6 Reasons Bowhunting is Better Than Gun Hunting for Turkeys

By Darron McDougalFebruary 25, 20221 Comment

You’ve probably heard someone pipe up and say, “Turkeys are meant to be shot in the head with a shotgun,” the idea being that when a bird steps within easy shotgun range, he’s toast.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the value in that; I usually tote a shotgun myself on a few hunts in addition to my bowhunts each spring. But, my passion in turkey hunting is harvesting them at point-blank range with a bow.

Archery hunting for turkeys is certainly more challenging. Ethics considered, bow range is far shorter than that of a 12-gauge stoked with magnum turkey loads. With archery gear, you have to get them in close to a range where you can hit their navel-orange-sized kill zone 10 out of 10 times.

The other part that makes bowhunting more difficult is that you have to reach full draw undetected. And, unless you’re shooting large “helicopter” broadheads designed for headshots, most hits with arrows don’t instantly immobilize the gobbler as a shotgun with a headshot does.

Even though it seems like a stretch to identify six ways that bowhunting for turkeys could possibly be better than shotgunning them, I challenge you to read on and find the value in my six points.

Add decoys to the mix to bring a gobbler in close for the shot.

1. Experience Up-Close Action

I can’t count how many times my Dave Smith jake decoy has been hammered by toms within 10 yards of me. When toting a shotgun, how many of us are patient enough to let a tom reach the decoys? Most shoot the first time Mr. Tom stretches his neck within decent shotgun range. Plus, placing decoys at 10 yards or closer when hunting with a tight-patterning shotgun is senseless.

Archery hunting gives you the excuse to put your decoys extremely close, and that means that when a tom comes in to administer a beatdown to your jake decoy, you get an experience that is extremely rare when hunting with a shotgun. If you haven’t experienced this side of turkey hunting, it’ll get in your blood when you do.

2. Build Confidence for Fall Hunts

I’m naturally a very good shot with a bow, but I can’t say that my confidence in closing the deal in a bowhunting situation is very high if I go months and months without doing so. After a long winter, I itch to put some game on the ground with my bow to keep my skills and confidence alive.

Arrowing a couple of spring gobblers with great hits really boosts my confidence in the way I handle myself during live hunting situations, and I rely heavily on that positive reinforcement as I transition from turkey hunting to fall-hunt preparation.

6 Reasons Bowhunting Is Better Than Gun Hunting For Turkeys
Staying sharp for spring turkey season will help you keep sharp and ready when the fall season rolls around.

3. Minimize Disturbance

If you hunt on public land or a property that family or friends will be hunting after you, then minimizing disturbance is critical to ensuring that other hunters have great hunting experiences once you claim your bird. To that end, a shotgun blast can scatter a flock and completely change their routine in some cases. 

Very seldom does a simple bow twang have that same affect. In fact, many times birds other than the tom that I arrowed will hang around after he expires, sometimes for hours. If you want to minimize disturbance so that others can have solid hunting opportunities, set down the shotgun and hunt with your bow.

4. Prolong Your Hunt

If you have only one spring turkey tag, swatting a tom with a lead or TSS swarm fresh off the roost on opening morning means your season ends the minute it began. If you love to be in the turkey woods as much as possible, then this approach, despite the success, can leave you longing for more.

While tagging out opening morning is also possible with the bow, more often, you’ll hunt longer to fill your tag. The extra time afield will scratch that itch to hear more gobbles, enjoy some good-weather days and see more strutters doing their thing.

6 Reasons Bowhunting Is Better Than Gun Hunting For Turkeys
Some hunters bowhunt turkeys for increased opportunities and greater satisfaction from the experience.

5. Feel More Satisfaction

Even after 20 years of hunting and shooting dozens of toms, shooting a gobbling tom at 40 yards with a shotgun still stokes up my adrenaline. But, not a single tom that has fallen to a turkey load was more satisfying than the ones I’ve nailed at 10 yards or less with my bow. 

I believe it’s a direct result of accomplishing what so many hunters cannot. Each bow-killed tom means that I truly fooled him on his playing field. It’s so satisfying.

6. No BBs in the Meat

I’m extremely cautious with wild turkey meat each time I harvest a tom with a shotgun. Often, there are no BBs in the meat because my shotguns pattern tightly. And when there are BBs in the meat, I can usually find and remove them before making turkey fajitas. But, twice I’ve bitten down on BBs unexpectedly, and it is certainly a valid concern for both you and your dinner guests.

When you bow-kill a bird, you know for a fact that you didn’t put any BBs in his breast. I love that aspect. I still suggest looking at the meat in case another hunter took a non-killing crack at your bird with a shotgun, but you’ll almost always have a BB-free dining experience when you bow-kill a tom.

6 Reasons Bowhunting Is Better Than Gun Hunting For Turkeys
Want to avoid finding pellets in your turkey meat? Hunt your bird with a bow.


Bows aren’t more effective for turkey hunting. In fact, they make turkey hunting far more challenging. But, I don’t think anyone can argue with the points I addressed above. So, why don’t you lay down the shotgun and give the gobblers a go with your bow this spring? 

Darron McDougal
Darron McDougal is a full-time freelance outdoor writer/editor who lives in Antigo, WI with his bride, Becca. He's hunted in 12 states and successfully taken elk, bear, hogs, turkeys, pronghorn, whitetails, and mule deer, most with archery equipment on DIY hunts. The McDougals enjoy all things hunting and shooting. They believe in God and love to travel.
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