If you’ve struggled to punch your turkey tag with a bow this season, then you’ve come to the right place. In this piece, we’ll delve deeper than mere shot placement. Kill every bird you shoot at with these simple steps for bowhunting turkeys.
Aim to Kill
Far too many gobblers are lost to low hits. This is especially true of strutting birds. Bowhunters easily misconceive a strutting bird’s kill zone, aiming mid-ship on the black puff. This rarely ends well. You must really buckle down and pick a feather, and it must be high rather than low. Low hits – unless you connect with drumsticks – rarely kill birds quickly.
Besides hitting too low, bowhunters often strike birds too far forward, which is equally detrimental to recovery. When gobblers strut, their breast feathers drop low and make them appear much larger than they actually are. A breast-only hit will require another finishing arrow, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to track down the bird. Most often, breast-shot gobblers aren’t recovered.
Know the Angle
Various angles require specific arrow placement. Always be contemplating the exit wound. A broadside tom is best arrowed at the top of his drumsticks, or where the lungs are tucked up against the spine.
I prefer aiming a few inches above the wing’s bronze spectrum. Birds facing directly away should be arrowed right up the back. This angle exposes the entire spine, so even if your arrow misses vitals, it’ll still anchor the bird if it connects with the spine.
One of my favorite angles is head-on. The wattles at the neck base create a prominent target, particularly when the gobbler is in full strut. An arrow placed between the beard base and the neck constitutes a kill. Any arrow placed beneath the beard base instigates a tricky tracking session.
There are other angles, but we’ve covered the most common. Study the accompanying images for aiming references. Know the angle, and arrow your bird accordingly.
Know Your Effective Range
Responsible bowhunters don’t shoot arrows just for chances to kill animals. I’ve reached out and nailed gobblers at good distances, but I only do it when I’ve spent weeks shooting and tuning my bow every day. When I haven’t practiced extensively – when life gets in the way – I limit my shot distances. Bottom line, wait for a gobbler to enter your effective shooting range before hitting full draw, and then take your shot confidently.
Aim for a Specific Feather
I vividly recall shooting at a tom well within my effective range during my second season of turkey
hunting. I had the correct pin right on the bird, but didn’t concentrate at a particular feather or grouping of feathers. My arrow zipped right past him. I still don’t know why I missed the shot, but I know my accuracy on birds has soared since I’ve concentrated my pin on a tiny spot, rather than aim center mass. There are many places to hit a bird and not recover it. There are only a few hits that will instantly knock toms dead.
Gobblers appear much larger when they strut. However, they have the same size kill zone regardless if strutting or relaxed. Aim small, miss small. It’s that simple.
Use Large Broadheads
Large mechanical broadheads deliver the wallop needed to anchor birds. They also offer larger cutting diameters without the wind resistance of a fixed-blade head. Larger cutting surfaces compensate for marginal hits. I’m not recommending being less proficient. I’m simply saying that large mechanical broadheads – in most cases – have your back when your arrow hits slightly off the mark.
Down and Out
There are few body parts on gobblers that’ll immediately immobilize them when arrowed. These areas include the drumsticks, both wing butts, any part of the spinal column, and the head.
The most surefire shot is through the top of the drumsticks. Gobblers struck here will be immobilized and bleed out quickly. The drumsticks are, in most cases, the most effective and most lethal shot.
Head shots are also deadly, and I’ve nailed several birds this way. If everyone only shot for the head, though, many more birds would live to gobble another day. It takes immense concentration and precise accuracy to land a gobbler with the head shot.
Bowhunting turkeys can be one of the toughest challenges you will ever face. But if you’ll follow the guidelines previously mentioned, and set up in the right location, you’re likely to punch your next turkey tag with your bow.