Shot Placement When Bowhunting for Turkeys

By Daniel James HendricksApril 15, 20155 Comments

Turkey hunting is a sport that I started to participate in late in life. The early days in the field were actually spent videoing other hunters in Ohio with my crossbow brothers, Ottie Snyder, Richard Lancaster and friends as they beat the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains guiding and hunting the wily Tom Turkey. Both Ottie and Richard are skilled turkey callers and I must confess, I learned a lot from them as we traipsed the beautiful wooded landscapes of SE Ohio in pursuit of the majestic gobbling toms with crossbows and a video camera.

Author with is 2014 bird taken at 7:15 the opening morning of the Minnesota Archery Season.

Author with is 2014 bird taken at 7:15 the opening morning of the Minnesota Archery Season.

Although Minnesota had a season during those early days, it was strictly a lottery drawing and in the area where I live, it was very difficult to draw a tag as the bird population was still quite small at that time and a lot of hunters wanted what few tags were available. Once the bird numbers increased to better than healthy levels and Minnesota went to the spring archery season, I was more than ready to jump on board the Turkey Huntin’ Train to little buggers with a crossbow.

In our fine state, hunters can purchase an archery-only tag for the spring hunt which allows them to hunt most of the entire month of May, and they can purchase that license right over the counter, foregoing the lottery process; it is also permissible for any hunter, regardless of circumstances, age or sex to use a crossbow during the spring and fall turkey seasons. Since that system has been put into place, I have been an ardent turkey hunter beginning the first Saturday of May, each year.

My choice for a broadhead is an expandable that open to 1 1/2 to 2".

My choice for a broadhead is an expandable that open to 1 1/2 to 2″.

The ground blind always goes up a few days before the opener, two comfortable swivel chairs are placed in the blind and the stakes are driven into the ground for the decoys, which are stored in the blind until opening day and then again each night until our tags are filled.

Red marks the spot for a good Texas Heart Shot on a turkey.

Red marks the spot for a good Texas Heart Shot on a turkey.

The ambush site is in the same spot each year, situated at a fork in a field road that snakes through the woods and around three very large, water-filled potholes. The site is surrounded by roosting areas and is a major traffic route as the birds move from roosting to feeding areas and then back again. The traffic can remain steady during the entire day making all day hunts a sound plan of action, if one has the time to do that.

Besides the turkey traffic, there are whitetails moving through the area as well as raccoons, coyotes, fox, rodents and a plethora of winged creatures which provide a beautiful concert of background music to set the mood, all day long. Some great photographs have been collected from that blind as the hunters peacefully wile away the hours, the cares and problems of this wicked world left far behind and out of mind… medicated into oblivion by the finest offerings that God’s natural beauty has to offer.

Now since I have started this turkey madness each spring, I have managed to collected the scalps of five birds… ya I know… that’s pretty minor-league, but as I said, I started this game late in life. As of yet, however, I have not taken one with a shotgun, I hear you can do that, but I have yet to put down my crossbow so that I can give it a try.

The crossbow, in my humble opinion, is a far better implement for bagging your bird and here is why I think so. It makes much more sense to me to use a tool that places one projectile exactly where you aim it instead of using one that spits out a pattern of projectiles that you have little or no control over. I guess I have always suffered from a “sniper-mindset”. I would rather take one very calculated shot at a target for a sure kill, rather than using the shotgun approach of just getting a lot of the projectiles out there and hoping that one connects with a vital spot.

Case in point, two of the birds taken were with shots of over forty yards; one at 42 and another at 52 yards; a task and distance that has proven unproductive more often than not for a shotgun. In both cases, the arrow unceremoniously dropped the birds in a neat and feathery pile. The other three birds were taken at twenty yards or less, but each of them were decisively dropped with a single arrow to the bread box, which impacted exactly where I was aiming. The only necessary bit of knowledge required is a biological understanding of a turkey’s anatomy and that information can be easily learned by a quick trip to the internet… or by reading this article.

For a head-on shot aim just above the beard, but be careful, I have cut the beard in half before.

For a head-on shot aim just above the beard, but be careful, I have cut the beard in half before.

Now of course, arrival at the blind takes place well before daylight and is a requirement to insure that the raucous and loud yelps from my diaphragm calls will have the tom’s focused on my position well before they depart their roost and hit the ground running. Box calls and a variety of slate calls are also a part of my turkey calling arsenal, but it is hard to duplicate the sounds and the volume that one gets from a properly applied diaphragm call.

Once I have determined that the birds are making a beeline for my ambush site and they are getting close, I prefer to switch to an electronic turkey call, which gives me a variety of calls at the touch of a finger while the call nestles comfortably on my lap for easy access. Not as loud, the electric calls work very well when the birds are in close, allowing me to settle my crossbow onto the shooting stick and point it in the direction of the decoys as I await the arrival of Mr. Tom.

Side shot at a strutting tom should go here to take out the heart and lungs of the bird.

Your shot should go here to take out the heart and lungs of the bird.

In the most recent seasons, the main problem has been that the four week season was over far too quickly. In 2014, I was done by 7:15 opening morning. Fortunately I was able to call for my hunting buddy, Duane Wolfe, assisting him in bagging his bird the first few days of season. In Minnesota, the spring season is for a single tom so when you have filled your tag, you are done hunting, unless you have some friends you can call for.

The broadhead of choice for crossbow turkeys in my humble opinion is an expandable head, one that opens to at least one and a half, to two inches in diameter. Penetration is not a problem with a small target like a turkey, but a larger cut insures a better chance of hitting the vital organs which are small on a gobbler. A retractable broadhead also insures maximum accuracy for longer shots and will definitely sever the spine in the event of an exact center, frontal or Texas heart shot.

The key, as with any crossbow shot, is to take your time, use a shooting stick to insure a stable shot and make sure that you place the broadhead smack dab in the goodie box. If each one of these steps is taken with care when you have a shot, you will be eating turkey tenderloins that night for supper.

This photo shows the location of the lungs, heart and spine all of which make a solid kill shot.

This photo shows the location of the lungs, heart and spine all of which make a solid kill shot.

The best part about hunting spring turkey is the fact that it gets you back out into the woods after a long winter layoff and it gives you a chance to expand your crossbow hunting (at least in Minnesota and the 25 other states that currently allow crossbows as regular archery equipment for turkeys). The fact that it also provides some very special table fare to boot is just a bonus, a very tasty bonus, I might add.

Daniel James Hendricks
    Post a Comment View 5 Comments