5 Things You Need to Know About Bowhunting Turkeys

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

Turkey Hunting with Archery Tackle Has Never Been Better

Watch Realtree.com contributor Patrick Meitin's excellent video on bowhunting shot placement for turkeys. View it again if you already have, and on a regular basis. Memory, both muscle and mental, are essential for bowhunting turkeys effectively. – S.H.

When another hunter asks me if I've bowhunted much, I always reply: "Yep, for turkeys."

A second or two passes, accompanied by a puzzled look, which prompts the next question:

"Do you bowhunt deer?"

Here at Realtree.com, we leave bowhunting deer to the experts. These guys go by the names Jordan, both Bill and Tyler, Blanton and Honeycutt.

"No, I've mostly concentrated on turkeys," is my grinning reply.

As a truly hardcore turkey hunter, and I say this with just a little ego and pride, I've hunted the big birds across much of the United States, in over half the states available to us, and even down in Mexico. I've done DIY deals for much of it, but have also had plenty of help from friends in this effort.

I love hunting, watching, eating and thinking about wild turkeys. Spring, fall and winter, I've been out there, where legal, chasing birds. It's fair to call this an addiction I share with many. Heck, I even watch hens with poults all summer . . .

That said, let's get back to the bowhunting for turkeys deal. Why bother? Here are some upsides and downsides to the deal.

The Downsides

First off, I'm the first to say bowhunting turkeys isn't the best way to anchor a bird. A shotgun does that. Boom. Down. Dead. A good bow shot may still see the gobbler fly off, only to die a minute or two later. Woodsmanship is required to find such birds. 

What's the answer?

Practice, practice, practice so you're comfortable with your archery equipment. Read posts like this. Talk to other bowhunters. Fine-tune your equipment. Be ready. The wild turkey deserves as much.

The Upsides

Bowhunting seasons for turkeys are often generous, offered in spring, fall and winter, state depending. Be sure to check yours, as a handful only allow spring turkey hunting.

I've truly enjoyed hunting the New Hampshire fall turkey bowhunting season over the years, which runs from Sept. 15 to Dec. 15 annually. Tough to complain about such a generous season, eh. To be honest, I've learned a great deal doing it, even from the mistakes.

The misses, and there have been many – at close range, on open ground, without a blind – are bittersweet recollections. Experience matters most in turkey hunting. Finding, calling and watching wild turkeys over such a long period of time, year after year, educates a guy. 

Yep, mistakes teach plenty. I wouldn't change a thing.

This is the attitude you need to adopt. Be patient. Enjoy all of it as you gain archery skills.

Please click through this blog post to get other tips on bowhunting turkeys.

After, you'll have to find your own way as we all do. Enjoy the ride.


Archery Tackle

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1 | Archery Tackle

Talk to other turkey hunters who do it with a bow. Hit the hunting forums and discuss options. 

If you're a veteran bowhunter, you may not need to tweak your gear all that much.

If you're just starting out, get plenty of opinions first before you make choices.

After you make choices, continue to refine these for gear, tactics and so on.

Got a local bow shop with a knowledgeable staff? Go there with a bunch of questions about the best bow, broadhead and arrows for what you want to do: bowhunt turkeys.


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2 | Practice

Just as you would pattern your turkey shotgun with different loads at varying distances with several choke tubes, do this with your bow, arrow and broadhead to gain skill and confidence in your shooting, and the equipment you do it with each day, before the hunt.

Practice arrowing a 3-D turkey target on a regular basis to visualize your intended quarry.

To reflect hunting conditions, practice shooting from a hunting stool, a standing position, or on your backside.

You need not shoot for hours on end. A daily 20-minute session can get you in the groove though.


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Hunt Prep

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3 | Hunt Prep

Gear for bowhunting turkeys has never been better. New bowhunting accessories might suit your spring gobbler hunts, as much as those times to come this fall for deer.

Wear reliable, comfortable Realtree-camouflage clothing to instill confidence and concealment in your game plan.

Use a man-made blind, where legal, constructed from natural materials on patterned turkeys to conceal your movements (though it limits mobility), or hunt with a model that's easy to transport and assemble.

If you bowhunt on foot for turkeys as I do, find the best archery tackle to match this tactical style.

More Here: the Realtree bowhunting nest.

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Game Time

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4 | Game Time

Stake turkey decoys at your effective bow range to fix an individual gobbler or flock's position.

Get the turkey close – real close (know your personal skill and range limit).

Incorporate good calling and solid woodsmanship.

Think about what the turkey is seeing before you commit to making a move.

Time your shot on a calm, standing bird in range, with a sure draw and arrow release.

Place your shots at the neck's base on facing birds, wing butt, or at the anal vent when turkeys face away.

Some broadheads are trusty enough to aim for the head and neck, and even designed for this.

Drill that turkey dead.

Bonus Video: Turkey Anatomy and Proper Arrow Placement

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Seal the Deal

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5 | Seal the Deal

After anchoring a turkey, place your bow down, then quickly approach and step on the flopping bird's head or neck before carefully removing the arrow if it hasn't passed through.

If you've made a good hit, and especially if you're not so sure, pay attention to everything you see and hear as the turkey moves off.

It may fly, then crash in the nearby woods. It might run off, and seek thick shelter.

Stay aware. And do everything you can to find that bird.

When you do, congratulations. You've earned it.

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Cool Gallery: The 20 Best Photos You'll Ever See of the Wild Turkey Breeding Season

Editor's note: This turkey blog was first published March 5, 2017.

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