5 Reasons You’re Missing Turkeys with a Bow

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Are You Making These Turkey Bowhunting Mistakes?

Reason: You Aren’t Familiar with Your Gear

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1 | Reason: You Aren’t Familiar with Your Gear

Being unfamiliar with your gear is a bowhunting sin. I think it’s written in the 10 bowhunting commandments on Fred Bear’s tombstone. You don’t go to the woods with archery gear you haven’t used and practiced with.

Solution: Spend at least 10 or 15 minutes shooting each afternoon. Make sure the draw length, draw weight, arrow length and other features are adjusted to fit you. Also, tune your bow. Tune your broadheads. And keep everything in working order. But most importantly, practice and become confident in your abilities with the equipment you have.

Bonus Read: 10 Bowhunting Sins

Photo credit: Craig Watson

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Reason: You Aren’t Distinguished in Yardage Judging

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2 | Reason: You Aren’t Distinguished in Yardage Judging

Judging yardage can be very difficult. It isn’t a simple process. It takes time and effort to master this craft. You have to do your homework in order to attain this goal of becoming distinguished in yardage judging.

Solution: For the short term, use a range finder. These are great tools that will help you know how far that turkey is. But don’t just rely on this tool. Place your decoys at a yardage you know so you have a range marker. It’s also important to teach yourself how to judge distances, because you don’t always have time to range a target. That said, never leave home without this piece of gear no matter how good you are. We owe it to the game to be as ethical and effective as possible. Rangefinders make us better in both categories.

Bonus Read: 8 Advanced Rangefinder Skills Bowhunters Need to Know

Photo credit: John Hafner

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Reason: You Don’t Draw at the Right Time

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3 | Reason: You Don’t Draw at the Right Time

Knowing when to draw your bow is an important part of bowhunting turkeys. You can't just jerk the string back anytime you please and expect to get a shot off. It’s an art. If you draw at the wrong time, you’re going to spook that bird and put it on edge.

Solution: Watch hunting videos of people bowhunting turkeys. Freeze the frame when the hunter draws back and study the entire scene. Observe the body language of the turkey. Observe other nearby birds. The best times to draw are when their eyesight is obscure (in full strut facing away, head behind a tree, etc.), when they’re heavily focused on the decoys, etc.

Bonus Read: Archery Tips from the Pros

Photo credit: John Hafner

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Reason: You Aren’t Waiting for the Right Shot

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4 | Reason: You Aren’t Waiting for the Right Shot

It’s always best to wait for the right shot. Are you doing that? If you aren’t, you should be. Turkeys are extremely tough. They can take a hit. If you don’t make a good shot, that bird will most likely fly and die several hundred yards away. And it ain’t easy to blood-trail a turkey.

Solution: Wait for the right shot. Learn and understand wild turkey anatomy. The best places to aim on a turkey is the base of the tail fan (when in full strut), the wing base, and the head/neck region. Furthermore, hold your fire until birds are well within range and relaxed. Shooting at a calm bird (and in range) or one that’s fixated on the decoys is much easier than launching an arrow at a jumpy turkey on the edge of your effective range.

Bonus Read: More Reasons Why Bowhunters Miss

Photo credit: Heartland Bowhunter

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Reason: You Panic at the Moment of Truth

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5 | Reason: You Panic at the Moment of Truth

The famous adrenaline rush and the infamous effects it has on our ability for sound reasoning and shot-making capabilities is a love-hate relationship. This one gets the best of us from time to time. But that doesn’t make it any less bearable when it does.

Solution: Practice real-life scenarios. This will help simulate the real thing. Another method is to use life-like 3D targets. This will add another dimension to your efforts. Also, run sprints and then take a shot immediately afterward. This will give you an idea of what it feels like to shoot under pressure. And lastly, keep hunting. You’ll learn how to overcome “bird fever” as time goes on. It’s all part of growing as a turkey hunter. Don’t forget to enjoy it every step of the way.

Are you not a bowhunter? Are you the type that'd rather shoot 'em in the face with a 3-inch load of No. 5s? Check out our 5 Excuses for Why You Missed Turkeys This Spring (and the Truth).

Bonus Read: 5 Steps for Curing Buck Fever (the same concept applies)

Photo credit: Heartland Bowhunter

Editor's Note: This was originally published on May 4, 2017.

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Bowhunting turkeys is no easy task. Being able to flawlessly sit still, come to full draw and make a well-placed shot on a wily ol’ gobbler is hard. Plain and simple. And doing it on the ground with no ground blind? With the level of difficulty involved, that’s almost the equivalent of torture (for the bowhunter).

If you’re in the same boat as many others, and you keep missing turkeys with your bow, check out the following reasons why that might be happening and see what our solutions to those problems are. There’s still hope for some of you. A little bit of turkey season remains.