight yards of my blind.

Turkeys are easy to miss, so if you want easy shots set your decoys close to your blind. Four to eight yards is a good range.

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.

Obvious Fakes

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.

It's better to have one or two high-end, ultra-realistic decoys than a whole flock of poor-looking cheaper options.

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.

Set up your decoys so that they are all pointing in the same general direction, and you'll fool more gobblers into bow range.

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?

If you're not killing turkeys, it might simply be because your calling stinks. Get better calls and practice more and you'll start to master their language better.

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.

Hitting the vitals on a turkey is tricky business. Prepare for this by practicing on a 3D target well before the season opens.

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.

Recommended for You

ATA Show

New Bow Stabilizers for 2019

Colton Bailey - January 10, 2019

Stabilization can be a crucial factor in that moment of truth while bowhunting. Here are the...


10 Workout Routines Every Bowhunter Should Master

Adam Holt - May 12, 2016

As a bowhunter, you need complete faith in your physical ability to hike in to your hunting...


Slow Cooker Venison Queso Dip Recipe

Jessyca Sortillon

Enjoy this venison queso dip recipe right out of the slow cooker for warm, cheesy goodness in...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

High Country Colorado Turkey Hunt

Danny Farris and Doyle Worbington of J&D Outfitters are hunting turkeys in Colorado.

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Bowhunter TV Editor Derek Mleynek has a chance to fill his buck tag on a mixed bag hunt in Texas.

Spot-and-Stalk Texas Hog Bowhunt

Bowhunter Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson spot-and-stalks hogs and whitetails in Texas.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Vietnamese Black Bear Pâté Chaud (Meat Pie) Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

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

Other Game

Tips for Bowhunting Predators

Joe Bell

Chasing predators is great for calming big-game nerves.

Scouting Tools

Advancements in Rangefinder Technology Through the Years

Chuck Adams

Advances in rangefinding devices have helped bowhunters immensely.

See More Stories

More How-To


Tips for Stalking Mule Deer

Matt Palmquist

Follow these tips for spotting and stalking mule deer with a bow!


Tips for Stalking Antelope and Mule Deer

Darron McDougal - August 28, 2018

These 6 considerations will boost your odds of getting close and making the shot on a...


How To Pattern Elusive Bucks

C.J. Winand

Minimal disturbances and proper trail-camera placement will help you pattern hard-to-find...

See More How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


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