Top Tips for Bowhunting Turkeys

By Joe MartinoMarch 18, 2020

Let’s face it, bowhunting turkeys is tough – incredibly tough as a matter of fact, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.  Taking a wild turkey with stick and string is one of the greatest accomplishments any bowhunter can achieve, and you can do it with a little preparation and by knowing how to best put the odds in your favor. Here’s a look at some of our top tips for bowhunting turkeys. 

herrmann-turkey
Want to punch your turkey tag with a bow this spring? Be sure to follow the tips mentioned below to up your odds for success.

Blinds vs. Wide Open

Try bowhunting turkeys without a blind and you will quickly realize just what a challenge you are in for.  Getting your bow drawn on a wary gobbler is a feat indeed, but it can be done.

If you are hunting without the concealment of a blind, the best time to draw your bow is if the bird is in full strut while facing directly away from you.  This is about the only way to avoid being spotted. 

You might be able to get drawn while the gobbler steps behind a tree, but do so quickly before he steps back in the open,  Once drawn, you can execute a killing shot by either shooting the bird directly in the rectum or by waiting until he turns broadside and offers you a shot in the wing butt.  While the formerly mentioned backside shot is not recommended on most game, it is lethal on turkeys.

zarr-mantis-turkey
Justin Zarr with an Illinois bird taken from the NAP Mantis ground blind.

When hunting from a blind, getting drawn on turkeys is much easier. Blinds will allow you to pull turkeys in unbelievably close for the shot, and you’ll be blown away with the amount of movement you can get away with when concealed within a blind. 

Look for a blind that sets up fast and easy and won’t flap in the wind. The window system is also critical for success when bowhunting turkeys. Look for a quiet window system that is easily adjusted on the fly. 

Also, be sure to close the back windows of the blind so you’re not caught flashing in the back-light that will come from too many windows being opened. 

When hunting from a blind, remember to sit near the back of the blind, not right in front of the window.  This will help to conceal you better.  I have actually successfully hunted turkeys in a blind without wearing a facemask or gloves.

Also, don’t feel the need to brush your blind in.  If you can, great, but I have been on numerous successful turkey hunts where we simply popped the blind up in a wide open spot and had birds walk right up to it, and actually brush up against it.

Broadheads

There are two main types of broadheads used in turkey hunting, the expandable and those made for head shots such as guillotine-style heads. 

Expandables are the best bet for body shots. You’ll tend to have more range when shooting expandable broadheads. Body shots can be made in the wing butt, vent (tail pipe), or in the chest, between the base of the bird’s wattles and top of his beard.  

Guillotine-style heads are made for shooting right at the turkeys head and neck. They are a good option in the fact that you’ll typically drop the bird in its tracks, or get a clean miss. 

Hunter looking at bloody broadhead
With their large cutting diameter and field-point like flight, expandable or "mechanical" broadheads are an increasingly popular choice for turkey hunters.

Crank It Down

Consider cranking the poundage of your bow down slightly. You never know how long you will have to remain at full draw on a bird waiting for the shot. 

Penetration is rarely a factor when it comes to shooting a turkey with a bow. And while some like their arrow to blow through the bird completely, an arrow that remains in a bird makes for somewhat of an anchor as it attempts to run or fly away.  

Keep Them Close

If bowhunting from a blind, set your decoys only about five to ten yards out from the blind. 

As earlier mentioned, turkeys will walk right up to a blind, and setting your decoys close not only offers you close shots, but may also bring birds into range that may hang up away from the decoys.

Top Tips For Bowhunting Turkeys
Place your decoys where you want your shot to happen when bowhunting. 6-10 yards is perfect for pulling turkeys in tight.

Practice Close Shots

Besides shooting at ten yards and out, it’s also important to practice shooting your bow at short distance, of say, four or five yards. 

You will be surprised to find out that your arrows will most likely hit three to five inches low at such short ranges. 

Make sure you take the time to eliminate any surprises when it comes to short-range shots on turkeys.

Top Tips For Bowhunting Turkeys
Don't forget to practice those super close shots.

Bowhunting Turkeys - Just Do It!

If you’ve got a turkey bowhunt on your bucket list, now is the time to get out there and make it happen. 

Put the tips mentioned above to work for you this spring, and you’ll see your odds for success rise throughout the season. Just do it! 

Joe Martino
Media Contact at River Cleanup conservation group
Joe is a true outdoorsman who writes articles based on his experiences and knowledge of fishing, hunting, trapping and conservation. While Joe does occasionally fish and hunt throughout the country, many of his experiences come from pursuing the great outdoors throughout the Midwest.
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