Bowhunting for wild turkeys takes patience and skill that often deter many hunters. But it’s nothing you can’t handle. If you prefer big game hunting, think of a wild turkey bowhunt as spring training. Following are some helpful tips from avid bowhunter and Turkey Call magazine editor, Jason Gilbertson:
A confident bowhunter chooses a draw weight that does not affect their ability to make an accurate kill shot, no matter the circumstance. Use a bow scale to check your bow’s draw weight on a regular basis. Heavy vibrations produced during the shot can alter the limb bolts and reduce your draw weight. But just because you are keen enough to get to full draw doesn’t mean you are in the clear.
Sights, String and Rest
Three of the most important components to your bowhunting success include the sight system, bowstring and arrow rest. Pins tend to slide up and down and bend and break, as well as the frames serving as protection. Once you are finished tinkering with your sights, give your bowstring a once-over. Look for cut strands, which can lead to poor shooting and dangerous situations if the string were to break during the shot. Also, be sure to continually apply wax to your string. Finally, check your arrow rest to be sure that nothing has moved or loosened since your last outing. Arrow rests can affect the flight of your arrow significantly and without warning.
Shot placement on a wild turkey is critical. Unlike most big game, the vitals of a wild turkey are about the size of a grapefruit. Many archers make the mistake of shooting arrows with field points, then switching over to broadheads the day of the hunt. It is critical to practice shooting with broadheads well before you hunt. Some states, however, have broadhead diameter restrictions, so check the regulations in the state you plan to hunt. Most of all, be consistent: Sight in your bow with similar weighted field tips and broadheads.
An overlooked element to accurate shooting is your nock set. Any movement, up or down where your arrow meets the string, can alter your arrow flight as it comes off the string. Use a bow square to measure the exact point on the bowstring where the nock set allows for the best arrow flight.
Perhaps Babe Ruth said it best, "Never let the fear of striking out get in your way." Abandon all doubts or concerns that a wild turkey is too wary to hunt with a bow. If you have concerns that your shooting needs work, visit the shooting range. Take your practice session seriously and wear a turkey vest, facemask, gloves and hat. Shoot from both the kneeling and sitting position. Rarely will you have the chance to shoot a turkey while standing up, but it doesn’t hurt to fling a few arrows from this stance as well.
Right Time, Right Place
Set-up is the most important aspect of bowhunting for wild turkeys. You might be a champion turkey caller or a first-time contestant, but if you don’t know how or where to set up, your day in the field with bow in hand is done. To be a successful bowhunter – no matter what game you pursue—you have to put in the time. The chance of stumbling upon a gobbler has happened to a few of us, but a prepared turkey hunter knows where and when to attack. Turkey bowhunters have to modify their hunt tactics compared to those toting a shotgun. Shotgunners can, on a whim, plop down at the nearest tree the width of their back and create shooting lanes. Bowhunters do not have this luxury. A twig the size of a No. 2 pencil can send any arrow careening. The best set-ups are those thought about in advance.