Techniques for Bow Hunting Turkeys

In the turkey hunting world, there are two primary groups of people: those who prefer to use shotguns and those who use a stick and string. There’s obviously crossover between the two groups, but some hunters are very passionate about only their chosen weapon. While modern day bows are anything but primitive, it does take a bit more effort to pull off effectively than a shotgun. Bow hunting turkeys differs from shotgun hunting in several respects. First, it’s usually very hard to draw a bow back on a gobbler unless you’re in a concealed blind. Their eyesight is just too good to sneak it past them. Bow hunting turkey shot placement is critical, since there’s no shot pattern involved with a single arrow. And if an archer misses their mark, it can be tricky business to get another shot off before you get busted. These are all mostly solved by using a shotgun.

But despite these challenges, many hunters still elect to go turkey hunting with a bow. Why? Maybe it’s actually because of these additional challenges that they do so. After all, if you can beat a turkey on his own turf with a bow, you’ve done well as an outdoors enthusiast. If you plan on joining this dedicated community, there are a few archery turkey hunting tips you should keep in mind before you venture into the turkey woods.

How To Decoy and Bow Hunting Turkeys | Growing Deer TV
Turkey hunting with the team! In this video: a bow hunt with Adam Keith of a HUGE flock of Nebraska gobblers. Then, decoying tips for turkey hunting because different turkey hunting scenarios require different decoying strategies. Learn how we use decoys to get longbeards into the kill zone. Conventional and unconventional methods revealed. 

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Basic Turkey Hunting Gear 

It doesn’t matter if you primarily bow hunt or prefer shooting turkeys with a shotgun, most of your gear will be the same. You’ll need good camouflage clothing, turkey decoys, turkey calls, and a backpack with other essential items (e.g., knife, licenses, etc.). For bow hunting turkeys specifically, you’ll also need some other items with you. Obviously, you’ll need a bow that you feel comfortable shooting from a variety of positions, and one which you are deadly accurate with. Hopefully you spent time practicing with it in the offseason to get it truly dialed in before the season opener.

You’ll also need durable arrows equipped with your favorite broadhead type. Some hunters prefer the guillotine style broadhead, but most prefer the dependability of fixed-blade options, such as the G5 Striker. The Striker is made of all steel construction, but has replaceable blades in the event you glance off a tree or bury it into the ground. Regardless of which archery turkey hunting broadheads you choose, you need to be accurate with them. Do some field tests with paper or cardboard to see how your broadhead works.


G5 Striker Broadhead Bow Turkey Hunting | G5 Outdoors

The key distinction between bow hunting turkeys and using a shotgun, as we mentioned above, is correct shot placement. Most people don’t know the best place to shoot a turkey with a bow, which causes missed shots or even maimed birds. While you aim for a turkey’s neck and head with a shotgun that can spray a pattern of pellets, you aim for the turkey’s body with a bow that only has one projectile. Aiming for the turkey vitals with a bow is just a higher percentage shot for a more ethical bow kill. The arrow also inhibits a bird’s ability to fly off or run through thick brushy cover (if the arrow stays in the bird), which can reduce the risk of losing it. But a well-placed shot will eliminate that more than anything else.

Turkey Hunting Methods and Setups 

Once you have your hunting gear squared away, it’s time to give some thought to your bow hunting tactics. It should start the same as shotgun hunting, with some pre-season scouting. Any time spent scouting throughout the late winter months until opening day will help paint a little more of the picture for you. Learn where the turkeys spend their time, and locate the best spots to set up a blind for your bow hunting.

Turkey Hunting Methods and Setups | G5 Outdoors

It’s technically possible to kill a turkey with a bow while not using a blind, but it’s certainly not likely. Drawing a bow requires a lot more movement than you would think, and turkeys are quick to notice if you’re sitting in the open. To increase your odds while bow hunting turkeys, set up a ground blind in your chosen location a week or two before the season opens. On private land, be sure to brush it in well and give animals time to get used to it. If you hunt public land, you either have to risk leaving the blind or risk spooking the birds. It’s usually one or the other. But within the security of a blind, you can get away with much more movement, which makes filming your hunt or taking the kiddos with possible. A concealed blind also frees you to aggressively use a turkey box call or pot call and face it different directions in response to turkey gobbles. You don’t have to keep it hidden in your lap. Using this suggestion alone makes bow hunting for turkey incredibly easier.

Another good turkey hunting method is more focused on the setup itself. You’re not very mobile when hunting from a blind (hopefully that’s obvious), so you need to make sure that your decoys bring the turkey exactly where you want him. If you’re bow hunting turkeys, you should ideally set up your decoys within only 10 to 15 yards of your blind. It should be a chip shot if they come all the way in, but if they hang up a little further out, you may still get a shot depending on the conditions and your maximum ethical range. Also, face your decoys quartering away from the blind and looking towards wherever you expect a gobbler to enter the field or lane you’re hunting. When they look past the decoys, they shouldn’t immediately see your blind. Once they come in closer, they’ll usually flank the decoys, which will give you a broadside shot.

Techniques for Bow Hunting Turkeys | G5 Outdoors

If you happen to miss, don’t panic. Keep your G5 Headloc Quiver either attached to your bow or sitting next to you and quickly nock another arrow. If you hold still and stay concealed in the blind, you may get another shot opportunity before the gobbler in front of you wises up. That’s the low-impact, stealthy beauty of archery turkey hunting.

To wrap this up, hopefully you can now see the subtle differences between shotgun and bow hunting turkeys. Each requires a slightly different setup and some different tactics. But after harvesting a bird with a stick and string, we think you’ll be hooked. If nothing else, at least you won’t have to pick pellets out of your dinner!

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