Bow Hunting Practice Tips for Turkey Season
As the winter slowly grinds on the thought of warm weather and chasing turkeys creeps into every hunter’s mind. Hunting turkeys with a bow has seen an uptick in popularity recently, partially in thanks to readily available video content online showcasing that very pursuit! While the chance to tag a fired up gobbler at close range with a bow is a hard earned chance, many love the difficulty of arrowing a mature tom in the Spring. However; unlike using a shotgun, it takes time and bow hunting practice in order to understand the anatomy of a wild turkey and how to make an ethical shot on a bird not well know for standing still. This is where the long cold winters can be put to best use for your future turkey hunting adventures.
Study the Anatomy
The goal for any hunter is to make a clean, quick and ethical kill to minimize pain and suffering to the game. Much like with big game, time well spent studying the vitals, skeletal and muscle structure of a turkey is one of the keys to success. A turkey is deceptive in appearance and although they are a giant bird, their vitals are quite small. Looking over diagrams or through watching how-to videos online discussing the anatomy of a turkey is the key to understanding shot placement from every angle which can present itself during a shooting situation. The vitals of a turkey are not much larger than a softball and the head of a turkey is not much bigger than a baseball. However, because of the deceptive look of a turkey, many hunters miss, or worse, make an unfatal shot. What is misleading about these birds are the three inches of back and chest feathers. When a bird is in full strut, a bow hunter can easily lose concentration and look at the entire bird missing the shot, or worse, wounding the bird. When bow hunting for turkeys it is important to take the time to not just pick the right gear for the job but to take the time to understand turkey anatomy.
In order to make quick and clean kills, remember, the lungs of a turkey rest against their backbone and where the wing feathers and neck feathers meet is directly over the heart. Bow hunters can draw an imaginary line up the bird from legs to head to find the heart and lungs of a turkey. On a turkey standing broadside, the vitals will sit just over the legs. However, it is important to remember to not shoot too far forward at the breast as this will not result in a lethal shot on a turkey.
Shooting at the head of a turkey with a bow is highly lethal and can be done so ethically with practice, focus and the right gear. Some bow hunters prefer to focus on head shots as it minimizes the chances of wounding a bird. However, there is little room for error when attempting a headshot with a bow on a turkey.
Photo Credit: Jason Reid
Bow Hunting Practice for Turkeys
While practice makes perfect, it is specific and deliberate practice methods which can help the difference between turkey dinner and tag sandwiches. The size and nature of turkeys makes practice focused on shooting fundamentals critical to success.
Ten yards seems like a chip shot when you have a target like a deer or an elk. On a turkey, distance only magnifies the difficulty of a shot. This is why many archery turkey hunters work hard to bring birds to within ten yards. Practicing at ten yards might sound childish, but it forces one to work on smooth and clean releases, not just punching the trigger when the bird is in tight. Even a few inches off target can mean the difference between success and tag soup.
Into order to practice at close range, many target options are available to replicate shooting at a turkey. Becoming familiar with the form of turkey in your sights not only benefits repetition but helps avoid target panic at the moment of truth. 3d targets of turkeys are available in both strutting and alert forms. For those with the desire to make archery turkey hunting a regular pursuit, investing in 3d targets will help drastically improve confidence in the field. The quality practice also exists by shooting spots. Shooting spots is known as an indoor competition. Yet, the repetitive nature of shooting at small targets reinforces the “aim small, miss small” school of thought. Shooting at small targets reveals flaws resting in poor shooting techniques and trains the mind to focus all the way through the shot and the target.
Even at less than ten yards bad shooting habits can overtake the logical parts of our brain and send an arrow way off the mark. One method useful in creating proper shooting techniques is called blind practice. Shooting blind forces one to feel for the release and learn to be surprised by the shot. It is no secret that this is the best way to execute a fluid and true shot. However, most still slap at the trigger on the release when shooting a bow. First, get a large target to shot at or use the wall targets at your local range. Stand five yards away from the target, close your eyes, draw, anchor, the slowly squeeze the trigger. Shooting blind is a great way to start any shooting session as it creates a subconscious rhythm. When shooting at a small target like a turkey, having near perfect mechanics is critical and hunters using the winter months to their advantage to become proficient in the small details have a greater chance of success come spring.
Practice Like You Mean It
Anyone who ever played sports have heard the saying, “Practice like you play.” Likewise, when bow hunting for turkeys you are more than likely not going to be shooting from a standing position. Most likely the shot opportunity will come from a seated position in a dark blind with a few dark layers on in order to blend into the darkened interior of the blind. Once you feel confident enough in the anatomy of a bird and can hit quarters at less than ten yards, set up your blind in the backyard, or basement if you have snow in the yard, get your stool or bucket and practice.
Shooting from a blind can be difficult. Often times the seat or stool you use does not allow one to vertically align your shoulders to the target. Other times the sense of confinement compounds any target panic one might have during a pressure-packed moment. Hunting from a blind can force one to shoot from an open position and can cause some people accuracy issues since it awkwardly aligns the shoulders to the target. What you don’t want to do is to have to figure out how to shoot from a blind the morning of your hunt as a fired up dominate tom is racing into the decoys, gobbling, strutting and drumming like his life depends on it. The best way to practice sitting down is to plan ahead for your future decoy spreads. You can work to minimize the awkward shoulder angles by setting up your target or your decoy 45 to 90 degrees to your left or right depending on what hand you shoot with, and sit facing the wall of the blind. This practice prepares you for not just a sitting angle but also gives you the chance to make all shots from the blind and not fight your arms. Shooting from this angle also ensures that the lower cams of the bow won’t risk coming into contact with parts of your leg, or smashing your knee upon the release of the arrow. Any accidental deflection of the bow will cause arrows to fly well off their mark,
Bow Hunting Turkey | Basic Tips
Remember to test any chair you bring before the hunt to avoid any creaks and squats. If shifting weight is an issue for the seat, leave it at home and practice with the seat you will use in the field. Close quarters turkeys will spook at small natural noises, which always seem to cut through the air at the most inopportune times. Be cognizant of the material of your seat as well in order to stay completely silent in the blind.
Still pondering exactly what broadhead you would need to penetrate the feather and hit the small target? Check out our article on broadheads for turkeys below.
Bow hunting for turkeys is the next level of adventure for the hunter wanting more from their spring adventures. Setting up to practice for turkeys may seem mundane but helps you leave nothing to chance when spring arrives and you finally win that morning-long battle with a stubborn gobbler. Concentrate on learning the anatomy of a turkey and shot angles for every situation. Find the tiny flaws in your short range shooting game and work towards correct shooting form and execution then learn how to shoot seated and through the windows of a darkened blind. While bow hunting turkeys may not be the easiest route to filling a tag, but it may be the most exciting.