Few things have stirred up as much controversy in the turkey hunting community as the fanning technique for drawing a gobbler into range for the shot. The tactic is pretty much foolproof. Most anybody can use it to pull a bird into shooting distance. It’ll turn a rookie into a rockstar. Whether you love it, or hate it, there’s no denying, it works.
But does it work for bowhunting? You’ve likely seen plenty of examples of gun-totin’ turkey hunters using the fan, but what about when you’re packing the bow?
The answer is, yes. It can work when bowhunting as well. Take a look below for how to make it happen.
Keep it Light and Manageable
A number of hunters head to the woods each year with a full-body strutter decoy in hand with the intentions of crawling up on a gobbler. And while it can be done, it’s not the best way. A full-body strutter is big and bulky. It’s heavy and cumbersome. Yes, it’s the most realistic looking decoy, but it’s overkill. It’s not necessary to get the job done.
The 1/2-body strutter decoy is much lighter, easy to handle, and makes the packing job far easier for all-day hunts. It’s also easier to work with one hand as you’re making your move toward the bird. Keep in mind, you’ll likely be crawling, or in a crouched position for extended periods of time. You’ll want to have a light and manageable decoy in your hands when it all goes down.
Use Motion to Get His Attention
The large size of the strutting decoy can often be enough to grab a gobbler’s attention as it is. If not, just add motion to get his attention. Think about how a longbeard behaves around the ladies in a wide open field. He struts and spins. He goes in and out of strut as he works the flock.
There’s a lot of eye-catching movement. Keep this in mind with the decoy in your hand. You’re essentially trying to flag him down to get his attention. Once he locks in on your setup, he’ll likely be headed your way.
As long as the gobbler is headed in your direction, stay put and let him march your way. The only time you need to move in his direction is when he won’t budge. Once he’s started your way, get the decoy securely anchored in the ground and get your hands on the bow and prepare for the shot.
Keep Your Composure
A hard-charging longbeard closing in on your decoy delivers one of the most exciting encounters you’ll experience all spring. There’s a unique adrenaline rush the experience provides that you won’t find anywhere else.
However, that same excitement can easily lead to a missed shot. It’s tough to hold steady for the shot when you’re body is raging with adrenaline.
Avid turkey hunter, Mike Hall, says keeping your composure just might be the toughest part of fanning a turkey while bowhunting.
“You don’t realize how hard it is to make a clean shot when the opportunity happens,” says Hall. “You’ve crawled across the field, you’re out of breath, and you’ve got a gobbler charging in to less than 10 yards. It’s hard not to just fall apart. Keeping your composure in such an intense situation is tough!”
Plan for Your Shot Opportunity
One of the biggest fails a hunter will face at the moment of truth is the uncertainty of how to pull off the shot. A gun hunter can simply slide the gun barrel through feathers in the tail fan, but it’s not that simple for the bowhunter.
You’ll have to get to full draw and lean out to one side or the other for the shot, or raise up and shoot over the top of the tail fan. The key is to be prepared for a variety of scenarios to prevent the panic that sets in with a bird up close and personal.
You might think all this movement behind the decoy would cause an approaching bird to spook. However, a gobbler is focused on the eyes of that strutting decoy when he approaches. When he locks in on the decoy’s eyes, it seems like he’s oblivious to the world around him. It gives you ample time to slow down, calm your nerves and properly execute the shot.
Best decoy options for fanning turkeys include the Avian-X Trophy Tom, Flextone Thunder Creeper, Mojo Scoot-n-Shoot Max, Wiley Tom decoy from Montana decoys, and the Reaper Quarter Body Strutter from The Grind.
If you’re looking to mix things up this spring while bowhunting turkeys, consider leaving the ground blind behind and make your move with a strutting decoy in hand. It’s a tactic that puts you in the middle of the game like nothing else.