If I’ve got one complaint about bowhunting for turkeys, it’s that the most efficient way to make it happen is with the use of a blind and hunting them like you would a deer. Set up and wait. That’s the name of the game when bowhunting turkeys with a blind. Like I said, it’s very effective when you’ve got birds on a pattern and you know where the birds are going to be.
But my turkey hunting roots were established with a run-n-gun style of chasing gobblers from day one. It’s what I love. And when toting a shotgun, it’s the most effective means of punching your tag. But when you’re hitting the woods with a bow in hand, there are some extra factors to take into consideration with this run-n-gun style. You’ll see it played out in the recent Bowhunt or Die episode with Johnny Herrmann and Clinton Fawcett in Kansas. It worked for them, and it’ll work for you. Here’s a look at 6 moves to make when run-n-gun bowhunting for turkeys this season.
1. Use a Hunting App
While nothing can replace old-school woodsman skills, a hunting app on your smartphone can prove priceless for run-n-gun bowhunting for turkeys. I reference my maps throughout the hunt as I’m moving through the woods or fields chasing after a bird. A digital hunting map like HuntStand or onX allows you to see what lies ahead before you take off putting boots on the ground, rushing into something you really don’t need to be into. It lets me know when to push ahead and when I need to swing around a terrain feature. The hunting app on my phone is a priceless tool I do not want to hit the woods without.
2. Use Your Binos
Binos are one of the tools we often ditch to cut down on weight, or reduce the amount of gear hanging around our neck. Don’t make this mistake! I can’t count the number of times that I blew an opportunity at birds that I never saw before I walked into them. If I had glassed the area, I would have easily seen the birds and maneuvered accordingly. However, without optics I never saw it coming. Glasses also allow you to cover more ground with less boots on the ground. Use your binos, and see how many more birds you find in a field that you missed with the naked eye. Don’t leave your optics in the truck!
3. Use Quality Access
Run-n-gun bowhunting for turkeys is all about having adequate access to get within range of the bird. Johnny Herrmann’s recent turkey hunt in Kansas is a good example of how to use creeks and ditches to make a move on a gobbler in the wide open. Refer to your hunt app (mentioned above) to find creeks, ridges, saddles, or other terrain features to best position yourself to execute the shot. Be sure to study your access before you take off running through the woods or field.
4. Maximize the Hide
Run-n-gun bowhunting doesn’t allow enough time to build or brush up a lavish blind – and that’s okay. The main idea is to find adequate cover to blend in just enough to get away with coming to full draw with a bird in tight quarters.
Use the shadows, cedar trees, or other dense cover in the shade for a hide while you wait for the shot. When using decoys, particularly a strutting decoy, the approaching bird will likely have all focus dialed in on the decoy. It’ll allow you to get away with much more movement than you might imagine.
Create opportunities to draw with obstructions out front. I like to set up in a spot with large trees out front that allow me to draw as a bird moves behind the tree on the approach. I try to never set up in the wide open with nothing but daylight between me and an approaching bird.
5. Use a Jake Decoy
As mentioned above, playing on a gobbler’s territorial instincts is a deadly tactic. And this is best played with the use of a jake decoy. Regardless of whether it’s a strutting or non-strutting jake, you can bet it will catch and hold the attention of the local boss bird. He won’t tolerate a young, punk jake closing in on his stomping grounds.
The decoy will divert the attention away from you and onto the imposters out front. An approaching bird comes to the call looking for what he hears. A jake decoy helps ensure that the dekes catch and hold his eyes, and not the camo blob in the bushes.
6. Be Aggressive
Making the transition from ground blind hunting to run-n-gun bowhunting for turkeys can be tough. You’re use to sitting in the blind, playing the waiting game for long hours. It can be difficult to turn yourself loose and hunt aggressively. Learn to make it happen! Lighten the load in your pack or vest so you can literally run to the birds when you hear a bird gobble from the roost. When he struts back and forth in his strut zone, slide to within range as he makes his move away. Now is the time to push the envelope. Get aggressive, and make it happen.
Watch Herrmann’s hunt in the video below…
Ready to change things up this turkey season? Climb out of the blind and take a different approach. Run-n-gun bowhunting allows you to take the game to the birds instead of playing the waiting game from a ground blind all day.
What about you? What’s your favorite way to bowhunt turkeys? Comment below and let us know what you think.