Turkey Hunting With a Bow | 3 Setups to Try This 2023 Spring season
Just when you think you have turkeys figured out, they can hang-up and disappear; vanishing like pollen dissipating in a spring breeze. For as small as their brains are, they have the uncanny ability to survive the constant threat of predators. Mostly coyotes, fox and the occasional hunter, turkey have proven their natural instincts are usually superior to the meager calling skills of those donning camouflage. Regardless, the annual matching of wits with these over-sized birds drives some darn near insane from sleep deprivation every spring. The planning starts in the winter and excitement builds as the weather turns pleasant. To capitalize on the tag you have this spring, follow these three setups to help you close the distance on a turkey with a bow and arrow.
#1: Using A Blind
Using a pop-up blind is the most traditional way bow hunters pursue turkeys. With the added movement of drawing a bow, using a fully enclosed blind is one of the best ways to stay undetected. With the small size of a turkey’s vitals, it is important to draw birds in close. When a mature gobbler has committed to the decoys he may only be within ten or fifteen yards. Staying concealed from the senses of a bird hunted year-round by fox, coyotes, hawks, and for a few brief months, humans, is paramount to success. If you have failed when trying to turkey hunt with a bow, and have not been using a blind, this spring add the extra element to see how well it works.
While there are countless scenarios to consider when setting up for turkeys in a pop-up blind be sure to remember the following. First, when setting up a blind on the edge of a field it is important to try and keep the sun out of the blind and face the openings of the blind way from the rising sun. Not only does this help you stay hidden in the blind, but keeps the sun from blinding you as you scan for birds. Second, consider the anticipated direction the birds will approach your blind and which hand you shoot with. Place your decoys on the opposite side of the blind you anticipate birds to approach from in order to draw them directly by your blind to offer a clean and clear shot. Remember to practice from the blind before the season to be able to know how to draw within a confined space. Hunting with a bow like the Prime Centergy helps one shoot efficiently in a blind since it provides a perfectly balanced bow and parallel limbs to make sitting shots in a blind easy and ethical.
As long as you are sitting in a blind for several hours, it is worth carrying the extra weight in decoys. Which decoys you use and in which scenarios depends on your observation of the turkeys you are hunting. What is the ratio of hens and gobblers in the area? The ratio of hens and gobblers in the area will often dictate what your decoy methods will revolve around.
#2: Turkey Decoys Only…No Blind
Strutting decoys and archery setups almost seem to go hand-in–hand since they are most often highlighted in videos. But, the use of decoys when hunting without a blind with a bow and arrow should be considered as one of the ultimate challenges.
Be sure to use the right decoy by carefully thinking about the birds you are targeting. Ensuring you are using the dominant birds on the block or that the number of hens-to-gobblers is proportionate forces toms and jakes to become more aggressive in their competition for breeding rights. A dominate strutting decoy can just as easily spook a subdominant gobbler. If you know there are several subdominant gobblers in the area, creating a setup with both a jake decoy and hens can prove too much for any mature gobbler to handle. A good practice is to have one feeding hen and one breeding hen together with the jake decoy nearly standing over the breeding positioned hen decoy. Both subdominant and dominant mature gobblers won’t stand for a jake stealing their girls.
The use of a well-planned decoy spread can create the situation that takes the focus away from you. Turkey hunting with a bow, without a blind is one of the hardest hunts a hunter can conceive, so ensuring as many cards are stacked in your favor as possible will help swing a little luck your way.
One of the most fun ways to hunt turkey is the strategy of the “cut-and-run,” which finds birds by nature of eliciting a gobble in the early spring mornings. This pushes one’s skill at calling as opposed to waiting and ambushing a bird on its daily route. However, cutting-and-running is known primarily as a method used when carrying a shotgun, not a bow. It is much easier to slouch against the trunk of a tree and make minimal movements with a shotgun than it is to try and conceal the movements of drawing a bow. However, there are ways to set up on turkeys without the use of a blind while bow hunting. Setting up on turkeys without a blind while hunting with a bow requires much more attention to detail and a daring sense like mentioned above.
