Crossbow Longbeards

By Daniel James HendricksMarch 23, 2016

My turkey hunting career began late in life, but the undeniable truth of the matter is that it is never too late for one to take on the additional burden of another great passion in the hunting arena. My early experience began by videoing this traditional pastime for some of the best turkey hunters I have ever met. Our own ACF Director, Ottie Snyder started me off by introducing me to Richard Lancaster, a good ol’ boy that grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in SE Ohio. Now Ottie himself is a mighty fine turkey talker, but Richard can make them squirm.

Following these two fine men around the rugged slopes of their own backyards allowed me to learn a lot through osmosis, and both of these men went out of their way to give the flatlander from the Land of 10,000 Lakes quite a few pointers. When Minnesota finally started to give special breaks to bowhunters during their spring season, I decided it was time to put down my camera and pick up a crossbow. The foundation that Ottie and Richard laid years earlier went a long way towards gifting me with the 100% success rate I have experienced in my home state since starting a half a dozen years ago.

The main objective is to have a handsome Tom on the ground at the end of your hunt.

Now, I understand that a shotgun is a really good way to hunt turkeys, but I have yet to kill one with a firearm. The crossbow is and always will be my first and only choice. Granted, with a shotgun the hunter has multiple projectiles with each round and more than one round, but the single projectile from a crossbow is deadly accurate, going exactly where it is aimed far beyond the range of the typical 12 gauge. Oh, sure you might get lucky at fifty yards, but one has no idea where those little lead projectiles are going to be flying. With a crossbow you do.

My setup is always in the same spot… a heavy thoroughfare between roosts and feeding areas, smack dab in the middle of turkey territory.

Now in order to slant things more in favor of my crossbow, I use a ground blind, which is set up just before season begins, right smack in the middle of prime turkey territory. It gets set up in the same location, which is a natural travel lane for toms as they move from field to field searching for true love, every spring.

The diaphragm calls I use, on a still morning, can easily reach a half a dozen roosting sites that are used by the local birds on a regular basis. The biggest problem I have to contend with is getting my season to last beyond an hour or two on the very first morning that I settle into my blind, armed and dangerous.

The shortest shot from my proven ambush site has been five feet, and the longest shot has been 52 yards. All neatly done with a variety of crossbows, depending on which I happen to be field testing at the time. Now, I realize that there are lots of other methods for pursuing this feathered trophy, but I have always been a firm believer in the fact that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And at this particular point in my turkey hunting career, it ain’t broken!

If one’s calls are effective, he, or she, will be treated to a flock of toms marching towards the decoys.

Last year, I bought a tag for my wife and desperately tried to get her out, but I was unsuccessful in my efforts and ended up using her tag for tag soup (I hate tag soup!). I will try again this year, for I know, deep in my heart that once she experiences it, she will be hooked… just like me.

Getting to the blind in the pre-dawn quiet, setting up the decoy spread and then settling in to wait for daylight to chase away the night, is a treat. As the gray begins to settle in and brighten the land, I begin to beckon with urgent clucks from a diaphragm call. As the beckoning echoes across the open fields and into the roosts that I know are so close, I wait. And when the early dawn is interrupted by a raspy response of a gobble from one or more titillated toms, the hair on the back of my neck stands up, and my pulse quickens in excitement and anticipation. The game is on!

As I work that small piece of finely tuned plastic between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, I keep the conversation lively until the tom, or toms, finally fly down to the ground and begin to close the distance between them and my summoning. And undeniably, the closer the gobbles come, the more passionate the excitement becomes. As the intensity increases, I ready my crossbow and slip the safety off as I continue to urge them on with my calls.

At long last, I finally catch movement and adjust my line as the quarry nears the ambush site. Sometimes they come through the brush or out of the swamp, other times they will come waltzing straight down one of the tractor trails that intersect right in front of my blind. Regardless of their egress, I am ready with their image already glued to the very center of my scope. And as long as they are coming, I let them come, knowing full well that the closer the shot, the less room for error.

When the birds pull up and stop at the edge of the decoys… decoys that I have well measured, I begin to firmly apply pressure to the trigger causing my bow to bark, bringing release to the arrow. The bird that is focused in my scope jumps in alarm, but not before the steel tipped projectile has finalized the unfortunate turkey’s ruin. And then…my body begins that all too familiar earthquake shake as the adrenaline surges through my system. While I try to control the tremors that accompany my triumph, I study the results of my productive ambush. Sometimes the bird just drops in a pile, sometimes it tries to escape on foot, sometimes it even takes to the air, but the inevitable result is always the same…the end.

A successful ambush is a sure way to plaster a happy smile all over a hunter’s face.

Now I ask you, how could such an exciting and melodramatic experience as that not appeal to my wife or anyone for that matter? Just got to sell harder, I guess. The bottom line is that chasing turkeys with an arrow and a string is one of my dearest pastimes, and if the ever-lovely Karen does not want to share it with me, I will just have to keep it for myself. Get out there and turkey hunt, my friends, you will not be sorry!

Until next time, please take care, be well and God bless.


Daniel James Hendricks
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