Kill Every Bird You Shoot At With These Simple Steps for Bowhunting Turkeys

By Darron McDougalApril 27, 2016

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

broadside shot for bowhunting turkeys

A broadside bird is best arrowed just above the bronze spectrum. This shot will burry into the vitals, making the recovery short.

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.

quartering away shot for bowhunting turkeys

The slightest angle can change everything when it comes to bowhunting turkeys. Watch for these subtle changes and make your shot accordingly.

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.

rinehart turkey target practice

It’s been said, “Hit ’em high watch ’em die…hit ’em low, watch ’em go,” when it comes to shooting turkeys with a bow. Don’t let your shot fall short of the mark this spring.

Aim for a Specific Feather

I vividly recall shooting at a tom well within my effective range during my second season of turkey

rear shot for bowhunting turkeys

The facing-away shot exposes the backbone. When you connect with the spinal column, birds will drop in their tracks.

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.

Some great options for turkey broadheads include: NAP’s Spitfire Gobbler Getter, Wac’Em Expandable, and Rage X-treme.

darron with turkey kill

This gorgeous gobbler fell victim to an arrow placed through the top of the drumsticks. He was immobilized on impact and bled out quickly. The rewards from bowhunting turkeys truly are sweet.

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.

The Rinehart turkey targets make for the perfect practice option to help you hone in on where to shoot a strutting bird. An arrow too far to the left will contact the breast. It's not the shot you want.

The Rinehart turkey targets make for the perfect practice option to help you hone in on where to shoot when bowhunting turkeys. An arrow placed too far forward will contact the breast. It’s not the shot you want. www.rinehart3d.com

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.

Darron McDougal
Darron McDougal is a full-time freelance outdoor writer/editor who lives in Antigo, WI with his bride, Becca. He's hunted in 12 states and successfully taken elk, bear, hogs, turkeys, pronghorn, whitetails, and mule deer, most with archery equipment on DIY hunts. The McDougals enjoy all things hunting and shooting. They believe in God and love to travel.
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