Six Steps to Gobbler Shaft-Kabob
Bowhunting spring gobblers takes a special dedication to do it right. In fact, many ardent turkey hunters won’t try stick and string because gobblers are so difficult to kill with an arrow. However, with the advent of today’s new gear and some tried-and-true tactics, plating that tender white meat is easier than ever.
First, gear up properly. Your whitetail bow or crossbow will work fine; however, accuracy is much more important than poundage. If you haven’t practiced all winter, reduce the draw weight to 55 lbs. or less, so that you can draw it smoothly and quietly. Next, practice with your target points on a 3-D turkey target until you can put arrows exactly where you aim. A paper turkey target will do, but the life-size 3-D is best. Once you’re dialed in, pick a broadhead — the bigger the better. Penetration is rarely a problem, making any expandable a good bet. Large diameter cut-on-contact heads are great too, but make sure you practice with them to ensure they impact where aimed.
Scout for Success
Unless you hunt in Nebraska’s special archery-only turkey season, you’ll probably be competing with shotgun hunters. That’s why the better you know your turkey hunting area, the better your chances. If you have to fire up a gobbler on the limb and call it extensively, you’ll likely bring in non-tasty game. Locate where the gobblers go to strut and be there well in advance.
Turkeys are totally stupid about blinds. You can usually pop one up in the middle of a field and turkeys will peck on the tent pegs. This is a huge advantage for bowhunters, because you can draw or raise your bow in complete cover. Open a couple of shooting windows and keep the interior of the blind as dark as possible, a strategy that will make you invisible.
A couple of decoys and a jake is the standard set-up, but recently more and more hunters are using male decoys. Gobblers are so aggressive and territorial that the sight of a rival tom on their turf brings them on the run. Use your decoys as a rangefinder; placing them 18 yards from the blind. As the gobbler approaches and fans out, you’ll know your 20-yard pin is dead on.
Running and gunning for turkeys is the most exciting, yet it’s the least effective with archery gear. Many of the shots taken by gun hunters would be unsuitable for bowhunters due to brush obstructions, longer range, or the movement necessary to draw the bow. Once you’ve located a likely turkey strutting zone or travel spot, be patient. Take your favorite snacks, a mug of coffee, or whatever it takes to keep you posted. Naps, however, are not an option, or you’ll wake up to see that monster tom walking away after getting bored with your bogus birds.
Finally, turkeys are easy to hit but tough to kill. You absolutely must have the self discipline to wait for the perfect angle. Personally, I aim for the base of the neck, where I’ll either drop the bird on the spot or miss it cleanly. My next choice is facing away as an arrow between the wings severs the spine and anchors the bird. Other options are just above the beard on a bird facing you, and the base of the wing butt for a broadside shot. Some hunters like the top of the leg on a broadside shot, yet my money is on the base of the neck. Connect right there, and it’s white meat down.