There are often opportunities that present themselves when cut-and-running with a blind like the hunt below with the GrowingDeer.TV team.
With a blind, you must rely on the distraction of the decoys. In a blind, you can make your drawing motion even if the birds are not interacting with the decoys. Without a blind, it is critical to wait for gobblers to fully engage with your decoys in order to give you an extra precious few seconds to settle the pins on the kill zone. Having a decoy bag to sling over your shoulder or even reverting to the old collapsible foam decoys to superior packability will help you fill your tag.
Kneeling against a tree or under low-hanging branches is the best way to stay hidden from approaching gobblers. As a gobbler approaches remember that timing is everything. When hunting with a bow without a blind it is important to stay out of the direct line of sight the gobblers will likely approach your decoys. Set yourself up just off of their direct path to buy you a few precious extra seconds to draw. Keep close range calling to a minimum and let your decoys do the work in order to avoid drawing any more attention to your direct location. If the gobbler displays his full dominance through a full strut, wait until his eyes are covered by his fan to draw your bow. When in full strut a gobbler’s head will be several inches below his fan which makes him extremely vulnerable.
Up for Consideration: Turkey Reaping with a Bow?
Turkey reaping has become a popular method due to the flood of successful and thrilling videos on TV and the internet. While the art of stalking turkeys is nothing new, or easy, reaping turkeys is the practice of using a strutting decoy or old fan from a turkey and crawling behind the decoys to challenge dominant gobblers in open terrain. In the day and age of point of view cameras, this tactic has been able to capture incredible footage, but also raise a few eyebrows which has led to some states restricting or banning the practice. Check with your local regulations before trying your hand at turkey reaping.
In areas where there is a balanced hen-to-gobbler ratio, this method can prove effective and lethal. Many people’s first attempt involves the use of shotguns, yet, there are ways to get the job done with a bow. There are bow accessories that allows you to attach a turkey fan or a printed fan to your bow that crawling behind your bow much easier. Some companies even have strutting decoys on wheels which you can push along in front of you and not have to worry about stalking the decoy to the ground with each move.
When crawling along the ground it is important to not get dirt into your bow or release. Make sure to keep your wheels and cams out of the dirt and sticks or grass from getting caught in the string. If you are shooting a wrist release, turn it around so it sits on the top of your hand while crawling. You don’t want to run the risk of it becoming clogged with dust when you go to shoot.
To successfully reap a turkey, identifying a receptive bird is the first step. One strutting either with or without hens in a field reflects its dominate nature and may be the perfect bird to stalk. Finding a bird in the late morning or early afternoon that has been left by his hens could also be in the mood to fight and be receptive to the advances of you and your decoy due to his lonely position. Planning the approach to give you a clear shot of the bird is second. Let the bird see your fan from a way off in order to let the bird become somewhat comfortable with the moving object. Suddenly flashing a fan at close range could spook the bird. Stay kneeling and crouched for as long as possible to stay behind the small cover of the fan or decoy. If possible, keep mindful of what is behind you and take advantage of brush lines to help further break up your outline when you go to draw. This is a game of nerves as gobblers can come in aggressively and fast forcing one to be quick and decisive when making the sudden move to draw and shoot as adrenaline buzzes through your veins.
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While nothing is guaranteed in bow hunting for turkeys, having a game plan for various scenarios can help tip the scales of chance in your direction. Blinds provide security and cover while running ridges or crawling towards a mature gobbler with a bow and broadhead level the playing field forcing one to keep control of their wits to wait those extra few seconds when with a gun could have been over the moment the bird appeared. With turkey populations at an all-time high thanks to hunters and conversation organizations across the country, there is no better time than this season to try a new technique or challenge and learn more about the various ways to close the distance and bring a turkey home for the table. Remember, turkeys survive on the mistakes of predators and hunters eat on the mistakes of turkeys!