Essential Gear For Bowhunting Turkeys

By Justin ZarrApril 8, 2015

When it comes to turkey hunting tips, tactics and techniques I’m about as far from a pro as you can get.   In fact I’ve only shot at a grand total of 2 turkeys in my life, 1 of which is most likely still roaming the fields of North Carolina.  However my lack of prowess in the Spring turkey woods doesn’t mean I haven’t spent a considerable amount of time chasing the bearded raptors.  During my time afield, much of it spent in a ground blind, I’ve developed a list of must-have items which will make your hunt safer, more comfortable and hopefully more enjoyable.


Here in my native Illinois mosquitos and other flying insects aren’t a major concern during the early part of our turkey season.  Temperatures are typically cool enough at night to keep the skeeters at bay and those that do make it out typically cause little harm.  However in other warmer parts of the country the Spring time bug invasion can be downright maddening.  As we all know a turkey’s eyesight is second to none and any unwarranted movement will send them hightailing it for the next county.  For this reason I strongly recommend bringing a ThermaCELL unit along with you.  This handy device heats up a small pad soaked with repellent which keeps mosquitos, black flies and other hunt-ruining bugs safely at bay.  As a bonus you can continue to use your ThermaCELL unit all year long as you hang stands, trim shooting lanes, plant food plots and even go on some early season hunts.

Turkey hunter using Thermacell

No matter your weapon of choice while chasing Spring gobblers don’t forget your ThermaCELL mosquito repellent.


Sawyer PermethrinSpring time brings a lot of great things that we hunters look forward to; shed antlers, gobbling turkeys and morel mushrooms to name a few.  However the warm weather also brings out ticks whose small size and inconspicuous bite can bring big consequences.  The increasing prevalence of Lyme’s Disease and other tick-borne diseases makes it imperative that you treat your boots, clothing, blinds and other gear with a tick repellent before heading into the woods.  I’ve been using Sawyer Permethrin for years and it always gets the job done.  Just be sure to treat your gear at least 2 hours before you’re going to wear or use it in order for the Permethrin to dry.

Huntmore 360 Chair

Long hours in a ground blind can be grueling at times.  When the birds aren’t cooperating it can feel like you’re stuck in a nylon prison.  This is why I won’t go into a blind unless I know I’ll have a comfortable seat from which to monitor my decoy spread and perhaps catch a cat nap (while the cameraman is watching for birds of course).  I’ve been hunting out of the Huntmore 360 chair for years and they’ve never let me down.  360 degree silent rotation is perfect for bowhunting and the adjustable legs means I can achieve just the right position no matter the angle of the ground.

Good Decoys

Without question turkeys are one of the smartest animals I’ve ever hunted.  Their keen eyesight combined with their extremely wary nature makes them a very difficult target for those who chase after them with stick and string.  Throw in a couple weeks of hunting pressure and the task becomes even more difficult.  This is why having a set of quality, life-like decoys is a must for bow hunters.  I know they’re expensive and many folks balk at the price but I’ll tell you after you run an arrow through a big Tom as he’s strutting in front of you at 15 yards you’ll forget all about it!  High end decoys from brands like Avian-X and Dave Smith Decoys are certainly worth the expense.  For those on a tighter budget the Snood line of decoys from H.S. provide a viable option that won’t break the bank.

Dave Smith Turkey Decoy

A high quality turkey decoy can play a helpful roll in getting a wary Tom to commit close enough for a clean shot.


While this may seem like a no brainer for today’s modern bowhunter I feel it’s important enough to be mentioned here.  Most of us are used to shooting at whitetail-sized big game animals which provide a moderately sized kill zone.  A turkey’s vitals are about the size of an apple or maybe a grapefruit on a big bird.  This means your margin for error is much smaller which makes your yardage estimations that much more critical.  Unless the bird is within 20 yards you’re best served to hit him with the laser rangefinder before letting that arrow fly or you may go home with nothing but a pocket full of feathers.

Hunter using rangefinder

While not as important as your calls and decoys, when bowhunting for turkeys a laser rangefinder is a must-have piece of equipment.


BowstixMost bowhunting for turkeys takes place from a ground blind which means no handy tree hangers to hang your bow from during down time.  While plastic fold-up kickstands are great for the back yard or 3D course they don’t cut the mustard for hunting situations.  Enter Bowstix.  This handy tool fastens to your bow between your riser and your stabilizer and features two removable and adjustable rods which hold your bow in the upright position when set on the ground.  When not in use simply screw the rods off your bow, then screw them together and they fit right into your quiver for safe and easy transport.  If nothing else it certainly beats holding your bow, resting it on your lap, or against the side of your blind all day.

Justin Zarr
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Justin has been bowhunting for more than 25 years, harvesting a number of P&Y whitetails in his home state of Illinois during that time.  He co-hosts the popular bowhunting show 'Bowhunt or Die' and is a frequent guest on numerous hunting podcast.  Justin lives in the NW suburbs of Chicago with his wife and 3 children.
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