This is a question I'm asked. Here are my thoughts:
I generally shun short bows whether they're compound or traditional. But when the subject turns to turkeys I lighten up on that conviction. This is directly related to how turkeys are bowhunted. You're either operating from inside a pop-up (most popular today) or sitting flat on your butt in natural cover. However, I've certainly bagged plenty of birds with longer compounds and true longbows from inside blinds and hunting on the ground.
That said, short bows when combined with short-range shooting (anything more than 30 yards is pushing your luck with turkey and their baseball-sized vitals) give you more maneuverability in both cases. The industry trend of bow lengths under 34 inches, seems ideal for turkey hunting, Bows of those lengths are easier to handle and make avoiding top-limb contact with pop-up roofs easier and bottom-limb collisions with the ground less likely, especially if you're short in stature.
Other than that, my turkey bows exactly mirror big-game rigs with 70 pounds of draw weight as suited to turkeys as moose (or 45 to 65 pounds if that's your preferred draw weight).
When bowhunting big game my preferences typically lean toward ultra-bright fletchings and solid, fixed-blade broadheads. I want to see where my arrow goes after release, and I prefer the rock-solid reliability of such broadhead designs on big game.
When targeting turkeys, my preferences take a complete 180. Bright fletchings for turkeys are a mistake. This is especially true when hunting off the ground (which I prefer). Birds, unlike big game animals, perceive the full color spectrum. Bright fletchings are as glaring to them as they are to you and me. When fletching turkey arrows I choose camouflage browns, greens and black. Even better are camouflaged or barred versions of these colors. I even go so far as choosing Realtree versions of Easton's Axis, as an example, instead of plain black shafts. Turkeys live by their vision. I'll take every advantage I can get.
The biggest difference -- and perhaps most important to bowhunting success on turkeys -- is aggressive, wide-cutting broadheads. In the dark ages of bowhunting we added washers behind standard broadheads, filed notches into broadhead blades, fixating primarily on imparting shock. Sadly we still lost lots of birds. After tagging 60 gobblers by bow I've come to understand punching big holes is much more important than inflicting shock.
There's plenty of turkey ammo for the archer to choose from today. Some of the heads I've used to deadly effect include New Archery Products' Gobbler Getter (1 1/2" cutting diameter with blunted tip to impede penetration), Rocket Hammerhead, Vortex Mini-Max 3 and Rage (the latter all 2-inch cuts). These heads create big holes, turn marginal hits into dead gobblers, and slow penetration enough to regularly leave arrows in the bird and discourage locomotion.
Editor's note: This blog post was re-published from the original publish date.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.